Clark County Superior Judge John Wulle was reprimanded Friday by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for impatient, undignified and discourteous conduct towards defendants on four separate occasions during a three-year period.
The judge will be required to undergo an anger management evaluation and counseling “to the satisfaction of the commission,” should he want to serve as a judge after his term ends Dec. 31.
Wulle, 62, lost his re-election bid in August to attorney David Gregerson, who will be sworn in Jan. 14.
Wulle may appeal the commission’s decision to the Washington Supreme Court, said Reiko Calner, commission executive director.
The anger management evaluation would be required if Wulle wanted to take pro-tem or part-time work as a judge or run for election in the future.
The 10-member commission charged Wulle with multiple violations for comments he made in his courtroom. He was accused of telling a juvenile that he was “stupid” for wanting to plead guilty without an attorney, raising his voice at a man using a Russian interpreter when the man argued that a paternity test didn’t use the proper DNA testing, and holding a juvenile in contempt of court and having him jailed after the teen swore in court.
During a two-day disciplinary hearing in late August, Steven Reisler, attorney for the commission, portrayed the actions as a pattern of rude and ill-tempered courtroom behavior.
Wulle has said he regretted his actions, attributing them to the stress of the job, but believed the commission had blown them out of proportion.
He declined to comment Friday on the commission’s decision.
He was accused of violating multiple parts of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The commission found that Wulle violated some, but not all, of those parts of the code.
It found he violated his responsibility to “maintain order and decorum during proceedings” and to “be patient, dignified, and courteous” toward people in his courtroom.
However, Wulle did not violate his duties to uphold “the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary” and to “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”
This isn’t Wulle’s first run-in with the commission.
He was censured in 2007 for making inappropriate comments related to race and sexual orientation at a training conference in July 2006.
A reprimand is a less severe punishment than a censure, which is the most severe short of removal from service.
Friday’s sanction was a far cry from the action recommended by Steven Reisler, attorney for the commission — that the panel censure Wulle with a recommendation to the state Supreme Court to suspend or remove him from the bench.