In a formal complaint filed with state election officials, local attorney James Tupper claims that a group of DUI lawyers broke the law this year by coordinating with a candidate running for Seattle Municipal Court.

The group, Citizens for Judicial Excellence (CJE), is running an independent expenditure campaign this election season and is therefore prohibited by law from coordinating its efforts with any individual candidates. Tupper's complaint, filed September 26 with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, alleges that CJE recruited Ed McKenna to run against incumbent municipal court judge Edsonya Charles, promised McKenna financial support, and provided McKenna campaign assistance without reporting the expenditures.

"If any of that is true, CJE and Ed Mc­Kenna have crossed a bright line of what is supposed to be a separation of his campaign and CJE," says Tupper, who supports Judge Charles. Tupper says he filed the allegations because he wants an investigation.

As evidence, Tupper cites a recent editorial board meeting at The Stranger in which McKenna said he'd met with a consultant for CJE before filing to run. Tupper also alleges that McKenna told municipal court judge Fred Bonner "that CJE promised substantial financial support" if McKenna ran against Charles.

Reached by phone, Judge Bonner said: "McKenna indicated that he would receive financial support from a defense group if he decided to run against Judge Charles... He did not say CJE. I took that to mean that he was referencing the DUI organization."

The group had $198,000 in cash on hand as of September 25. Given that the group's money comes almost exclusively from DUI lawyers, speculation has been that it is targeting judges who are tough on DUI cases ("Bar and Driver," Dominic Holden, Sept 23). The group's spokeswoman, Patricia Fulton, has firmly denied that allegation in the past. She could not be reached for comment on this complaint. recommended