Judge not

Lest you end up in front of these robed rogues.

TUKWILA MUNICIPAL COURT Judge Peter Lukevich thinks he does what a judge is supposed to do: He scolds; he raises his voice; and, in the words of his attorney Anne Bremmer, he tries "to be direct and firm to maintain proper courtroom demeanor." But in the words of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, Lukevich "engaged in a pattern or practice of rude, impatient, and undignified treatment" of those appearing in his city court, mimicking their speech and arguing endlessly.

A longtime Seattle attorney, youth athletic coach, and former Lake City Chamber of Commerce president, Lukevich now faces disciplinary action over his demeanor in the handling of four Tukwila cases. In one instance, an accused offender who wanted to proceed without an attorney told the judge he'd simply tell the truth and "the good Lord will make me prevail, sir."

"Now, you told me a month ago you were going to get a lawyer," said Lukevich.

"I'm ready [to proceed alone]," said the defendant.

"I guess that was just a bald-faced lie the last time we saw each other, right?" said the judge. "How's the Lord feel about that?"

In another case, Lukevich bickered with and shouted at a defendant intending to file an affidavit of prejudice against the judge, seeking a new hearing. Lukevich's admonitions included "Mr. Sylvan, be quiet. When I talk and I ask a question, you'll answer," and "Mr. Sylvan! Would you shut up! Quit talking!"

Lukevich says he'll fight any disciplinary action.

Two other muni judges, meanwhile, have resigned rather than fight any disciplinary action. Ten-year Lynnwood city judge Stephen Conroy cited "personal reasons causing a heavy burden in my life" in his recent letter of resignation. He also accepted a state censure for presiding over cases involving parties he had earlier represented as an attorney, knew well, or with whom he "had an intimate personal relationship."

In Pierce County, where local judges have been subjected to more than half the statewide dis-ciplinary actions handed down in the last two years, Lakewood Municipal Court Judge Carolyn Lake—who handles DUI cases—resigned after her own DUI arrest following a three-car crash on I-5 in September.

Lake took her place among the accused during an arraignment in Pierce County District Court last month, pleading not guilty and announcing she is resigning from the bench. Lake said she "deeply regrets the circumstances" that led to the mishap. Prosecutors say she swerved wildly and rear-ended another car, pushing it into a third car. A State Patrol breath test pegged her alcohol blood level at .116 (.08 is the legal limit).

Her predecessor was also apologetic after his 1998 run-in with drink. Ralph Baldwin was charged by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct with inviting attorneys to share half a case of beer with him in his chambers while awaiting the outcome of a drunk-driving case. He later asked jurors to join him, observing, "I bet you never met a judge like me before." At the end of the day, witnesses said, he drove off with a beer in hand. "I should have offered them something other than an alcoholic beverage," he said upon his resignation, "maybe a Tootsie Pop."

 
comments powered by Disqus