Most coverage of the case of The News Tribune v. Cayce focused on the conduct of 2 Superior Court Judges–Judge James Cayce and Judge Michael Hecht. Judge Cayce closed a courtroom during the taking of a deposition in a criminal case in which the defendant was Judge Michael Hecht. Judge Cayce’s decision to close the courtroom prompted The News Tribune to seek a writ–which the State Supreme Court denied in a written decision last month.
The conduct of two other judges in this case are also worth reporting. Pro Tem Justice Richard Sanders joined in the dissent in this case 6 months after he left office. It had been reported that Justice Sanders would rule on cases he heard (including The News Tribune v. Cayce) and serve as a Pro Tem Justice for 2 months. Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe, among others, objected to Justice Sanders remaining on the bench as a Pro Tem Justice for an additional 2 months although it has been an accepted practice for outgoing Justices to finish the cases they had heard oral arguments on. The question remains, however, how a 2 month appointment resulted in a decision that was announced 4 months after the appointment was to expire.
Justice Charles Johnson was a newspaper delivery carrier for The News Tribune while growing up. I am aware of this fact, as are countless others, because The News Tribune carried large ads with a current photograph of Justice Johnson acknowledging his relationship with The News Tribune while celebrating that publication’s anniversary. As stated in an earlier posting, the rules on recusal are ambiguous at best but appearing prominently in several newspaper ads that directly promote the interests of a litigant does not promote the appearance of impartiality. Justice Johnson, however, did vote with the majority and against The News Tribune.
As we can all see, this subject is a little bit tricky. Even judges can sometimes act in a way that isn’t according by law and it is not moral. First of all, you can clearly see that even judges can pick a side or at least cheer for a side. In order to have a legal system that is based on law and moral grounds, we need to make sure that these cases and cases like this one in the future, must be reported at all cost. Cases like this usually show that people are sometimes right when they don’t have beliefs in the legal system.