Vancouver attorney to run against embattled judge

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: February 29, 2012, 5:28 PM

 

A Vancouver private practice attorney announced Wednesday he plans to challenge embattled Superior Court Judge John Wulle in this year’s election.

David Gregerson, 44, has been a lawyer since 1992 and is the principal of the law firm Gregerson & Langsdorf. He practices primarily civil law, but his firm also handles family law and criminal defense.

Gregerson initially expressed interest in running for Superior Court Judge Edwin Poyfair’s seat after Poyfair announced he did not plan to run for election again this year. However, Poyfair later moved up his retirement date to April, meaning the governor will now have to appoint a replacement.

Gregerson’s announcement came a week after news broke that Wulle was being charged by a state judicial board with violating codes of conduct relating to his courtroom demeanor. A decision on any discipline is pending.

Gregerson said he weighed the allegations against Wulle in deciding to run against him.

“I had prepared myself, family and practice to run in this election,” Gregerson said. “The information reported last week (about Wulle) has been known among the legal community for quite some time. And it definitely factored into my decision.”

“In Washington, judges are accountable to the public they serve,” Gregerson said in a press release. “I believe I have the breadth of experience, the confidence of the lawyers and judges, and the judicial temperament to serve the court and this community.”

The Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct released a statement last week, charging Wulle with failing “to maintain order and decorum in proceedings” and engaging “in a pattern of discourteous, impatient and undignified behavior.”

The charges related to four public court hearings over the past three years, including the high-profile sentencing of convicted police shooter Matthew Hastings, in which Wulle told the defendant to “shut your damn mouth” and threatened to have him gagged.

The commission said it will schedule a public hearing to decide any discipline after Wulle answers the complaint.

When reached for comment Wednesday afternoon about Gregerson’s announcement, Wulle said, “That’s his decision.”

Wulle, who said he still plans to run, added, “I believe a person who runs for judge should have a lot of trial experience.”

In his press release, Gregerson said that in addition to his private practice litigation — in which he said he has trial experience — he has been a pro tem District Court judge for eight years, filling in when judges are out of the office. He said he’s also coached high school mock trial, led a Boy Scouts troop and coached youth soccer.

A Vancouver native, Gregerson has unsuccessfully vied for a seat on the bench in two prior openings; he submitted his name for consideration by the governor when former Judge Robert Harris retired in 2009 and again last year when Judge Roger Bennett stepped down midterm.

Rich Melnick was appointed to replace Harris; Dan Stahnke was chosen to replace Bennett.

Superior Court judges have jurisdiction over felony criminal cases, civil cases involving more than $75,000, divorces and probate cases, among other legal issues. The nonpartisan jobs currently pay $148,836 a year.

The filing deadline is in May for the August primary election.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.