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Want to be a federal district judge? Senators looking for possible nominees

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are asking people interested in becoming Idaho’s next federal district judge – replacing longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge when he takes senior status next summer – to fill out a questionnaire and send it in to their offices. “We’ve had some interest,” said Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for Crapo.

President Barack Obama will name the next judge, and there's no guarantee he'll pick the Idaho GOP senators' nominee, but the Senate does confirm the choice and generally defers to the state's Senate delegation on the pick. Crapo's office says the ideal nominee would be someone “amenable to both parties.” It's a lifetime appointment.

Lodge, Idaho’s longest serving judge ever, will take senior status on July 3, 2015; between his state and federal service, he’s been on the bench more than 50 years. Idaho hasn’t had a new federal district judge appointed since 1995, when current U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill was named to the court. He succeeded the late U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan, who took senior status in 1992.

Typically, the highest-ranking member of Idaho’s congressional delegation who is of the same party as the president would play a key role in the nomination, but Idaho doesn’t have any Democrats in its delegation; Crapo and Risch both are Republicans. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Honolulu judge puts man in chokehold

HONOLULU (AP) — It got personal for a judge in Honolulu when he put a man in a chokehold for jumping onto his bench and breaking a flagpole bearing the state flag, authorities said.

District Judge Lono Lee knocked down Steven Michael Hauge and restrained him Monday after the man caused a ruckus in Lee's courtroom, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/GFfNuA).

Hauge had been going from courtroom to courtroom in the Honolulu District Court building screaming, State Sheriff Shawn Tsuha said. “He was quite upset about something,” Tsuha said.

It was not clear why Hauge was in the building. Court records show a criminal record dating to 1977 with more than 50 convictions on charges including, burglary, fraud and assault.

Hauge was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of government operations and fourth-degree criminal property damage. Tsuha said Hauge allegedly broke the flag's staff while swinging it.

Hauge couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday at Oahu Community Correctional Center, where he was being held on $1,500 bail.

Thief posts Facebook pic of judge’s loot

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in South Florida say a man is facing charges after he was seen in a photo on Facebook holding a judge's stolen nameplate.

Twenty-one-year-old Steven Mulhall was arrested Thursday on violation of probation charges.

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Mulhall pried the $40 nameplate from the courtroom door of Broward Circuit Judge Michael Orlando. He says Mulhall has multiple petty theft convictions and now faces felony charges.

Arrest reports show the nameplate was stolen last month. Authorities received a tip that Mulhall took the nameplate and that the picture could be found on his girlfriend's Facebook page.

The nameplate will be returned to the judge.

A phone number wasn't available for Mulhall.

Judge Leveque to retire at end of year

In this 2003 photo, Jerome Leveque shares a laugh during an announcement by hen-Gov. Gary Locke, right, that Leveque and private defense attorney Maryann Moreno, center, were the new Superior Court judges Friday. (SRfilephoto)

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque will retire when his terms ends at the end of this year.

The judge announced his retirement to his colleagues Thursday.

Leveque, 70, of Butte, Mont., has been serving as judge since he was appointed by former Gov. Gary Locke in 2003.

Because Leveque intends to serve out the remaining time of his term, Gov. Chris Gregoire will not have to conduct a search and appoint a replacement.

“It will be an open election,” Judge Ellen Kalama Clark said, meaning that voters will choose a new judge without an incumbent on the ballot.

Superior Court assignments change

Today, Judge Maryann Moreno steps down from the role of presiding judge in Spokane County Superior Court after overseeing dramatic changes – and improved results – in how local officials administer justice.

 Presiding judges are elected by their peers and essentially handle the administration of the Superior Court judiciary, including budgeting and assigning other judges’ duties. Typically, it’s a two-year job, but Moreno has served as presiding judge for double the normal tenure because the last rotation came just as officials were implementing changes suggested by consultant David Bennett.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Recorder leads to Pa. ‘joyboating’ arrest

KITTANNING, Pa. (AP) — Police have charged a western Pennsylvania man with joyriding in three stolen boats after they say they found a judge's stolen cassette recorder in one of the boats — on which the suspect recorded an account of his crimes.

State police say 21-year-old Jesse Shipley, of South Bend, remains in a hospital psychiatric unit. He'll be arraigned on theft and other charges once he's released. Online court records do not list an attorney for Shipley.

Police tell the Leader-Times newspaper that Shipley drove the boats on the Allegheny River on Friday, two days after he allegedly stole the recorder from the office of Kittanning District Judge James Owen, about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

A fanny pack found on one of the boats contained the recorder, on which police say Shipley recorded his account of the events.

3 men nominated for U.S. District judge

Wenatchee attorney Stanley Bastian, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Rice and Spokane attorney Les Weatherhead have been nominated for federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington.

U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell forwarded their names Friday to President Barack Obama for consideration after a bipartisan committee selected them.

Weatherhead represents the Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

The White House will most likely make the final selection from those three, Murray spokesman Matt McAlvanah said.

The appointee would replace U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley, who recently took senior status.

Triplet named new Superior Court judge

Spokane County Court Commissioner James Triplet had to keep the secret all of Sunday night: He’d been chosen by Gov. Chris Gregoire to replace Neal Rielly as Superior Court Judge.

“She swore me to secrecy until she could make the announcement today,” Triplet said of the governor. “It’s both an honor and a privilege to get this appointment.”

Gregoire picked Triplet over fellow finalists Mark Vovos, a prominent defense attorney, and former Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession.

“There was some stiff competition out there,” Triplet said. “I’ve been a fulltime court commissioner since 2004 so I feel I’m prepared for the next step in my career.”

Gregoire said in a news release that Triplet will continue to bring innovation to the court.

“As commissioner, he continually worked to provide understanding and accessibility to the general public regarding our court system,” Gregoire said in the release. “His passion and background will make him a strong addition to the Superior Court.”

Triplet — who earned his law degree in 1988 from Gonzaga University School of Law — said he’s currently working to transfer to another commissioner the cases involving 150 children in dependency and 300 family-law cases.

Earlier this year, the Washington State Bar Association named him Family Law Section Professional of the Year in recognition of his contributions to establishing a unified family court model.

Triplet said he worked for years under Rielly, who retired on Aug. 29.

“I have big shoes to try to fill,” Triplet said of Rielly. “But I think he got the better end of the deal. He’s retiring and gardening and playing golf. I have a lot of things I have to transition out of and into. That’s what I’m stressing about today.”

Vovos could not be reached late Monday for comment. Hession said he was disappointed but honored to have been considered a finalist.

“Jim Triplet is just a very good judicial officer,” Hession said. “He’s well respected and he will be an excellent Superior Court Judge.”

District judges’ schedules hard to track

An effort to prevent political use of information about their daily duties seems to have backfired on Spokane County District Court judges.

Instead, they handed critics an opportunity to accuse them of being secretive. “What do they have to hide?” asked attorney Timothy Note, who is running against Judge Debra Hayes in the Nov. 2 general election. 

Note has raised questions during his campaign about how many days district judges actually work.

The judges decided at their Oct. 6 weekly meeting to quit distributing daily lineup sheets that indicate which judges are presiding over which dockets.

Read the rest of the story here.

Tim Note vs. District Court Judge Hayes

A young attorney who has big ideas on how to make court more efficient is taking on a one-term judge who said her life experiences have made her better at making tough decisions.

Defense attorney Timothy Note (left), 35, is challenging Spokane County District Court Judge Debra Hayes (right) in the Spokane area’s only contested judicial race on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

Hayes, 54, cited her four years of experience on the job, life experiences and community service. “I think that looking at the two of us, it is a pretty clear choice,” Hayes said. “I’m committed to being a fair and impartial judge.”

But Note, an attorney since 2004, said he has more than 100 fellow lawyers endorsing his campaign to bring more structure and accountability to District Court.

“My platform is not endearing me to the judges who are working there,” Note said. “But at some point, the gravy train needs to end and we need to get back to the people’s work.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Feds: U.S. judge used cocaine w/ stripper

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP) - A veteran federal judge faces drug and firearms charges after an exotic dancer at an Atlanta strip club told authorities he used cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs with her. 

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp was arrested Friday minutes after he handed an undercover law enforcement agent $160 for cocaine and Roxycodone, a narcotic pain medication, that he intended to use with the exotic dancer, authorities said in a court document released Monday. They said they also found two firearms in the front seat of his vehicle.

Camp, 67, (pictured) who has presided over some high-profile cases, was released Monday on a $50,000 bond. His attorney, William Morrison, said after a brief hearing that the judge intends to plead not guilty. Morrison said Camp would probably take a leave of absence and would not preside over any more cases until the charges are resolved.

“This is really a case between Judge Camp and his wife,” said Morrison. “It’s not about Judge Camp being a judge. It’s about him being a husband.”

Camp’s arrest set up an unusual domino effect in the federal courthouse. The district’s federal judges all recused themselves, so Magistrate Judge Charles S. Coody of Alabama was brought in to hear the case. Federal prosecutors from Washington also flew in to handle the government’s arguments.

The charges against Camp were laid out in a shocking eight-page affidavit released after the emergency hearing was finished.

Camp met the confidential informant, who recently began cooperating with the FBI, at the Goldrush Showbar in Atlanta in early 2010 and he soon began paying her for sex and buying cocaine from her at $40 to $50 a pop, according to the records.

In June 2010, Camp followed the informant to a drug dealer in Marietta to buy Roxycodone. He was also recorded in a wiretapped telephone call on Sept. 28 talking with her about getting together over the weekend to split more pills and cocaine with her, according to the charges.

He showed up at a Publix parking lot in northeast Atlanta around 7:15 p.m. Friday to meet with the an undercover agent posing as the dealer. When the informant told her she was worried about his safety, the judge told her, “I not only have my little pistol, I’ve got my big pistol so, uh, we’ll take care of any problems that come up,” according to the affidavit.

He handed over $160 in cash to pay for the drugs around 7:35 p.m. Ten minutes later, authorities arrested the judge and seized the two guns from the front seat of his vehicle.

The judge faces four drug-related charges and one count of possessing firearms while illegally using drugs.

It’s a stunning turn for Camp, a Vietnam War veteran who was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1987. He is a former chief judge for the Northern District of Georgia.

Known for wearing suspenders around the courtroom, he handled hundreds of cases before taking senior status — and a lesser caseload — in 2008.

In 2004, he sentenced two men accused of killing DeKalb County Sheriff Derwin Brown to life in prison without parole. He also handled litigation from voting rights groups who sought to block Georgia from asking new voters to prove their identities and citizenship before casting their ballots.

The judge also handled several high-profile drug cases, including the May 2009 sentencing on prescription-related charges of the personal doctor to a professional wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son.

Camp, wearing a pinstripe suit, said little during the brief hearing Monday but turned to flash a smile at his family after he walked in. He hired four defense attorneys over the weekend to represent him, and Morrison said his client was in “good spirits.”

“Judge Camp’s wife is an extraordinarily strong woman and she’s going to stand by her husband,” said Morrison. “And this is a very strong man. He’s going to overcome these circumstances.”

Idaho Supreme Court suspends judge-disqualification rule, citing abuse

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Idaho will be barred from disqualifying judges from criminal cases without giving a reason first. The Idaho Supreme Court has suspended a rule that had allowed prosecutors or defense attorneys to disqualify a judge “without cause.” The state high court ruled late last month that the rule had been used excessively and abused. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that a judge in Idaho’s 5th District, Robert J. Elgee, had been the target of numerous disqualifications based on the rule. Elgee had petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court to suspend and modify the rule in 2009, but was rebuffed by justices at the time.

Otter appoints two new district judges

Gov. Butch Otter named Caldwell attorney Susan Wiebe as a 3rd District judge today, and picked  Bannock County Magistrate Judge Robert Naftz of Pocatello for a 6th District judgeship. Weibe succeeds retiring 3rd District Judge Stephen Drescher, and Naftz succeeds retiring 6th District Judge Peter McDermott. You can click below to read Otter’s full press release on the appointments.

The candidates for the judgeships were screened by the Idaho Judicial Council, which selected three finalists, two lawyers and a magistrate judge, for the 3rd District position from among four applicants; and four finalists for the 6th District position from among eight applicants, seven lawyers and one magistrate judge. The Judicial Council, which screens and recommends potential new judges to the governor, is busy these days. The council is mulling eight applications for the 1st District judgeship that’ll be vacated by the retirement of Judge Charles Hosack in Kootenai County, and nine for the 5th District judge opening created by the pending retirement of Judge Barry Wood. Plus, it’s taking applications through Sept. 28 for another 5th District judge opening in Minidoka County, created by Otter’s appointment of 5th District John John Melanson to the Court of Appeals, effective Sept. 30.

Judges are elected in Idaho, but most leave office before the end of their terms, in which case the Idaho Judicial Council screens candidates and the governor appoints the new judge, who then can run for re-election as an incumbent at the end of his or her term on the bench.

Otter names Melanson to Court of Appeals

Gov. Butch Otter has named 5th District Judge John Michael Melanson to the Idaho Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy that will occur when Appeals Court Judge Darrel R. Perry retires on Sept. 30. Melanson, 61, has been a district judge in Minidoka County for the past eight years, and previously served as a magistrate judge in Lincoln County for six years. He practiced law in Buhl for 13 years before that. Said Otter, “I have tremendous confidence in John and the reputation that he carries into this new appointment.”

Melanson was one of four candidates recommended to Otter by the Idaho Judicial Council; the other finalists were Kent A. Hawkins, Michael A. Henderson and Molly J. Huskey. Twelve people applied for the opening, including two judges and 10 lawyers.The Judicial Council in Idaho handles both screening for selection when a judge leaves office before the end of a term, and discipline of judges; the discipline part takes place in strict secrecy, except when a case goes all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court. Only two ever have, including one that’s now pending; click here to read my Sunday package on the current case, involving 2nd District Judge John Bradbury, and the light it’s shining on the council’s operations.

And none for judges either…

A push to give judges a 2 percent pay raise next year died, 6 votes to 8, so the salary commission is recommending no raises for any state elected officials for the next two years.

Next up: hearings around the state. But with most state officials saying “no raise, please,” it’s pretty hard to imagine a groundswell of recession-saddled citizens flooding the hearings to insist that taxpayers be allowed to pay politicians more. Final decision: May.