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Not too long ago, Douglas A. Schafer made headlines by receiving a six-month suspension for revealing client confidences to bring down a corrupt judge. Now he’s doing it again by seeking to move onto the bench himself. Schafer, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., has put himself into the running for a judgeship on the Pierce County Superior Court. While his suspension has not been an impediment, his candidacy is becoming just as controversial as his case. Schafer’s opponent, incumbent Judge Ronald E. Culpepper, filed a suit seeking to have Schafer’s name removed from the ballot on the ground that he couldn’t meet the eligibility requirement, spelled out in the state constitution, of being “admitted to practice in the courts of record of this state.” On Aug. 21, Judge Richard Eadie, a visiting judge called in from the King County Superior Court so that Culpepper would not sit in judgment of his own lawsuit, ruled that Schafer can enter the race. Eadie said that because Schafer’s suspension is due to expire on Oct. 17, he will meet the eligibility requirement by election day, Nov. 4. Proud of it Far from trying to hide his suspension, Schafer points to it as mark of his devotion to justice. On his campaign Web site, www.judgedoug.com, Schafer writes that “Doug fought [the disciplinary] complaint for seven years, insisting that maintaining judicial system integrity must be each lawyer’s highest priority.” The complaint was filed in 1996 by Schafer’s former client, William Hamilton, after Schafer disclosed to the authorities and to the press incriminating statements that Hamilton had made in 1992 about a business partner, Grant L. Anderson. Anderson went on to become judge of the Pierce County Superior Court in 1993 In 1999, the Washington Supreme Court removed Anderson from office and suspended his law license for two years because of financial improprieties. In its April order suspending Schafer, the court acknowledged Schafer’s role in disciplining Anderson: “Schafer’s unethical conduct resulted in the removal of a corrupt judge.” [NLJ, April 28, 2003.] However, the court held that Schafer could have achieved the same result without a blunderbuss approach to whistleblowing, by making disclosures only to the extent necessary. Other critics are less charitable to Schafer. In an April interview, Professor John Strait of Seattle University School of Law questioned Schafer’s motives, noting that a disciplinary hearing officer had concluded that Schafer had moved into action only after Anderson had ruled against one of his motions in a court case. Schafer acknowledges his delay in going public with his suspicions about Anderson, but said he wanted to be sure the statute of limitations would put his former client beyond criminal prosecution. A serious challenger Gig Harbor, Wash., solo practitioner Ronald E. Thompson, who represented Judge Culpepper in his lawsuit, said that Culpepper “does regard Schafer as a serious challenger.” Thompson added that “Schafer has a considerable following, but not among lawyers or anyone connected with the bench or bar. Just the opposite, in fact.” Schafer has twice before run for a seat on the Washington Supreme Court. Though he did not make it past the initial runoff in either attempt, he did rack up fairly large numbers. In 2000, when there were seven candidates in the runoff, he placed fifth with 100,989 votes to the leader’s 251,260, according to the Seattle Times. In 2002, he placed third out of a field of three, but got 175,452 votes to the leader’s 319,798. Schafer conceded that he has little experience as a trial attorney, but claimed to have something better: “Courage, integrity and independence,” Schafer said in an interview. “Those are character values that you don’t learn on the job. I’ve demonstrated those values consistently over the years.” Young’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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