Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: court


Hecht’s goodbye is 10 months overdue

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

We are not counting on Judge Michael Hecht’s sense of decency. But if he still possesses any vestige of one, he will resign immediately from the Pierce County Superior Court bench.

A jury found him guilty Wednesday of hiring one young prostitute, a misdemeanor, and threatening to kill another, a felony. Every hour he remains on the court is a further disgrace to the bench.

State law appears to mandate automatic dismissal of any judge convicted of a felony. The trigger point, presumably, will be his formal sentencing next month.

Were Hecht capable of shame, it would never have come to this. He would never have filed for office, knowing the personal scrutiny his election might bring. He would never have taken the oath of office almost 10 months ago, the day after this newspaper reported he’d been under criminal investigation by Tacoma police. He’d have stepped down long, long ago, rather than cling to his $148,000 salary despite being barred from the courtroom by scandal.

It’s not a matter of being innocent until proven guilty. Hecht has known all along that, until recently, he was frequenting the young male prostitutes who sell themselves on Tacoma’s Antique Row.
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A high-handed shove out the courtroom door

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Justice in all cases shall be administered openly, and without unnecessary delay.
Article 1, Section 10, Washington Constitution

When a robed judge is presiding over an open courtroom in a criminal case, it’s alarming to see the public booted out and the doors slammed shut.

That’s precisely what happened Monday, when King County Superior Court Judge James Cayce prevented a journalist and an attorney from watching a key witness provide sworn testimony for the trial of Judge Michael Hecht. Barred from the proceeding were The News Tribune’s Adam Lynn and an attorney representing the newspaper, James Beck.

The witness was Joseph Pfeiffer, whose testimony is crucial for both the prosecution and defense. Hecht, a Pierce County Superior Court judge, stands accused of felony harassment and patronizing a prostitute: Pfeiffer, an obviously troubled 21-year-old, is one of the alleged prostitutes Hecht is accused of frequenting.

Pfeiffer originally told police and this newspaper that Hecht gave him money for sex on multiple occasions. Pfeiffer later took a step back from that story, saying instead that Hecht gave him money and had sex with him – but the money wasn’t a quid pro quo for the sex.
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