King County judge gets 5-day suspension

OLYMPIA - A King County judge who has been compared to TV's "Judge Judy" should be suspended without pay for five days for being rude to defendants in her courtroom, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The sharply divided court said that King County District Judge Judith Eiler violated rules requiring judges to be “patient, dignified, and courteous” to defendants, lawyers and others when she used the terms “idiot” and “stupid” when talking to litigants.

While five justices signed on for the five-day suspension, four others felt she should have faced a longer suspension.

Eiler, who was first elected to the bench in 1992, handles mostly small claims and traffic infractions out of a courtroom in Issaquah.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct said Eiler frequently cut off defendants when they tried to speak, belittled them and did not allow them to present evidence — the same conduct that drew a reprimand for Eiler from the commission in 2005.

Eiler completed sensitivity training following the earlier reprimand.

“One or two rude, impatient, or even slightly condescending comments might be understandable — after all, no jurist is perfect,” Justice Jim Johnson wrote for the lead opinion that called for the five-day suspension and affirmed the commission’s censure of her last year.

“But more than a dozen such instances is not understandable; rather, it evidences an unacceptable pattern of misbehavior.”