Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle has engaged in a "practice of discourteous, impatient and undignified behavior," the state Commission on Judicial Conduct charged yesterday. But while the 61-year-old jurist has a history of making controversial remarks on and off the bench, the public might forgive him for one of his latest outbursts, telling a man who shot it out with police to "Shut your damn mouth, sir!"
The commission did not reveal exact details of the new violations, saying only that they occurred during juvenile court hearings in 2010 and 2011, at a protection order petition hearing last October, and during a court sentencing on March 2, 2009.
But according to The Columbian of Vancouver, the March 2 sentencing of attempted murderer Matthew Hastings was marked by a notable exchange between the judge and Hastings, who was given 120 years for trying to kill police officers during a lengthy SWAT standoff in east Vancouver.
The sentencing hearing featured a heated exchange between Hastings and Wulle after the judge asked the defendant if he graduated high school. Hastings said no and became enraged, his face and neck flushing red.
"Mr. Hastings, don't you press your luck with me, son!" Wulle warned.
"Or what?" Hastings yelled. "You gonna sentence me?"
"Shut your damn mouth, sir!" Wulle yelled, threatening to have Hastings gagged.
"OK, have me gagged then," Hastings bellowed.
Though Wulle later apologized for his demeanor on the bench, Hastings appealed his sentence, complaining in part that the judge was biased against him. The Court of Appeals upheld Wulle, concluding he had just lost his patience.
The charges files yesterday include allegations that Wulle did not act impartially as required, and failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety. The commission also re-published its 2007 disciplinary action against Wulle, when he was found to have violated some of the same cannons.
During a judicial training session in Los Angeles entitled "Planning Your Juvenile Drug Court," Wulle repeatedly used expletives and other offensive language when he disagreed with others, the commission found.
When an African-American attendee from San Francisco, for example, characterized his city as very liberal and litigious, Wulle piped in, "and very gay." He later referred to the man as the "black gay guy."
During another session, when a speaker jokingly said he was awarding a star to Clark County for judicial efforts, Wulle remarked, "I don't need a star, I'm not a Jew." And when a participant asked Wulle to lower his voice during one session, the judge flipped him the bird.
Some suspected the judge had been drinking during his retreat to L.A. But Wulle said that was just the alcohol smell from the cold syrup he was taking.