Judge Wulle's conduct hearing delayed

Panel needs time to study motions by his attorney

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: June 14, 2012, 8:36 PM

 

A hearing to be conducted by a state judicial board to determine whether Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle violated codes of conduct has been delayed until August.

The public hearing was set to begin June 18, but was rescheduled to 9 a.m. Aug. 27 to give the board time to consider legal motions filed by Wulle’s attorney, a state judicial board official said Thursday.

A panel of board members of the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct will hear testimony for two days at the Clark County Courthouse in downtown Vancouver. The board will deliberate afterward and then make a written ruling at a later date on whether Wulle failed to maintain courtroom decorum and engaged “in a pattern of discourteous, impatient and undignified behavior.”

If found guilty, Wulle could face admonishment, or a written warning, or a discipline as severe as a censure with a recommendation to the state Supreme Court for the judge’s suspension or removal.

Coincidentally, the hearing will now take place after Clark County’s Aug. 7 primary election in which Wulle is running against Vancouver private practice attorney David Gregerson to keep his seat.

“We operate independently of external considerations,” the judicial board’s executive director Reiko Callner said by email, when asked about the timing of the hearing.

Wulle’s attorney, Josephine Townsend, said by email: “As in all litigation, there is discovery to be conducted, witnesses to be interviewed and motions to be heard.”

The board’s charges, filed in February, relate to four courtroom hearings over the past three years. They include the high-profile sentencing hearing in March 2009 of Matthew Hastings, in which the judge told Hastings to “shut your damn mouth, sir,” and threatened to have him gagged.

At another hearing in March 2011, the judge shouted at a juvenile that he was “stupid” for wanting to plead guilty to a probation violation without his attorney present.

In a hearing for a civil protection order in October 2011, Wulle told a man using a Russian interpreter: “This is not the Soviet Union.” The judge made the statement after the man argued that a paternity test did not use the proper DNA testing.

In another juvenile hearing in July 2010, Wulle held a teenager in contempt of court and ordered him to be jailed for five days after the teen swore at him.

Wulle has answered the allegations, denying he is guilty of violating any judicial codes of conduct. He has said he lost his temper and plans to receive counseling.

A Superior Court judge since 2000, Wulle has been disciplined before. In 2007, he was censured for his behavior at a training conference in Los Angeles, where he used profanity, made an obscene gesture in response to a request to lower his voice and referred to Clark County’s group facilitator as “the black gay guy,” according to commission documents.

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