Damon Shadid, candidate for Seattle Municipal Court.
  • Courtesy Damon Shadid
  • Damon Shadid, candidate for Seattle Municipal Court.

As the Seattle Times reported over the weekend, questions are swirling (again) about a political action committee created by DUI-defense lawyers who like to flex in low-level judicial races where the outcomes can affect their business.

This year the group, called Citizens for Judicial Excellence, is backing its cofounder's wife against experienced King County District Court Judge Ketu Shah—a move so controversial it's caused some of the group's own members to quit.

The suspicion has long been that CJE wants to stack the municipal and district court benches with lawyers who will be soft of DUI offenders (aka, their clients). What complicates this idea is that the group's targets sometimes have other issues that could legitimately cause a defense lawyer concern.

Take this year's race for Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 7, which pits longtime incumbent Judge Fred Bonner against challenger Damon Shadid.

Judge Bonner has had some bad press lately. He was the subject of a KIRO 7 stakeout that showed him driving to work alone in a sportscar—"in what appears to be a clear violation" of a city-subsidized carpool parking deal that has saved the judge $12,000 over the past 10 years. And the Seattle Times recently noted that Judge Bonner has been skipping Municipal Court judge meetings because he really doesn't want to be around his colleagues.

The CJE is backing Shadid in this race, and it was trying to help him financially, too—until Shadid returned the group's $1,900 check earlier this year.

"Although I was endorsed by CJE (among many other organizations), I do not necessarily agree with all their picks in other races," Shadid told The Stranger. "Thus, my contribution to and endorsement of Judge Ketu Shah back in April. I have never been a member of CJE and certainly don't walk in lockstep with all my colleagues on every election issue."

(Shadid said he has received a total of $1,000 in donations from five people who are members of CJE. But he noted that $1,000 comes in the context of "a total of $58,054 raised.")

This post has been updated since its original publication.