Lawyers, you are smart enough to know when the system wants to marginalize someone.
Before you let them succeed at marginalizing me, you might want to read this letter I prepared to send to the Washington Bar Association and/or Washington State Association for Justice back in April asking lawyers to consider running to be judges.
I never finished the letter, because I decided to jump into the race when none of those lawyers I believed were qualified showed any inclination to do so.
I submit this letter to you now, months later, so you can evaluate the concerns which have caused me to run for Supreme Court, position 2:
April 3, 2012
Several years ago I went to a CLE [Continuing Legal Education class] where Judge Pechman, Judge Lau, and a state district court judge spoke. The only thing I remember about the CLE is the audience of attorneys was told by the judges that judges “talk about attorneys” and “attorneys should fear judges saying bad things to one another about an attorney.”
At first I could not believe what I was hearing. The judges were telling attorneys that they thought the judges’ collective opinion of the lawyer was more important than the merits of a client’s cause. Last week the Supreme Court decided a case, which tacitly accepted the notion that information shared by judges about their experience with lawyers was a legitimate consideration to take into account when deciding a client’s case.
Now I don’t know which judge or clerk (I once dated a clerk in Division One) I irritated or annoyed, but I’m pretty well convinced my clients have suffered in King County Superior Court and the Court of Appeals for Divisions One and Two because of jurist’s inclination not to hear anything I had to say. Of course, most of these judgments are on appeal. It’s not that I dislike losing, it is my indignation with judges who refuse to follow clear law.
My experience would suggest that I am likely not alone in being singled out for mistreatment because of judicial gossip. Indeed, Teter v Deck, Docket Number: 85342-8, (April 5, 2012) makes clear that judges are not afraid to suggest lawyer conduct occurring outside of their court rooms is a reason supporting decisions for or against the lawyers’ clients. I am sure there are several, perhaps more than several lawyers, whose clients and careers have been damaged by judges “talking” in secret about us, i.e. officers of the court, without providing any notice to us or our clients about doing so.
If you are being or have been abused by judicial caprice I urge you to speak up and run against those judges who refuse to do their jobs appropriately.
I believe our judicial system needs to be changed when abuse of power becomes common place. At this time, in my opinion, it remains an open question whether our judiciary can be salvaged or whether we, as officers of the court, must hospice the judiciary’s demise with the hope of devising a better system after it collapses of its own greed and corruption.
The premise of judicial review, which is not established by the language of the constitution but only the Court’s interpretation thereof, has been much in the news as a result of President Obama’s recent comments. Judicial review is based on certain abiding principles, which may no longer be applicable to our society. The original review mechanism was premised upon the idea the judicial department would be composed of jurists, rather politicians in jurist guise, who could neutrally interpret the law. But at the federal level what we now appear to have are politician jurists acting as a part of an unelected nine person judicial legislature who purport to have control over every aspect of our law.
This, of course, is not the first time judicial abuse has raised calls for reform. The notion of “packing” the Court did not lose vitality until the justices relinquished their aggressive version of judicial review. History indicates society only acquiesced to the judiciary’s claim to the power of judicial review based on the expectation that members of the judicial department perform their duties in a circumspect and non-political manner.
Rights of others are often surrendered under the assumption that our own rights will not be taken from us. In times like these, where banks use fraud to take homes, lawyers should be thoughtful. What if courts are deciding cases based on their general impressions of lawyers, rather than the merits of the cases they review? Has our system of justice lost anything? If so, can we do anything about it?
Should we demand judges publish a black list of those lawyers most gossiped about, so that clients can vie for the attentions of the lawyers the judges like?
Judges too often denigrate the role lawyers should play in our system of justice. I touch on these issues in my briefing in an appeal where Division One held lawyers do not have any standing as officers of the court to refuse to participate in an appeal based on a record which does not meet the requirements of statutory law.
Very truly yours,
Scott E. Stafne
I never sent the above letter out. But I am sure many share the experiences I describe therein.
You can only appeal so many times and get so many outrageous results before you realize the only way to protect clients, other lawyers, and yourself, as officers of the court, is to run for the position of judge yourself. So that is what I am doing.
There should be more lawyers running for presently unopposed judgeships.
We should not fear judges and other lawyers attempts to marginalize us.
We can only hope that people won’t fall for their lies.
The judges cannot create intelligent common law without lawyers. It is time judges let their egos subside to the size of those in normal people. These judges should determine the facts, listen to the arguments, do their research and then decide and publish all cases based on a proper application of existing law to the existing facts of a dispute. Judges need lawyers’ help in order to be able to do this.
For those of you who read my blog for a more personalized account of the campaign, you will get that tomorrow.
I have a debate with Justic Owens at 5:30 PM.
Hopefully, my opponent will answer the substantive issues posed in this race. I am tired of hearing that she is rural judge. She has lived in Olympia, the state capitol, for past twelve years. I’ve lived in Arlington for the past 7 years. That is a more rural location than Olympia.
I am also tired of hearing about her common sense, when she doesn’t have enough common sense to take steps to prevent the Courts of Appeal from destroying Washington’s common law.
I am looking forward to the debate. A debate where Susan Owens defends her tenure as the Rules Chairwoman of the Supreme Court.
Surely, she should be able to do that.
Don’t you think?
 In Teter v Deck, Docket Number: 85342-8, * 5 (April 5, 2012) the Supreme Court upheld a trial court’s determination that misconduct by an attorney was grounds for a mistrial. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this result, the Supreme approvingly quoted the judge’s admonishments to counsel. There the judge made clear he was not relying simply on what occurred in his court, but also on what he had been told by his contemporaries: ” — and this is not the first court in which they [disapproved conduct] have occurred –“. How can a judge under any circumstances base a decision on conduct which occurred outside of his court room? Is justice still blind? Have jurists always had such long ears? Are attorney’s more important than the merits of clients’ cases? If so, shouldn’t the public be warned?