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Legal Ethics

Judge Convicted in Prostitution Case May Not Lose His Job

Posted Oct 29, 2009 3:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Convicted yesterday in a prostitution and harrassment case, a Washington state judge apparently will continue to collect his $148,000-a-year salary for the foreseeable future.

Although the state attorney general's office contends that Washington law provides for Pierce County Superior Court Judge Michael Hecht automatically to vacate his elected office upon conviction, the county's presiding judge argues otherwise, reports the News Tribune.

The state constitution, which presumably must trump conflicting state law, provides that judges can be forced from office only if impeached by the state legislature or removed by the state supreme court, after an investigation by the according to Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff.

“It is my understanding of the law that the entry of a conviction does not, of itself, remove a superior court judge from office,” he tells the newspaper.

An investigation of Hecht's conduct is already under way by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which could potentially lead to his removal, and a fact-finding hearing is scheduled Feb. 22 at the King County courthouse in Seattle. Unless and until the supreme court or legislature acts, however, Hecht, who has been on paid leave since March from his judicial job, will continue to receive his $148,000-a-year pay.

Patronizing a prostitute reportedly is a misdemeanor offense, but the harassment conviction is a felony, according to the News-Tribune.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Jury Convicts Judge in Prostitution Case"

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