Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

So why didn’t a better lawyer – not Hecht – run against Armijo?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Oct. 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
October 30, 2009 11:07 am

Take a couple steps back from the scandal over Judge Michael Hecht’s criminal convictions and misconduct. Behind it all is unspoken taboo among the Pierce County bar against challenging sitting judges.

The only reason Hecht got elected to the Pierce County Superior Court in the first place last fall was the vulnerability of the judge he challenged, Sergio Armijo. Many of the county’s practicing attorneys will acknowledge that Armijo was not one of the supernovas of the judicial galaxy.

There’s a slew of outstanding lawyers out there who might have run against Armijo last year, defeated him and done a better job on the bench. None of them did. Among the county’s better lawyers, challenging a sitting judge violates some Emily Post rule about legal manners. Just isn’t done. Not polite.

By default, that leaves someone like Michael Hecht to challenge a visibly weak incumbent. Surprise! Voters wind up turning out the visibly weak incumbent without knowing much about the new guy, who’s been flying under the radar screen.

(Hecht didn’t take part in our candidate endorsement process last year. We went with Armijo simply because we had the heebie jeebies about Hecht. He’d come in for an interview in 2004, when he also ran against Armijo, and we didn’t like the vibes.)

Next time there’s a vulnerable judge up for election, would some well-qualified, ethical lawyer please set aside the etiquette book and offer the voters a real alternative?

*
The News Tribune now uses Facebook commenting on selected blogs. See editor's column for more details. Commenters are expected to abide by terms of service for Facebook as well as commenting rules for thenewstribune.com. Report violators to webmaster@thenewstribune.com.