The King County Bar Association took the rare step of admonishing a district court judicial candidate Thursday.
It should come as no surprise that the candidate, Sarah Hayne, is affiliated with Citizens for Judicial Excellence, the political action committee made up of defense attorneys and dedicated to electing judges sympathetic to the plight of their many of clients caught driving under the influence.
Hayne, a former member of the group and wife of CJE co-founder Stephen Hayne, distributed campaign literature citing 22 years working as a pro tem judge, prosecutor and defense attorney. (Read the news side story by Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner.)
“Yet she told KCBA that she worked on a limited or part-time basis during the bulk of that period,” according to a bar association news release. “As a result, KCBA finds those written statements to be misleading.”
A Sarah Hayne campaign flyer also identifies her as “exceptionally well qualified,” and attributes the statement to retired Kent Municipal Court Judge Robert McSeveney. However the phrasing suggests that she was praised by a bar association because it is language commonly associated with bar association assessments of judicial candidates.
“The bar asks candidates to sign a pledge to fairly campaign so that contests for judicial office do not impair public confidence in the integrity and objectivity of the judicial process,” the bar noted in its news release about her experience. “Ms. Hayne signed that pledge. Unfair or potentially deceptive campaign conduct by judicial candidates can undermine public confidence in the courts unless the public is certain that such conduct will not be tolerated.”
Last year the state Ethics Advisory Committee determined that the PAC, a contributor to Sarah Hayne’s 2014 campaign, attempted to organize a social mixer at a golf club that “undermines the public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of judicial officers.”
This year the group is actively working to elect its kind of judges.
In addition to Sarah Hayne’s campaign against incumbent King County District Court Judge Ketu Shah, the group has also contributed to attorney Marcus Naylor in his campaign against attorney Lisa O’Toole in the northeast position 3 election. That race has flown under the radar a bit because it’s the only open judicial election in the district.
O’Toole, who’s been a prosecutor and a municipal and district court pro tem judge for the past six years, is aware of the PAC’s support of her opponent, but says she’s confident voters won’t be swayed.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind that they might get in and make it so that I’m outspent,” she said. “But I didn’t let that dissuade me.”
Naylor, a county public defender and judge pro tem, could not be reached for comment, but notes on his campaign website that he will bring “integrity, impartiality, empathy” to the bench.
Citizens for Judicial Excellence has also contributed to Dawn Bettinger’s campaign to oust incumbent District Court Judge Janet Garrow, incumbent District Court Judge Mark Chow’s campaign to retain his seat against challenger Phillip Tavel, and Jon Zimmerman’s campaign against incumbent Seattle Municipal Court Judge Kimi Kondo.
The PAC also contributed to Damon Shadid’s campaign against incumbent municipal court Judge Fred Bonner, but Shadid returned the funds.