Snohomish County Courthouse. (The Herald file)

Snohomish County Courthouse. (The Herald file)

Everett substitute judge faces discipline for forged ‘joke’ document

David Ruzumna, a judge pro tem, said it was part of a running gag with a parking attendant. The Commission on Judicial Conduct wasn’t laughing.

EVERETT — District Court Judge Pro Tem David Ruzumna had a running “joke” with the attendant at the parking garage near the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle, he said.

Ruzumna, who was serving as a substitute judge a couple times a week in King and Snohomish counties, would show proof to the parking attendant that he was a county employee and not “just some guy trying to save 10 bucks,” he said Wednesday in an interview with The Daily Herald. In one instance, the judge showed him his pay stub. Another time, he showed his judicial robes.

On April 26, an independent commission charged the judge with violating a judicial code of conduct for forging a document, using official seals from other King County judges and one unauthorized signature to get discount parking — at the $20 rate for county employees, instead of $30. Ruzumna said it was all part of an ill-advised “attempt at humor” over a year ago.

Still, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct found probable cause that Ruzumna abused his power as a judge for financial gain and did not avoid the appearance of impropriety, according to disciplinary documents.

“It really bothers me that they would cast this as an act of dishonesty or deceit,” Ruzumna said. “I would say it was more of an act of stupidity.”

Ruzumna graduated from the Seattle University School of Law in 1997. As an attorney, he specialized in real estate, business and criminal defense, according to his website. He has served as a judge pro tem for about a decade in Bothell Municipal Court, overseeing gross misdemeanors and traffic infractions.

In 2013, he was sworn in as a pro tem in district courts in King and Snohomish counties, and he still sets bail in felony cases when called upon from time to time. Last month in Everett District Court, for example, Ruzumna set bail at $2 million for a Kenmore man accused of fleeing from police killing an elderly Lynnwood woman in a crash.

In his downtime, Ruzumna practices calligraphy, according to his website. His law firm is based in Ballard.

Parking costs $30 for the day at the Goat Hill garage at 415 Sixth Ave, but county employees get a discounted rate of $20, according to court documents. Pro tem judges, however, were apparently not entitled to the discount. The judge would often see the same parking attendant.

“I knew his face, he knew mine,” Ruzumna said. “We both had smiles on our face.”

The attendant would always charge the full $30.

On Feb. 16, 2023, Ruzumna printed out a piece of paper with his name and judicial position to show the attendant, he said. The document had been stamped with multiple King County District Court seals, with some purportedly signed by a different judge, according to statement of charges.

“Look what I made for you, how else would I have access to all these stamps?” Ruzumna reportedly told the attendant.

The attendant once again charged him the full rate, Ruzumna said in a formal response to the commission. The parking attendant passed the paperwork to his manager, who reported the incident to the court.

“Stripped of any context, this document standing alone could give the appearance of impropriety, and I’m happy to acknowledge that,” Ruzumna said. “I’m not really contesting that part of it. I’m just making it clear this wasn’t actual impropriety.”

The commission alleges Ruzumna did not have permission to use the judicial seals or the other judge’s signature stamp. When human resources contacted him, he said, he sent an email to a King County District Court judge, explaining the situation and apologizing, he wrote in court documents.

Ruzumna has since resigned from his employment in King County, but still remains an active judge pro tem in Snohomish County district courts.

A judge pro tempore, often shortened to pro tem, is often a seasoned attorney taking on the extra duties in pending cases. A judge pro tem is hired and managed by the local court system.

If Ruzumna is found to have violated the judicial code, he could face one of three levels of sanctions, the Commission on Judicial Conduct’s Executive Director Reiko Callner said Thursday.

The most severe sanction would recommend the state Supreme Court suspend or remove Ruzumna from his position as a judge.

A hearing date has not been set for Ruzumna’s case.

“I wish that I hadn’t done it,” Ruzumna said, “and I recognize without any of the surrounding context, I could see how it could be taken the wrong way.”

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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