News Sep 23, 2010 at 4:00 am

DUI Attorneys Amass Big Money to Oust Judges They Dislike

The next target for DUI attorneys? Kelly O


Our state's laws aren't that tough on DUIs. It takes 5 DUIs in 10 years before you can be charged with a felony. And the DUI defense bar has been very successful at getting blood alcohol level suppressed in courts for a variety of reasons, which means you have to actually seem drunk to be convicted. .08 might not be a perfect measurement (no measurement is), but it's pretty standard.

This is an interesting issue. I know that the DUI defense attorneys also donate a lot of money to some King County district court judges. Not suprisingly, those judges are soft on DUIs.
Ignore the CJE & look at the qualifications of Charles & Hurtado. Hurtado is increasingly unpredictable in the courtroom. Attorneys hate appearing before him. Charles is a classic "lemon", having been shuffled from position to position within the city. The Municipal Court is about to get a fresh infusion of new blood with Steve Rosen & Willie Gregory (both unopposed). Let's elect McKenna & Donohue, as well.
@more pie

Great! Snotty, slanderous comments (providing no facts) from Karen Donohoe's ex-campaign hack.
Drinking then driving is inexcusable, illegal, and life-threatening. We ought to accept no excuses, and no grant no leniency.
This seems pretty simple to me...DUI lawyers are trying to have unethical, outside interest on the court. I'm surprised that Mr. Mckenna would even consider taking money, let alone be recruited by or ask for help from a special interest group like them.
This is a classic case of the newspaper looking for a spin when there isn't one. I'm a criminal defense attorney (I don't handle DUIs) and I agree that the bench needs to be cleared of certain judges - those who are disrespectful and those who don't know how to apply the law. Of course, they hear DUI cases - there's a lot of them - but they also hear lots of other case and they're bad judges all around. There's plenty of judges who are "tough" on DUI cases but are not being discussed here. Why? Because the defense bar - all of it - knows a good judge when they see one. The author of this article needs to actually spend some time in court to understand.
Ed McKenna, isn't he the same guy who tried to use the Voter's Guide as a political platform to trash his opponent and when the SEEC ruled it was inappropriate, he then appealed and showed up to the SEEC appeal with six DUI attorneys in tow? He certainly demonstrated inappropriate behavior, judgment, ethics, restraint and temperament. This is someone I want on the bench as a judge? Seriously?
The Seattle Municipal Court handles so much more than DUIs. It handles Assaults, DV Assaults, Hit & Runs, Thefts, Grafitti, Criminal Trespass, etc.
The King County Bar Association Survey is a result of defense attorneys, prosecutors & public defenders (who also represent dui offenders)
I'd invite anyone to go to the King County Bar Association website and educate yourself on how the survey's are done. After you read it you will clearly see that it can not be "manipulated". The survey has been out for many months so if Tupper really feels it's been "manipulated" then why has he not made a complaint to KCBA? I'd also invite you to go to the PDC and see how much McKenna has raised.

To be clear, I belive it is McKenna trying to defeat Charles, not CJE. So why don't you look at his endorsers. You will see that he is endorsed by Seattle Police Officer's Guild, Seattle Police Management, officers that are assigned to DUI enforcement, the City Attorney and many others. So does that mean McKenna will be tougher on DUIs? Seems to me that he has the confidence of everyone from every angle of the law. He has been rated "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by the King County Bar Association. That is their highest rating. And, no Mr Tupper, that can not be "manipulated".

Charles is endorsed by a KC Women's Political Causus. Go to thier website and you will see that they have research books, training sessions & raise money for the people(women only. NO MEN allowed) they endorse. What is the difference from this PAC & CJE?

Hurtado says he lost relatives because of drunk drivers. So is he really being fair and impartial to defendants that appear in front of him that have been accused of drunk driving or does he let his personal feeling get in the way of justice? I bet every single one of us has driven after drinking when we probably should not of. Most of us were lucky and did not get caught. But if you ever do get a DUI or charged with any crime for that matter, I hope you go in front of a judge that is respectful, impartial & fair.

It's obvious that those of us making commnets support one candidate or the other. Remember, these are opinions. Check out the facts and make your own opinion.
Ok, so let's talk about endorsements - I see from Judge Edsonya Charles's website that she is endorsed by a diverse group of judges and elected officials that understand the legal system and she clearly earned their confidence. Her opponent has ONE retired judge listed on his endorsements that no one has ever heard of and no doubt from outside the Seattle City limits. Just like the ONE prosecutor he keeps trotting out who is on contract in a jurisdiction outside of Seattle who was hired not elected to this position.

Supporting Judge Edsonya Charles are: Katrina Pflaumer, former US Attorney,WA State Court of Appeals Judge Susan Agid (ret.), King County Superior Court Judge Donald Haley (ret.),Seattle Municipal Court Judge Fred Bonner,Seattle Muncipal Court Judge Judith Hightower,Seattle Municipal Court Judge George Holifield,Seattle Municipal Court Judge Kimi Kondo,State Senator Adam Kline,State Senator Joe McDermott,State Representative Eric Pettigrew,State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos,King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, Honorable Greg Nickels,Honorable Charles Royer,Honorable Laura Ruderman,Honorable Deborah Senn,Honorable Pat Thibaudeau,Honorable Kip Tokuda,Honorable Velma Veloria

Yes, the people who are commenting are those paying attention to this race and frankly who should have an opinion on one candidate vs the other. This is a race that matters.
I didn't realize that Judge Edsonya Charles is also endorsed by WA State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen, several community leaders like Pramila Jayapal and Bob Santos as well as organizations like the Martin Luther King County Labor Council,
King County Women's Political Caucus,
11th Legislative district Democrats,
34th Legislative district Democrats,
37th Legislative district Democrats.

Like judges and elected officials, these are individuals and groups whose endorsements are not given lightly. They are earned.
If you do your research you will see that McKenna is endorsed by not only King Co Labor Council, 34th District, 36th District, 37th District, 43rd District, 46th District, KC Democratic Central Committee, Metropolitan Democratic club of Seattle, Council Memebers Tim Burgess, Nick Licata, Sally Bagshaw, Tom Rasmussen & Richard Conlin, City Attorney Pete Holmes, Seattle Police Managment Assoc, Seattle PoliceOfficer Guild, King County Police Officers Guild, community groups, community leaders and many others. And yes, these endorsements are not given lightly, they are earned. It's great that people are paying attention to this election!
I know Edsonya Charles personally, but have no knowledge of her professional acumen. I am not an attorney, and I have never appeared in her courtroom for legal or other reasons.

I must say, that from her personal statements made to me, I am surprised that she is considered hard on any criminal defendant. She is the type who seems to believe that circumstances make for bad decisions, rather than that some people are just bad people.

If I were a citizen of King County, I would be worried that Judge Charles is too soft on crime, not too hard.
Wow. A little spat among society's elite. Nothing is more impressive to people than a list of your elite friends who like you.

@9 - Charlie Royer & Greg Nickels? Seriously? Otherwise, nice list of gays, non-whites & women you got there. Nothing like identity politics to elevate the dignity of an office.

Let's not forget: judges are still just lawyers playing a different role. Almost all of them maintain a private practice and prefer to fraternize within the legal community. Maybe we should just make these apppointed positions, as the common voter will never be allowed an honest look into that exclusive club to make a truly informed decision.
So...the big, bad DUI defense bar is plotting to elect McKenna, who's - wait for it - a PROSECUTOR. This is indeed news, but not in the way you want it to be. Fail.
Having spent time in many of the municipal courtrooms, and in front of all of the current municipal court judges, I can honestly say that the writer of the article has obviously not spent any time (or at least very little) in any municipal courtrooms, let alone Judge Hurtado or Charles' courtrooms. They both have some positive traits, but by and far, they should not be judges deciding criminal matters.

Judge Hurtado is often confused and misapplies the law. And he has a personal conflict with all DUI cases, having tragically lost his two nieces in accidents. He should excuse himself from all DUI cases because he cannot treat them unbiasedly, as a judge is required to do.

Of course DUIs are serious charges, and no one--not even DUI attorneys--want people to be drinking and driving. But, DUIs are very complicated--breath and blood tests are not as straight-forward as one might assume--and it is important for everyone that DUI attorneys continue to work hard to challenge the science and procedures that are part of DUI prosecution. Trust me - if you, personally, find yourself facing a DUI charge, you want an attorney who knows what they're doing. The consequences of even a first DUI are so onerous and stressful that competent defense counsel is absolutely essential.

Judge Charles is better than many of the other judges on understanding matters of law, but she certainly does not treat most people with much respect or diginity - especially defendants. She has very little tolerance for the issues people deal with in life - especially financial problems, and trying to make it on time to court using public transportation. She frequently expects everyone to have the same knowledge that she does, and she puts people in her shoes (rather than the other way around). She is quite friendly when not "on the record"--joking around and what not with her staff and attorneys--but is extremely unreasonable otherwise. Although, I have to say, she is probably the best judge (currently) to do a trial in front of.

But regardless, anyone writing about the municipal court judges should spend some actual time in a courtroom - and do so anonymously. Watch how the judges treat people. Watch how they handle legal issues. Watch how they conduct a trial. It is pretty obvious, to anyone with any experience being in court, that Seattle Municipal Court is in desperate need of a batch of new judges.
defend people caught driving under the influence of alcohol


Let's be clear . . . they defend people accused of driving under the influence. These cases are often far more complex than anyone would learn from reading this article or some of the commentary. As others have suggested to the author: get thee to a courtroom . . .
As an Officer I have worked with Ed Mckenna for several years, we have agreed and disagreed on many legal issues, the one thing I can say is that endorsements speak volumes and Ed has proven to be a well respected, and fair attorney and I have no doubt that he will continue to be the same way as a judge. If Ed were to rule for or against me in a trial i'd walk away knowing that he did what was right ethically, morally and legally.
I'm curious, is James Tupper the author's attorney friend or something? Because an environmental lawyer is probably the last member of the bar from whom you would want an opinion on municipal court judges and practice.

Folks like seattlelawyer, kitty girl, and more experienced than some, as people who have obviously actually practiced in municipal court, clearly know what they are talking about.
You had me until I read the third sentence from the last:
"A 120-pound woman can reach the .08 blood-alcohol limit with two or three glasses of wine with dinner-which may cause zero or neglible impairment behind the wheel."
Actually, that statement flies in the face of human perfomance studies dating back up to eighty years, that show that very real and measurable degradations in reaction time and performance start showing up with a BAL closer to 0.05 g/ 100mL of blood.
Ooh, attorneys support a candidate, so they must be bad. Way to jump on a genuine media bandwagon, Stranger staff.

These are some of the worst judges in the State, but when the people who actually know that (attorneys) speak up - well, they must have done something right, after all?
Ed McKenna recently referred to Mark Sidran as "Satan" and Tom Carr as "Satan Light" when in fact he intentionally and personally solicited their endorsements as his former supervisors and former elected officials. You gotta wonder...
@ whosethelosernow

It was the Stranger that called Sidran "Satan" and Carr "Satan's Lite" I can assume IF YOU really did hear McKenna refere to such he was probably referencing what THE STRANGER called them.……

You're not drunk until you can light your blood on fire.
re: whether the results of a judicial survey can be manipulated...while the survey is sent to members who practice before the Municipal Court, it is not a statistically valid survey in that it only notes responses from those who take the time to fill out the survey and send it back. Thus a small group of committe folks can "skew" the results in that it measures their opinion and is not an opinion of everyone who appears in front of a judge. This year's survey was specifically problematic because the King County Bar sent it out later than usual.
"This story has been updated since its original publication."

By updated do you mean corrected or otherwise substantively changed? If so, where's the disclosure?
"I would like a judge who will not interrupt,"

Then take your case to trial. Arraignment hearings are not a place to argue your case. You make your case, then you be quiet and let the judge rule. Too many DUI attorneys at arraignment are under the impression that the entire courtroom, and all the defendants waiting to be heard, should be at their mercy while they attempt to badger the judge. Give it your best shot, then be quiet. Your turn is over. If you continue to argue once your argument has been heard, the judge has the right to interrupt you and tell you that you're done! Private attorneys, especially DUI attorneys, are immense divas, behaving like they are far too good to be in a criminal court (yet they're there, taking the money to be there). The court staff hate them. Why? Because they're jerks! If you want respect in the court room, show some yourself, counsel.
"A 120-pound woman can reach the .08 blood-alcohol limit with two or three glasses of wine with dinner—which may cause zero or negligible impairment behind the wheel. "

What? I'm a 140lb woman and 2-3 glasses of wine will make me quite impaired behind the wheel.
Regardless of whether this article is true or not, you ruined your own credibility by placing your opinion in it. Seriously, I dont know how this stuff gets past editors. Or maybe Stranger editors like opinion inserted into what is supposed to be journalism.

You wrote-"A 120-pound woman can reach the .08 blood-alcohol limit with two or three glasses of wine with dinner—which may cause zero or negligible impairment behind the wheel."

If you had attributed it to a source, fine, but this is your opinion which I totally disagree with and wonder how you came to this conclusion. I am a 150 pound woman (and thin at 5' 9") and would be impaired by 2-3 glasses of wine. Everyones body metabolizes alcohol differently.
Regardless, it is sad this appears as a fact. Meryl Schenker
And oddly enough, I didnt see the comment above mine, before I posted!
@more pie and more experienced than some

It is sooooooo obvious just who you two are. Thank you Oh Susanna these two are sleeze and insiders, CLEARLY! From More experienced, people, the statement made about Judge Hurtado is almost verbatim out of the mouth of Karen Donahue at the King County Bar Assn. forum dated Oct. 5, 2010. This when she put her foot in her mouth showing that she sure doesn't know what she is talking about. Obviously her few times on the bench compared to Judge Hurtado's 17 years day after day can't even come close to his experience. If anyone can vouch for his fairness and application of the law is ALL KING COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATIONS have put their ENDORSEMENTS on Judge Hurtado!!! NOT his opponent. You should be aware that only 52 attorneys from the KCBA voted for their ratings on the King County Judges. Hello CJES you sure pulled the wool over our eyes!!! 52 attorneys!!!??? How many attorneys belong to the KCBA? MORE THAN 52!!! I would predict! There is No!!! doubt in my mind that he has been targeted by the CJES and other DUI attorneys. This Judge..JUDGE HURTADO,by reading all about him on his Retain Judge Hurtado site and other material tells me he is a fair and compassionate Judge. As for Karen Donahue she would be a good PTA Board member...Lets Lauralhurst??? Good one CJES your hunt was good.
just surfed onto this article and looking at the last comment, by "1glassball" made me laugh. so, is one-glass saying that someone from Laurelhurst would not be a good judge? apparently...since s/he doesn't give any other reason for summarily dissing Donohue's qualifications to be judge. uh, "one-glass", how do you know where Judge Hurtado lives? How do you know that he doesn't live in Laurelhurst?
Voters should educate themselves on the qualifications of judges before making a decision about who to vote for. A great, non-partisan, website for information on the judicial candidates is: put aside the non-issue about who the DUI attorneys are targeting and get facts.

and, "one-glass" you seem like a person who is in serious need of some facts. Judges Hurtado and Charles did not perform poorly only in the KCBA judicial survey; their ratings by the various legal groups who assess the qualifications of judicial candidates--including judges seeking re-election--have pretty much echoed the results of the judicial survey. Judges Charles and Hurtado cannot claim with straight faces that the DUI attorneys also control all those groups? hmmmm, maybe a new Oliver Stone movie in the making! unlikely.

Educate yourself people. go to and read the unbiased facts about the judicial candidates' qualifications.
74% of the Seattle voting public (yes, lawprofessor @24, 3/4's of the voters) summarily unseated Hurtado, and with sound reasoning. I agree with Patricia Fulton: it WOULD have been nice if Hurtado actually had READ the briefs submitted to him BEFORE the motions hearing or trial, instead of AFTER (if he read them at all). 74% isn't even close to close. It's a MANDATE! Far too many defendants were railroaded into convictions because Hurtado had a private agenda; persecute ANYONE who a cop even HINTS that he smelled alcohol on his or her breath (even when utterly unsubstantiated). To say that Hurtado was "confused" about the law is ENORMOUSLY generous!

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