The King County Bar Association formally rebuked attorney Sarah Hayne on Thursday, saying she has made misleading statements about her legal experience during a contentious campaign for an Eastside district court seat against incumbent Judge Ketu Shah.
Hayne’s campaign materials say she worked for the past 22 years as a pro tem judge, a prosecutor, and a defense attorney. “Yet she told KCBA that she worked on a limited or part-time basis during the bulk of that period. As a result, KCBA finds those written statements to be misleading,” bar association president Steven Rovig said in a news release.
Hayne blasted the group’s finding as sexist. “Apparently, the KCBA does not consider my practicing part-time in the middle of my career while I raised my children to have been ‘practicing law,’ ” she wrote in an email to The Seattle Times. “I am disappointed and feel their decision is discriminatory and fundamentally unfair to me and to all mothers who choose to make the sacrifices required to continue working while raising their children.”
But the bar association said it had received a complaint about Hayne and that “unfair or deceptive campaign conduct can undermine public confidence in the courts.” The group said it would forward its findings to the Washington Judicial Conduct Commission.
The bar group’s volley punches up what already has been a controversial brawl for a low-level judicial seat, largely due to the involvement of Citizens for Judicial Excellence, a political-action committee founded by DUI defense lawyers.
CJE says its mission is to promote highly qualified candidates for judge in local district and municipal courts – where CJE lawyers work every day defending clients accused of drunken driving and other offenses.
As we reported earlier this month, Sarah Hayne’s husband Stephen Hayne was one of CJE’s founders and the group has endorsed her despite previously praising Shah’s qualifications when he was appointed to the bench in 2013.
Shah has been rated “exceptionally well qualified” by several bar associations, including the KCBA, and racked up endorsements from dozens of judges including all nine members of the Washington Supreme Court.
Hayne refused to participate in the judicial ratings, calling the bar group biased. The backing of CJE could prove crucial in the race, as it has tilted the campaign cash battle heavily in her favor.
As of Thursday, CJE has spent $48,000 backing Hayne with mailers in the race. She’s raised another $55,000 from supporters. Shah has raised $63,000 for his campaign.