The governor’s office will review the appointment of Superior Court Judge Bernard Heavey, following an uproar by lawyers who say Heavey is not qualified for the $96,000-a-year job.
“I am concerned and I think there are very legitimate concerns that have come to light lately,” Lowry told reporters Friday.
Lowry appointed Heavey as Superior Court judge serving Klickitat and Skamania counties two months ago. Heavey is a former King County Democratic Party chairman and the father of Sen. Mike Heavey, D-West Seattle.
On Thursday, the 68-year-old Heavey ordered reporter Kathy George of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer jailed for contempt of court. George had refused to answer questions about a domestic violence case mentioned in a story that included criticism of Heavey by the bar association for Skamania and Klickitat counties.
A state Supreme Court commissioner stayed the order and scheduled a May 23 hearing.
Since Heavey’s appointment as the only Superior Court judge for the two Columbia River counties, attorneys have filed 72 affidavits asking that he be disqualified from specific cases.
Skamania County Prosecutor Brad Anderson has ordered his office to file such affidavits in every felony case because he doesn’t think Heavey is experienced enough to competently preside over criminal matters.
“I welcome any kind of review anyone wants to make of me,” Heavey said Saturday during a telephone interview. “I understand that there were disappointed people who applied for the job and when the former judge attacked me, that didn’t surprise me. But I’m not paying attention to that, I’m just working on doing my job and that’s it.”
“This is not a situation where we had any control over who the governor appointed,” Anderson said. “The governor never even gave us a call. I think that’s appalling.”
Klickitat County Prosecutor Knute Rife also said Lowry never asked for recommendations or discussed the appointment with him.
“They either did this for political ends or they didn’t do their homework,” said Gene Hanson, a Goldendale attorney and former Klickitat County prosecutor. “But they are the ones responsible for whether this was a good or bad move.”
Lowry’s legal adviser, Kent Caputo, is looking into the appointment by talking to lawyers, former judges, prosecutors and local citizens in the two counties. Caputo is to give the governor “an extensive verbal briefing” in a matter of days, Lowry spokesman Jordan Dey told the Post-Intelligencer.
The governor has no authority to remove Heavey but could ask him to step down, Dey said. Heavey will face election for the judgeship this fall.
Also, the governor’s office said it was unaware of Heavey’s involvement in a 1991 case of domestic abuse in which a man violated a protection order obtained by his wife. According to published reports, Heavey wrote an affidavit saying he couldn’t represent the man in court because he couldn’t deal with the emotional issues.
Heavey, who is divorced, wrote that the divorce and domestic-violence legal system were “mainly OF Women, BY Women and solely for women and us men are about to be eliminated from the Earth.”
The man later shot and killed his wife, then committed suicide.
“There was a thorough review (in the appointment process), but obviously there may have been some things missed that we need to look into,” Dey said.
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