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Judge criticized over work-hours Web posts on fantasy game message boards says he will scale back

Posted Dec 4, 2013 6:24 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Some know him as Judge Clark Allen Peterson, but to others he's Orcus, Lord of the Undead.

A magistrate in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Peterson reportedly posted numerous comments on Paizo.com, an online hobby retail site that includes message boards, where gamers like Peterson discuss a variety of things. According to the Spokesman-Review, the jurist posted his own name in the comments, along with his avatar "Orcus," described as a large demon with horns, wings and a beard.

After the Spokesman-Review contacted Peterson, the article reports, he got rid of Orcus as an avatar, and announced that he will stop posting during business hours.

“Without a doubt, my judicial duties are my priority. I’m a single dad; that is my priority,” said Peterson, who won a retention election in 2012. “These other activities are additional that I wouldn't undertake if I didn't have the time to do them. I mean, you can’t be a single dad and a judge and have things interfering. It just wouldn't work.”

Peterson is also a co-founder of Necromancer Games and Legendary Games, the article states. He’s listed as a co-designer on 17 game products sold on Legendary’s website. Peterson told the newspaper that he does not have a business interest in Legendary or give the company legal advice. He also stated that he gets a very small amount of income from Necromancer.

The Spokesman-Review mentions concerns from two people who appeared in front of Peterson, and both say they plan to file complaints about him with the Idaho Judicial Council.

“We don’t know if he’s demon lord in the courtroom or if he’s Judge Peterson in the courtroom,” Michael Tyner, whose mother’s probate case was in front of Peterson, told the paper. Tyner contested his mother’s will, lost, and filed a motion for new trial, arguing that Peterson took too long to rule. The ruling is now on appeal.

According to the Spokesman-Review, Tyner’s lawyer, John Whelan, noted that Peterson had filed for bankruptcy, divorce and had a child custody issue while considering Tyner’s case. However, in his ruling denying Tyner’s motion for new trial, Peterson wrote that the delay was in large part due to the actions of Tyner’s lawyer.

Another litigant, who had a family law matter heard by Peterson, said that the judge showed up an hour late for a 9 a.m. hearing. According to the article, Peterson had made a Pazio message board post that day at 8:55 a.m.

“I regret if anyone viewed my postings regarding one of my hobbies as not being up to the standards of the Idaho Judiciary,” Peterson wrote in an email to the Spokesman-Review. “I continue to believe that my hobby activity does not violate any of the canons of judicial conduct, but the perception of the public and the litigants who appear before me is of paramount importance to me.”

Judicial branch employees can use state-owned computers for personal use on their personal time, the article states, providing that the usage does not include political or commercial purposes. It also mentions the Idaho Code of Judicial Conduct, which states that judges should “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in activities.”

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