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State board admonishes Adams County judge

OLYMPIA – The state Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished an Adams County judge for his behavior in a year-old Whitman County hearing.

In a six-page admonishment June 24, the commission found that Adams County Superior Court Judge Steve Dixon violated Canons 1 and 2; Rules 1.1, 2.2, 2.3(A) and (B), 2.8 (A) and (B); and the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The admonishment amounts to a letter being placed in his judicial file, without any further discipline. It follows a June 8, 2021, hearing where Dixon presided as a visiting judge via telephone in a Whitman County case.

Records show that after the ruling, believing he was no longer on the phone with the parties on the record, Dixon used profane language.

However, the phone line was active and the attorneys were still on the line, records show. The audio recording was still active as well.

The losing attorney believed the comment was targeting him, records show.

Judge Dixon realized what had occurred immediately thereafter, called both attorneys and then self-reported the incident to the commission, records show. He also recused himself from the case.

On June 25, 2021, Judge Dixon filed a formal complaint against himself for his behavior.

During the commission’s investigation of the complaint, Judge Dixon said the outburst was not aimed at an attorney, but an expression of relief the hearing was complete.

The judge also agreed that he violated the canons, rules and Code of Judicial Conduct.

Rule 2.8(A) requires a judge to maintain “order and decorum in proceedings. Rule 2.8(B) says, ““A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.”

The commission found the outburst was an “isolated incident.”

“Respondent’s action was reckless, but there is no basis to believe he flagrantly or intentionally violated his oath of office,” the admonishment said, noting that it created the “impression the judge was disrespectful and disdainful of counsel.”

Judge Dixon has a flawless record, without any history of judicial discipline in his seven years on the bench, the admonishment said, further noting that his self-reporting and immediate apology and recusal were “commendable.”

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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