The Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct announced Friday it has dismissed its case against former Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman, citing concerns over his health.
The commission found probable cause in November 2021 that Zimmerman allegedly violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when he was caught on courtroom cameras in March of that year disparaging a local Black man who was fatally shot by Clark County sheriff’s deputies, as well as his father.
The commission filed a statement of charges in December 2021, alleging Zimmerman violated the code “by making comments about a controversial incident and the related impending case(s) that displayed racial bias, indicated a lack of impartiality, and implied that he had a personal channel of communication with the sheriff’s department regarding pending and impending cases.”
Zimmerman subsequently denied the commission’s charges. The commission said a fact-finding hearing was repeatedly rescheduled due to Zimmerman’s “serious medical condition.” The commission did not elaborate on Zimmerman’s condition and sealed the medical information, but it said it would have held the hearing if he was physically able to participate.
Following an independent evaluation of Zimmerman’s medical records, the disciplinary counsel for the commission moved to dismiss the case because of “the serious risks a hearing would present to respondent’s health,” according to a news release.
The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the commission could refile the charges if Zimmerman’s health improves and he seeks judicial office again. Public records indicate Zimmerman is 72 years old.
Zimmerman’s attorney, Josephine Townsend, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Zimmerman retired from the bench June 30, 2021, following criticism and calls for his resignation. He had temporarily stepped away in mid-March 2021 after self-reporting his comments to the commission. His son is a sheriff’s deputy and member of the interagency drug task force that was trying to arrest Kevin Peterson Jr., who was shot Oct. 29, 2020.
“The commission sent a strong message when it filed charges. Given the circumstances, specifically the judge retired and has serious health issues, it makes sense for the commission to dismiss for now. The Peterson family has moved on. They are focused on Clark County accepting responsibility for the wrongful killing of Kevin Peterson Jr.,” the Peterson family’s attorney, Mark Lindquist, said in an email.
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.
He made the comments in a casual conversation with a court commissioner that took place in an otherwise empty courtroom; unbeknownst to him, the conversation was broadcast over social media because the cameras and microphones were still live after a previous court session.
In the statement of charges, the commission said it received dozens of complaints about the incident in the days and weeks that followed news media reports about Zimmerman’s comments.
At the time, Zimmerman apologized for his remarks in a statement issued on his behalf by Townsend. But he was unrepentant in a letter he sent to then-Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien and County Manager Kathleen Otto in announcing his retirement.