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Eye On Olympia

When a “Law and Order” script collides with “The Office”…

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct today decided to censure — or officially call on the carpet for a in-person reprimand — former Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Collen Hartl.

Hartl violated the code of judicial conduct, both sides agreed, when she had a sexual encounter with a public defender who appeared frequently in her court. From the CJC’s announcement today:

“Shortly after that, Respondent hosted a Friday night holiday party at her house, attended by several Federal Way Municipal Court employees. During the course of her party, Respondent became highly intoxicated and revealed the encounter to a group of court employees.”

On Monday, the judge reported the situation to the commission, but said there had simply been “flirtation” between the two. According to the commission, she also called the court administrator to ask if court staff “would support that version.”

Hartl — who said that voice mail was in no way meant to induce anyone to be dishonest with the commission — resigned the following day.

“Respondent’s sudden departure, together with the foreseeable public dissemination of her admissions and unseemly behavior at her party, received considerable public notoriety and media attention and significantly disrupted the court’s operations,”

the commission said.

In the stipulated agreement, Hartl agreed that the conduct violated the code of judicial conduct, which among other things requires judges to avoid the appearance of impropriety. She also agreed not to serve as a judge again without the commission’s approval.

In other judicial news, the commission also admonished Pierce County Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz, who sparked a controversy by insisting that a man in her courtroom remove a religious head-covering.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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