Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman, who sparked criticism and calls for his resignation over his comments about a young Black man killed by deputies and his family, has announced he will retire on June 30.
Zimmerman was unrepentant in a letter sent Monday to Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien and County Manager Kathleen Otto, saying he had received widespread support following his comments about Kevin Peterson Jr. and his family that were captured by Zoom and broadcast online.
“I wish to especially thank the public for supporting me all these years and especially thank the hundreds who have more recently reached out to me and given me support,” Zimmerman wrote in his letter, though he did not offer names or endorsements. “Many were minorities, some of whom have known me for 30 years or more.”
In the hot mic discussion, Zimmerman called Peterson “so dumb” and criticized Peterson’s father, whom he said acknowledged the shooting was justified but then woke up the next morning “with dollar signs in his eyes,” according to a transcript of the discussion.
Zimmerman announced March 16 he was temporarily stepping away after self-reporting to the commission comments he made about Peterson, who was fatally shot by Clark County sheriff’s deputies on Oct. 29. The judge’s son is a deputy who was on the drug task force trying to arrest Peterson.
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He made the comments in a casual conversation with a court commissioner that took place in an otherwise empty courtroom, but were broadcast over social media because the cameras and microphones were still live after a previous court session.
His comments prompted condemnation from the District Court bench. Superior Court judges removed his authority to perform any functions of that court, and prosecutors said they would seek to remove him from all of their criminal cases. Several parties called for his resignation.
Zimmerman had previously indicated through his attorney, Josephine Townsend, that he would let the commission’s investigation run its course before making a decision about retirement or resignation. He was first elected in 1986; his current four-year term expires at the end of 2022. According to the county website, monthly pay for District Court judges is $15,843, or $190,116 annually.
On Monday, Zimmerman made no reference to Peterson or his family or discussed his comments.
Zimmerman’s letter said “numerous community leaders have said I should fight on and do not give in to cancel culture. Well, I am not really. I was considering retiring years ago and had other employment offers.”
The Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct met in April, but it was unknown if Zimmerman was among the topics of discussion. Investigations and initial proceedings are confidential, but Townsend told The Columbian that they had received a case number.
Zimmerman’s letter pointed to his work for veterans and those with mental illness. “I am immensely proud of those accomplishments which made us not just leaders in the state, but models that the entire nation might be able to follow.”
His letter said that he intends to undergo surgeries and will return and work for veterans through a nonprofit he said he had formed years ago.
“It has been a tremendous honor to be both a prosecutor and judge in Clark County, two great jobs being able to help people,” Zimmerman said in his letter. “Being a judge to me was the greatest in the world, but as two now retired judges once told me: you cannot buy time once it is no longer fun it is time to leave, and it has always been fun.”
He concluded by calling on everyone to do their diligence and be vigilant.
“As attributed to Mark Twain — ‘A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,’ ” he wrote.