Local ‘Judge Judy’ suspended for ‘rude’ behavior
August 5, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
UPDATED — 4:10 p.m. Aug. 5, 2010
The state Supreme Court has suspended Judge Judith Eiler — the brusque King County District Court judge who has drawn comparisons to TV’s “Judge Judy” — from the bench without pay for rude behavior.
In a decision issued Thursday morning, Supreme Court justices ordered Eiler to be suspended for five days without pay. Several of the incidents occurred during her stint at district court’s Issaquah Courthouse.
“Several litigants — and even some attorneys — reported being ‘embarrassed’ by Judge Eiler’s ‘degrading’ treatment, and feeling ‘mocked,’ ‘attacked’ and ‘uncomfortable’ in her courtroom,” the opinion states.
Eiler has since been reassigned to the Seattle courthouse.
Justices cited “voluminous testimony at trial documenting Judge Eiler’s rude, discourteous, undignified and demeaning treatment of the attorneys and pro se litigants who appeared before her, we find that clear, cogent, and convincing evidence” against her.
Anne Bremner, the high-profile Seattle attorney representing Eiler, could not be reached Thursday afternoon.
The state Judicial Conduct Commission censured Eiler in April 2009 for disrespectful behavior. Commissioners asked the Supreme Court to suspend her for 90 days without pay.
Commission Executive Director Reiko Callner said a judge should not use his or her power to bully litigants, because people appearing before a judge cannot respond in kind.
“What the code is there to uphold is the independence and integrity of the judiciary,” Callner said.
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 April.
“Judge Eiler’s misconduct is not isolated, but rather is evidence of a pattern of impatient, undignified, rude, demeaning and discourteous behavior in the courtroom,” the Supreme Court opinion states.
Lynnwood resident Paul Seiler, a mechanical engineer and former Issaquah resident, appeared before Eiler in the summer of 2008 after a state trooper caught him speeding on Interstate 90 in Issaquah. Seiler told the judge he had been going with the flow of traffic; he said she responded with a sharp, “You have your own speedometer.”
“Her tone was very condescending,” Seiler said.
Bellevue attorney David Mason recalled appearing before the judge during a civil case at the Issaquah Courthouse. Mason said Eiler made condescending remarks to attorneys. In the end, she ruled against Mason and his client.
“I will never, ever appear in front of her again after that nightmare,” he said.
South King County voters elected Eiler to the bench in 1992; she faces the electorate again in November. Des Moines Assistant City Attorney Susan Mahoney is also campaigning for the seat.
Justices referenced the upcoming election Thursday.
“Indeed, if Judge Eiler fails to improve her conduct and demeanor on the bench in response to this disciplinary action, as she did with respect to the last one, removal may be warranted,” the opinion states. “Of course, if King County voters prefer not to wait for further offense, they can achieve the same result at the next election.”