The morning after his stunning loss in the primary election, Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle was back at work, presiding over a child abuse trial.
As Wulle, known around the courthouse for his smoking habit, walked outside the courthouse to take a mid-morning break Wednesday, a reporter asked for comment.
Wulle continued to walk past the breezeway where he normally takes his smoke breaks, and continued behind the adjacent sheriff’s office building. The reporter followed.
“Judge Wulle,” she said.
The judge turned around. “What?” he asked.
What about the election results?
“I have nothing to say you,” he replied.
The judge has always given comment in the past.
“I’m sorry — I have nothing to say to you,” he repeated sternly.
Wulle, a Superior Court judge for 12 years, trailed private lawyer David Gregerson by 11 percentage points Tuesday night. Updated election numbers released Wednesday showed the judge had gained some ground — picking up 45 percent of the vote compared with Gregerson’s 54 percent — but it still was not enough to prevail.
In Washington, judicial races are decided in the primary if one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, making Gregerson the winner.
It was the first time a sitting Clark County judge has lost at the polls since 1975. And then it was not a re-election bid. Back then, Judge Dean Morgan was appointed by the governor and had to run later that year to keep the post, but lost to opponent Tom Lodge in the election. Morgan was later appointed to another position on the Clark County Superior Court bench and later won election to that seat.
Gregerson, a lawyer for 20 years and a pro tem District Court judge, mounted an aggressive campaign and received the support of the majority of local lawyers polled earlier this summer.
While Wulle’s loss was unusual, some attorneys noted that the outcome was consistent with the Clark County Bar Association results. Gregerson received 58 percent of the vote, compared to Wulle’s 41 percent. Some attorneys said they were relieved with the election outcome.
Asked if he was surprised by the results, one local defense attorney, Jack Green, said “nothing surprises me when it comes to elections.”
“It’s always sad to see a judge leave the bench, but David Gregerson is an extremely respected and qualified attorney, and I believe the transition from one judge to another will be very smooth,” Green said.
The election results come as the judge is under fire by a state judicial board. Wulle has a hearing Aug. 27 before the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct to determine if he violated judicial codes of conduct relating to his courtroom behavior in four hearings between 2009 and last year. The board charged him with “engaging in a pattern of discourteous, impatient and undignified behavior.”
Wulle was censured by the board in 2007 relating to his behavior at a training conference in Los Angeles.
Superior Court judges preside over all criminal cases, civil cases involving more than $75,000, divorces, probate cases, juvenile cases and other matters.
They currently earn $148,836 a year.
Gregerson will be sworn in in January.