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* Six of One, and a Half-Dozen of the Other *

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  • jail4judges
    J.A.I.L. News Journal ______________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California August 18, 22,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 18, 2003
      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      Los Angeles, California                                           August 18, 22, 2003

      Six of One, and a
      Half-Dozen of the Other

      The below article has this writer chuckling due to his personal knowledge of the past situation. I have had the privilege of personally meeting and sitting down and extensively talking with Attorney Doug Schafer about J.A.I.L. while I was visiting Washington State three years ago.
      Doug has detested and has exposed the corrupt judicial system in Washington, so much so that he received front newspaper coverage on bringing down a solidly rooted judge from the bench because he had confidential information that his own client and Judge Anderson were running a significant criminal financial scam. He blew the whistle on this scam and got in trouble for using the confidential information he was privy to through his client, also involved in the scam.
      He created a real conflict in the system, for his action raised the question of priorities, that is, is it right to blow the whistle and expose a major crime in progress by a public official when the source is of your information is your client. And what complicated the question was one of the perpetrators was an esteemed sitting judge.
      What's more, Schafer was a supporter of J.A.I.L., and who then ran in  an open race for Justice of the Supreme Court of Washington State. What is more ironic, purely by happenstance, unbeknownst to me, I pulled into a parking lot and went into a restaurant for dinner. And who was my waitress to whom I produced and gave my JAIL4Judges business card to? It turned out to be the daughter of the female Washington judge who was in a challenge with Doug Schafer for the same set on the Supreme Court. After I leaned this fact, my waitress kindly gave me her mother's email address, and lo and behold, I then had the address of the judge who actually became the Supreme Court Justice for the State of Washington. I suppose I do not have to tell you what the result was when I initiated my first contact with her regarding judicial accountability. Yep, you guessed it. "Remove Me!" I guess she did not consider that the judiciary in Washington needs to be accountable, unlike Doug, her competitor.
      Well, of course, the system took action against Doug's "license," and suspended him from practicing law, even though his facts of a major criminal fraud was right on the money of a crime in progress by a judge who was then removed from the bench because of the gravity of his crimes.
      What was the message sent. It was, "You did a good deed, Mr. Schafer, in exposing this criminal judge, but you should not have done it! So we are going to suspend you as an attorney as your punishment so you will never do it again."  The fact is, Doug Schafer's actions caused a genuine internal stir as to whether Doug should be rewarded or punished. The conclusion was to commend him, and punish him. It reminds me of the adage, "There shall no good deed go unpunished."
      There is one more strange twist I need to reveal to you. It was it-and-run drunk driver State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge who was one of those who stood in judgment of Doug Schafer, and who voted in favor of punishing him, who, herself faced no punishment for her gross violations of clearly established law on drunk driving and hit-and run. I guess the lesson here is, if you are going to drive drunk and hit-and-run, you had better be a Supreme Court Justice, otherwise they will put you under the jail, and the second lesson is don't expect mercy from those who receive mercy. 
      With this as a background for the below article, now Doug Schafer is running in a head to head contest with a judge for a seat on the Superior Court, and creating another strange phenomena never conceive by the system. There seems to be no clear answer. Even the State's Attorney General's Office, which is called upon to decide legal questions on current law, is bewildered, "Pharris said he really doesn't know the answer."
      "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, we at first we practice to deceive."
      Good luck Doug Schafer, you've got'em so they are unable to decide which way is up. "We've got to follow the law," they say, but what does the law say? They do not know. They're babbling and sucking their toes. 
                                                                                  -Ron Branson


      Suspended Attorney Doug Schafer's run for judge creates legal question mark

      KAREN HUCKS; The News Tribune

      Lawyer Doug Schafer wants to be a Pierce County Superior Court judge - but he may have to wait until the end of his six-month suspension for revealing a client's secret to try.

      Judge Ron Culpepper, whose job Schafer wants, says a suspended attorney can't run for office.

      "(Is) a person who cannot represent a person for a speeding ticket a member of the bar?" Culpepper said. "I don't think so. ... I really don't think there's too much of a debate. I think he should withdraw. "I don't think he's eligible, and I think he should wait until he is."

      Schafer, who filed for the seat the week of July 28, said the law is on his side. "I don't think there are any serious questions that I'm qualified," Schafer said. "I am still a member of the bar. I am still required to pay dues. I have no doubt that if I committed some dishonest act that I would be disciplined by the bar. "There are plenty of relevant things to discuss," he said. "I don't think that this is one of them."

      The state Attorney General's Office says the question probably will be decided by a judge. "It seems to me that it's probably something that a court is going to have to sort out," said Jim Pharris, Senior Assistant Attorney General. "Initially, the question is whether somebody who is under suspension could argue whether he's still admitted to practice. ... Although there are arguments he would have, on the contrary, the statute on filing appears to be that you be qualified on the day that you file."
      But Pharris said he really doesn't know the answer. "It's essentially a new situation I don't think the court's had to deal with," he said.

      The State Constitution says candidates for judges have to have been admitted to the state bar association. State law says candidates must be eligible for the office they seek when they file for office.

      That means, for example, that someone who isn't old enough to hold a particular office at the filing deadline, but who would be before taking office, still can't run.

      The Pierce County Auditor's Office isn't responsible for making sure all candidates who file for office are qualified for the seats they seek.

      In order to keep a candidate off the ballot, someone else has to file a petition in court to correct the election "error." By law, Schafer's candidacy would have to be challenged by Friday.

      The State Supreme Court ruled in the late 1990s that when a candidate's eligibility was a tough question to answer, courts should err on the side of giving voters a choice, Pharris said. The case was whether then-Pierce County Superior Court Judge Arthur Verharen could hold office when his residency was in question.

      Culpepper said a 1916 case of a Lewis County man running for judge while under suspension is the only directly relevant one. In that case, the Supreme Court said, "When the Constitution was framed and when it was adopted, it was clearly not the intention ... to authorize a person to be elected judge who was not, at the time of his election, entitled to practice as an attorney."

      The state Supreme Court justices went on to say it didn't matter that J.E. Willis was suspended rather than disbarred.

      "In view of the conceded fact that (he) is suspended," the opinion says, "it follows that he is not eligible to hold office at the time he is required to qualify, and that he is not eligible to become a candidate upon the ticket."
      That candidate's suspension would have continued past his election, however.

      Schafer's wouldn't. He noted that he will be eligible to practice law again before the election takes place. Because he wasn't disbarred, he said, he's effectively in the same position as Culpepper. The Code of Judicial Conduct keeps full-time judges from practicing law, to guard against conflicts of interest.

      "Ron Culpepper, right now, may not practice law," Schafer said. "I, right now, may not practice law."

      Culpepper balked at the comparison.

      "We are not on equal ground," he said. "I am a judge - good, bad or indifferent. He is a suspended attorney."

      Schafer, who has been a lawyer since 1978, uncovered misconduct by then-Pierce County Superior Court Judge Grant Anderson that led the Supreme Court to remove Anderson in 1999. But in doing so, Schafer disclosed confidential client information.

      The State Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, decided that was unnecessary and suspended Schafer in April for six months.

      A member of the bar since 1976, Culpepper was appointed in February to succeed retired Judge Terry Sebring. Whoever wins the November election will fill the last year of Sebring's unexpired office and will have to run for office again next year.

      Culpepper said he isn't sure whether he will formally challenge Schafer's candidacy.

      Karen Hucks: 253-597-8660
      To Kill a Messenger -- for Reporting a Corrupt Judge

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