Local judge may be suspended
April 13, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
A King County District Court judge could be suspended for 90 days based on her conduct in an Issaquah courtroom.
Judge Judith Eiler was censured April 10 by the state Judicial Conduct Commission for disrespectful behavior. Commissioners recommended to the state Supreme Court a 90-day, unpaid suspension for her.
The commission said Eiler belittled defendants and interrupted them while they were speaking. Her courtroom demeanor has earned her comparisons to TV’s no-nonsense “Judge Judy.”
Her attorney, Anne Bremner, said Eiler maintains order in a fast-paced courtroom with a high caseload. Eiler handles small claims and traffic infractions — often dozens of cases each day.
“Every day in court, she’s trying to turn around a supertanker,” Bremner said.
The commission said Eiler addressed attorneys, defendants and witnesses in “an impatient, undignified, discourteous, belittling and demeaning manner.”
The commission cited Eiler for similar behavior in 2005. She completed sensitivity training as part of a reprimand then. Commissioners noted Eiler’s earlier discipline problems in the opinion issued last week.
“The commission is most distressed by the respondent repeating behavior that was the subject of a previous discipline,” the opinion read.
The opinion said Eiler “sees herself as a ‘vice principal’ who determines responsibility, imposes punishment and is required to do so ‘in a stern, firm, tough manner.’”
Bremner defended her client’s demeanor.
“There has to be order in a courtroom,” she said. “Judges should be tough.”
Bremner said she and her client were heartened by a dissent issued by a commission member, Pierce County Superior Court Judge John A. McCarthy. He disagreed with the suspension recommendation.
McCarthy wrote that although Eiler could be harsh, her demeanor did not affect her decisions.
“She agrees she should stop using sarcasm at all,” McCarthy wrote. “She doesn’t believe the limited sound bites, tapes and transcripts presented at this hearing are reflective of the thousands of cases she has heard in her career.”
Eiler was first elected as a district court judge in 1992 and repeatedly re-elected. She plans to run again for re-election next year, Bremner said.