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News / Clark County News

Kent judge says ethics chief sabotaged Wulle’s re-election bid

Kent judge says ethics chief sabotaged Wulle re-election bid

By Paris Achen
Published: January 10, 2013, 4:00pm

A Kent-area judge disciplined in 2010 for trying to influence the Amanda Knox murder trial in Italy has accused the head of a state judicial ethics agency of misconduct, including sabotaging Clark County Judge John Wulle’s re-election bid.

In a Jan. 3 letter to the Washington Supreme Court, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey accused Reiko Callner of violating her role as executive director of the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct by spearheading an investigation of Wulle and then manipulating the media to help shatter Wulle’s re-election bid.

He said the behavior is part of pattern of Callner’s interference in due process for judges accused of misconduct.

“Commission powers have been usurped by Ms. Callner and have been wrongfully used to campaign against a sitting judge running for re-election,” Heavey wrote. “The members of the commission have acquiesced in this highly unprofessional action.”

Callner denied the accusations and said they appeared to be retaliation for the commission’s September 2010 discipline of him. Heavey was admonished for using his office to advocate for Knox, his daughter’s friend. He sent letters on Knox’s behalf written on his court stationery to judges in Italy and other officials, according to commission documents.

“Judge Heavey is on a kind of personal campaign against me,” Callner said Thursday in a phone interview with The Columbian.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Wulle said he wasn’t consulted about the complaint, but Heavey had asked his attorney, Josephine Townsend, about his case.

As executive director, Callner is not allowed to initiate investigations against judges. Only the commission — a panel of 11 members charged with investigating complaints against other judges — may initiate an investigation, and they must vote to do so. Judges, attorneys and citizens make up the panel.

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Heavey claims that Callner initiated an investigation of Wulle for violations related to rude behavior toward defendants more than two years before the commission authorized it in July 2011. Heavey based the accusation on a March 2, 2009, courtroom video, the earliest of four videos used to prosecute Wulle.

Callner denied that she initiated the investigation; she said the commission did. The date of the video doesn’t signal the beginning of the investigation, she said.

Heavey also accused Callner of derailing Wulle’s bid for re-election by feeding information about Wulle’s case to the press and portraying him as “a bully” in The Oregonian before Wulle had due process.

Callner says the “bully” reference was taken out of context. She said she used the term when explaining to an Oregonian reporter why rude behavior by a judge is an ethical violation. If a judge is rude to a defendant, the defendant cannot respond because he or she risks angering the judge who is deciding his or her fate. She said she didn’t call Wulle a bully.

Wulle has complained that Callner notified the media about commission charges against him before notifying him.

He said he also was denied many of the rights defendants in his courtroom receive. For instance, his attorney was subject to different discovery rules, and he was limited in which witnesses he could call, he said.

“There is no due process for judges under Ms. Callner, and people let her get away with it,” Wulle said.

Callner said Wulle was notified of the charges well before the press. He may have learned about the date of his hearing from the media, scheduling that came later, she said. She informed a reporter at The Columbian of the hearing date on the same day it was posted on the commission’s website because the reporter had previously requested it.

“It’s public information,” Callner said.

Wulle was reprimanded Dec. 14 by the commission for his conduct toward defendants on four separate occasions during a three-year period.

He 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 Friday. He said he plans to go into arbitration and mediation after he leaves the bench.

David Gregerson, who unseated Wulle in an Aug. 7 primary election, will be sworn into office Monday.

The complaint also accused Callner of misconduct in the prosecution of King County District Judge Judith Eiler

Heavey’s office on Jan. 8 mailed The Columbian a copy of his complaint.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.