Judge is suspended after awarding judgment on counterclaim that was never filed

  • Print.

suspended words

Image from Shutterstock.

A judge in Cowlitz County, Washington, was censured and suspended without pay for 10 days after she awarded a judgment on a counterclaim that was never filed and had an off-the-record discussion with a traffic litigant.

The Washington Supreme Court censured and suspended Judge Debra L. Burchett in a July 19 order, report Law360 and the Chronicle.

The order accepted the recommendation of the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission said in a May 31 document that Burchett has agreed that she will not run for reelection, seek future judicial office or perform judicial duties in the future without getting permission of the commission.

Burchett awarded the judgment on the counterclaim following a June 2021 hearing, according to the commission’s May 31 stipulation, agreement, order of censure and recommendation of suspension.

Burchett was unable to explain why two judgments were awarded under her signature and why an award on a never-asserted counterclaim was provided.

Burchett had the off-the-record conversation in an August 2021 hearing involving a litigant contesting a traffic infraction, according to the stipulated facts. During the hearing, Burchett told the litigant that it was clear that he had committed the infraction. She then had the off-the-record discussion with the litigant. When she came back on the record, she dismissed the infraction without stating a reason or explaining the interruption.

Burchett took the bench in January 2019 after winning an election in 2018.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.