Local news

Yakima judge taken off cases

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 30, 2009

Adjudicator won’t hear criminal cases after prosecutor complained he lacked legal knowledge

YAKIMA – A Yakima County judge is no longer hearing criminal cases because of prosecutor complaints that his rulings show he lacks legal knowledge.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports District Judge Ralph Thompson’s reassignment is a result of complaints from Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty’s office.

Hagarty warned that he was willing to employ a rarely used state law that allows prosecutors to file a continuing affidavit of prejudice against a judge.

The “blanket affidavit” means Hagarty’s office doesn’t have to block Thompson each time a case is filed.

In a Dec. 1 letter to Chief District Judge Kevin Roy, who reassigned Thompson, Hagarty said his concerns had reached a point that he questioned whether the state would receive “a fair opportunity when litigating cases” in Thompson’s courtroom.

“This is not something we just jumped into. We considered it for a long time,” Hagarty told the paper.

Thompson now handles county civil cases and contract judge duties for Grandview Municipal Court, where no complaints have been filed.

Thompson, 64, said that he has always tried to be a fair and impartial judge, and that Hagarty’s move could harm his reputation. He added he hopes to return to criminal cases in the future.

“I strive really hard to make decisions with mercy and passion and that are legally sound.

Sometimes those decisions are in favor of the prosecution and sometimes they are in favor of the defense. That’s the way it is,” Thompson said.

Hagarty’s concerns were based on a handful of cases that included a drunken driving case. Hagarty and Thompson did not elaborate on the cases.

However, Hagarty’s letter also had general complaints about Thompson’s handling of stipulated orders of continuance, which give defendants time for treatment for alcohol or drug problems or other conditions in exchange for a reduced charge.


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