Clark County judge censured for 'shocking' behavior

Clark County judge censured for 'shocking' behavior
John P. Wulle
SEATAC, Wash. (AP) - A Clark County Superior Court judge has been censured for "demeaning, offensive and shocking" behavior at a training conference in Los Angeles last year.

Judge John P. Wulle, 57, used profanity, made an obscene gesture after being asked to lower his voice and referred to a group facilitator as "the black gay guy," according to a nine-page document posted on the Web site of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which issued the censure Friday at a meeting in this suburb south of Seattle.

At one point, according to the panel's findings, the facilitator said, "Clark County gets a star" for finishing an assignment and Wulle replied, "I don't need a star. I'm not a Jew."

He was ordered to take 10 hours of judicial ethics courses and seven hours of racial, religious, sexual orientation and diversity training.

Wulle, a former assistant attorney general who has been a judge since 1997, also was directed to obtain a drug and alcohol evaluation. If a counselor recommends treatment, the counselor must report to the commission on Wulle's progress every six months.

"Because of the special position judges hold in society - as standard bearers of fairness and impartiality - a judge's conduct of personal behavior must, at all times, be above reproach," the commission wrote.

"(Wulle's) actions not only reflected poorly on himself but also on his fellow team members, his court, Clark County and the state of Washington," the panel added. "(Wulle's) inappropriate behavior significantly undermined the team's respect for him."

"Witnesses at the conference variously described his actions as embarrassing, demeaning, offensive and shocking. Several team members discussed (Wulle's) problematic behavior with their colleagues and supervisors - further eroding public regard for him and the judiciary."

A censure is the most severe disciplinary action the panel can take without asking the state Supreme Court to suspend or remove a judge.

The censure arose from Wulle's participation with seven other people from Clark County, including a deputy prosecutor, juvenile probation officer and defense lawyer, in "Planning your Juvenile Drug Court" on July 24-28, 2006, in Los Angeles.

Several witnesses said Wulle smelled of alcohol, but he has denied drinking at the conference. According to the censure order, "he recalls suffering from a cold and taking cough syrup and suggests the odor from the cough syrup may have been misconstrued as an odor of alcohol."

Clark County started a juvenile drug court this year, but presiding Superior Court Judge Robert L. Harris reassigned the project to Judge James E. Rulli after learning of Wulle's behavior at the conference.

Wulle told The Columbian newspaper he considered the matter a learning experience.

"It was never my intent to offend anyone, and I apologize to anyone who was offended," he said.

Wulle's conduct "appears to have been an aberration," his reputation is "generally that of a thoughtful jurist" and witnesses do not believe he is racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic, according to the commission's findings.

However, according to the commission, he showed a lack of personal insight and initially refused to apologize and was "dismissive" when asked about his behavior by witnesses and other judges who had heard of the matter.