Judge draws scrutiny from state conduct commission

LYNNWOOD — A longtime Snohomish County district court judge has been admonished by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for the way he spoke to two court administrators whom he believed had leaked information about a human resources complaint against him.

Judge Jeffrey Goodwin acknowledged that he violated judicial conduct codes “by speaking in a way that was impatient, and discourteous during his private meeting with two administrators on January 21, 2014.”

The commission sanctioned Goodwin, 52, with a written admonishment, its least-severe disciplinary action. Goodwin agreed to read the Code of Judicial Conduct and not repeat similar conduct. He also agreed not to retaliate, or appear to retaliate, against anyone who cooperated with the commission’s investigation.

The stipulated agreement and sanctions became public Friday on the commission’s website after its regularly scheduled meeting.

Goodwin was re-elected last month to the South District Court bench, a position he has held since 2004.

People who supported his opponent told The Herald in September that Goodwin was under investigation.

The judicial conduct commission, in keeping with the state Constitution, declined to confirm the information.

Investigations are kept confidential in part to protect judges’ reputations from unsubstantiated complaints, the commission’s executive director Reiko Callner said.

More than 95 percent of the complaints are dismissed without action. Nothing is published unless action is taken by the commission, Callner said.

Goodwin, at the time, said he also was unable to discuss any investigation.

The judge again on Tuesday declined to discuss the proceedings.

Records indicate that late last year a personnel matter involving Goodwin was referred to the county’s Human Resources Department. The department concluded its investigation in early 2014 and found no violation of county policy.

Some people learned of the human resources investigation and Goodwin came “to believe two district court administrators had breached the required confidentiality,” the commission concluded.

He called them into a private meeting to discuss “what he perceived to be their failure to take appropriate care to ensure confidentiality.”

Goodwin “was angry and he expressed his frustration in an impatient and discourteous manner,” the commission concluded.

The commission investigation found that the judge old the employees he could not support them or their projects. He later told the commission that what he meant was to inform them that he intended to recuse himself from voting on their suggestions in the future.

The administrators “felt concerned about their ongoing ability to continue to effectively work at the courthouse, even though they had performed their duties” and followed county human resource policy.

Goodwin acknowledged that his message could have been construed “to be threatening, intimidating and retaliatory in nature.”

He also admitted that he may have been mistaken about them leaking information. He acknowledged that both employees are competent and professional.

The commission found that this was an isolated incident. Goodwin hasn’t had any prior disciplinary action taken against him. They also concluded that Goodwin hadn’t retaliated against the employees.

The commission concluded that an admonishment was sufficient to deter similar acts and restore and maintain the public’s confidence in the integrity of the courts.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley

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