My first thought upon getting word Wednesday that Judge Michael Hecht had been convicted was: recall.
We were even talking about turning our oped page into a recall petition, if Hecht didn’t step down from the bench in short order.
As it turns out, recalling a judge is not so easy. In fact, it seems to be impossible in this state. Below is an exchange (read it from bottom up) I had today with the Secretary of State’s office. “Dave” is David Ammons, the office’s media guy. Katie Blinn is the state’s assistant director of elections (knows her stuff).
The constitution exempts judges from the recall procedure, and they have a separate removal-disciplinary process. I imagine that’s to shield judges from getting jacked around by harassing recall petitions because somebody didn’t like an unpopular decision.
There is a statute, apparently unenforceable against the judicial under the separation of powers doctrine, that says an officeholder forfeits office upon conviction for a felony. I’ll flip you an email chain that includes the presiding judge’s statement this afternoon on that point.
From: Patrick O’Callahan
Subject: Re: How to recall?
Whoa. Does this mean a judge CANNOT be recalled by the public regardless of misfeasance or malfeasance?
Ammons, Dave wrote:
Here ya go. The removal or sanctions of a judge apparently are the province of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct and, ultimately, the state Supreme Court.
From: Blinn, Katie
To: Ammons, Dave; Handy, Nick; Moss, Sheryl
Subject: RE: How to recall?
Judge are exempt from the recall process.
Recall is authorized by the State Constitution, in Article I, Sections 33-34:
SECTION 33 RECALL OF ELECTIVE OFFICERS. Every elective public officer of the state of Washington expect [except] judges of courts of record is subject to recall and discharge by the legal voters of the state, or of the political subdivision of the state, from which he was elected whenever a petition demanding his recall, reciting that such officer has committed some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office, stating the matters complained of, signed by the percentages of the qualified electors thereof, hereinafter provided, the percentage required to be computed from the total number of votes cast for all candidates for his said office to which he was elected at the preceding election, is filed with the officer with whom a petition for nomination, or certificate for nomination, to such office must be filed under the laws of this state, and the same officer shall call a special election as provided by the general election laws of this state, and the result determined as therein provided. [AMENDMENT 8, 1911 p 504 Section 1. Approved November, 1912.]
SECTION 34 SAME. The legislature shall pass the necessary laws to carry out the provisions of section thirty-three (33) of this article, and to facilitate its operation and effect without delay: Provided, That the authority hereby conferred upon the legislature shall not be construed to grant to the legislature any exclusive power of lawmaking nor in any way limit the initiative and referendum powers reserved by the people. The percentages required shall be, state officers, other than judges, senators and representatives, city officers of cities of the first class, school district boards in cities of the first class; county officers of counties of the first, second and third classes, twenty-five per cent. Officers of all other political subdivisions, cities, towns, townships, precincts and school districts not herein mentioned, and state senators and representatives, thirty-five per cent. [AMENDMENT 8, 1911 p 504 Section 1. Approved November, 1912.]
It is also in RCW 29A.56-110 – RCW 29A.56.270 http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=29A.56
From: Ammons, Dave
To: Handy, Nick; Blinn, Katie; Moss, Sheryl
Subject: FW: How to recall?
Anybody know this one? TNT editorial page editor asking.
From: Patrick O’Callahan
To: Ammons, Dave
Subject: How to recall?
Can you point me to someone (or some other source) who can spell out the mechanics involved in recalling a public official, specifically a judge?