Pro-tem judge leaves case when 
questioned about possible conflict of interest -
initiative backers get minor victory

by Anne Wagner
Citizen Review Online

Clallam County, WA - Aug. 24, 2001- The court battle began today, and lasted about 2 minutes.  In the courtroom were approximately 30 citizens there to support Bob Forde, who was defending himself (pro se) against Clallam County and possibly two environmental organizations, who were there to ask the court to allow them in on the case against Forde.  Approximately 8 individuals were there supporting the environmental groups. (See story BIAW wants to join initiative battle over Critical Areas Code repeal)

Forde had earlier made a motion to move the time of this hearing until Judge George Woods was back in town to hear it; however, the environmental groups would not agree. They demanded the hearing take place today, to potentially have the judge allow them to participate against Forde.

The pro-tem judge was Gary L. Sund, a former partner of Chris O. Shea, who currently serves as the Clallam County prosecutor. Representing the two environmental organizations, Protect the Peninsula's Future (PPF), run by Eloise Kailin, and 1000 Friends of Washington, was Gerald Steele, attorney from Seattle.  He introduced himself to the judge, followed by Assistant Prosecuting attorney Chris Melly, representing Clallam County.

 The next introduction was made by Tim Ford, representing BIAW ( Building Industry Association of Washington).  The judge motioned at him and said, "You're out." BIAW had filed to intervene in the case, but was not within the time limit, and was at the mercy of the court as to whether they would be allowed into the case. Apparently the court wasn't in a very merciful mood.

 Bob Forde, citizen, representing himself (pro se) was the last to introduce himself to the court.

The judge began to read the motion from Forde, he was interrupted by Forde, who asked if he could say something.  Sure, "since it's your motion," the judge said.

Forde began by objecting to a pro-tem judge hearing the case instead of the elected judge (George Woods), and then raised the further objection that he believed there to be a conflict of interest with Sund hearing the case, since he was a partner of the prosecuting attorney.  He concluded by saying he had asked for a court reporter so there would be an adequate written record of the proceedings for review, and the court had refused.

Judge Sund, to his credit, immediately recused himself from the case. Forde, by default, got his stay on the hearing involving PPF and 1000 Friends; they will not be heard until the regular hearing on Sept. 7.

As the courtroom emptied, the buzz was "what happened?"  No one really seemed to know, it was over so quickly.  Attorney Melly congratulated Forde on his win - "it's always nice to get a win," he commented.  Forde replied to Melly, "Is that what happened?"  Melly said, "yes, he [the judge] granted your motion."

The opposition, too, was stunned, for in the hallway outside the courtroom, five were gathered around their pony-tailed attorney Steele as he explained what had just happened to them.  Across the hallway, supporters of the initiative were noisy and gleefully clapping Forde on the back, and congratulating him "on his victory."  Good job, Bob, was heard repeatedly through the hallway, as Forde's supporters filed past him.

One individuals stated it's "a minor success, but nonetheless, a success, in the march to balance the scales so heavily weighted toward environmentalism".

Thom Satterlee, volunteer communications director, said in a phone interview that he was pleased with the results of the hearing, but cautioned against becoming too over-confident, as there's a long road ahead.

Bob Forde can be reached at (360) 681-6955 (days) or (360) 681-3023 (eves).


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