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?