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The slow track for Hecht’s removal

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Oct. 29, 2009 at 1:52 pm with No Comments »
October 30, 2009 11:01 am

Not only can we not recall Judge Michael Hecht after his felony conviction yesterday, prying him out the usual way – through an ethical complaint – looks like it would take forever.

When judges act badly, the constitutional recourse is to ask the state Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigation. If it finds misconduct serious enough, it recommends that the state Supreme Court dismiss the judge. The court does its own review and hearing, then decides.

A complaint has been filed in Hecht case. But the commission isn’t scheduled to hear it until Feb. 22, which would make it more than a year that Hecht has been collecting his salary and occupying a seat on the Pierce County Superior Court without hearing cases. Who knows how much longer the actual dismissal might take on this path.

Can’t the commission act any faster? I asked Reiko Callner, its executive director, to explain why the procedure can’t be fast-tracked:

“That is relatively fast tracked,” she said. “We’re not built for speed. Our scheduling depends on the scheduling of attorneys in the case and the scheduling of the panel members. What we have to do is corrale all those schedules together and put it at th earliest possible date.

“We’d like to be able to go faster for all sorts of reasons. That’s about as fast as our regular process can go.”

Complicating matters is the fact that this case – a sitting Superior Court judge convicted of a felony – appears to be unprecedented in Washington.

“If we were in Chicago, we’d be ready to go. But it’s just not something we’ve come across here before.”

Two much faster alternatives: Ideally, Hecht resigns. Or Pierce County and the governor’s office force the issue by ending his paychecks and appointing a successor.

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