DUI attorneys accused of breaking rules in judicial campaign

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by LINDA BRILL / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on October 5, 2010 at 6:05 PM

SEATTLE – There are complaints that a group of DUI attorneys is breaking elections rules in a judicial campaign.

Seattle Municipal Court Judge Edsonya Charles says those attorneys support her opponent for Seattle Municipal Court because Charles is tough on drunk drivers.

Judicial candidate Ed McKenna has the support of a political action committee called Citizens for Judicial Excellence. The PAC is funded almost entirely by drunk driving defense attorneys who often appear in Judge Charles' courtroom.

But, the DUI attorneys say they support McKenna because he is the better candidate. The Washington Bar Association rates McKenna as "exceptionally well qualified" and Charles as "qualified."

Charles' supporters have filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission saying the DUI PAC has allegedly given McKenna assistance beyond the $1,600 limit for judicial races. 

"It's not appropriate for a judge to be looking across the courtroom and seeing a lawyer and thinking 'I better go light because my job may be at risk,'" said Attorney James Tupper.

McKenna says the money he received from the DUI lawyers will not influence how he rules on the bench.

"As a judge, I'm expected to be fair and impartial. And simply because I have the support of a particular lawyer group, I also have support from the King County Police Guild and the Seattle Police Guild," said McKenna.

The Public Disclosure Commission confirms they have received the complaint but they say they have not yet determined if it merits an investigation.

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