Locke, Gregoire rally behind Justice Bridge

Associated Press
King 5 News


OLYMPIA, WA- Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge drew strong support Tuesday from Gov. Gary Locke, who first appointed her to the bench, and from the state's top cop, Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

The chief justice, Gerry Alexander, said Bridge's colleagues are rallying around her. Bridge took part in Supreme Court business by phone Tuesday and is a valued and even beloved member, he said.

Although Bridge hasn't raised the possibility of resigning after her arrest for drunken driving, Gregoire said Bridge was quite upset when they talked and that she hopes the justice will stay in office.

Alexander said he's certain Bridge will stay on as she faces the sting of the law -- and public opinion. "She's a determined person and she will withstand the rigors of what she has to go through. I think she will serve on the court for a long time."

Bridge, a jurist on the King County Superior Court and Supreme Court since 1990 and a member of a prominent Seattle family, was arrested Friday night while heading home after attending a party.

Witnesses said she sideswiped a parked pickup truck and continued weaving her way down the city street. After she was boxed in and police were summoned, she tested nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level and was arrested.

A 90-day driver's license suspension is automatic and takes effect 60 days after the state receives the officer's statement about the incident. A two-day jail sentence is usually required, and the penalty can be as stiff as a two-year jail term and $5,000 fine.

Deferred prosecution is available. Bridge has no prior convictions.

The Legislature can impeach and remove judges by a 75 percent vote in both chambers, but even Bridge's critics say that's not going to happen. Senate Judiciary Chairman Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane, has urged Bridge to resign, but says he won't hold hearings.

The Judicial Conduct Commission may take up the matter, and could recommend anything from a scolding to removal. The high court itself would make the final call.

Bridge joined the high court in January 2000. She won a special election that fall and was re-elected to a full six-year term in November.

Locke and Gregoire, both describing themselves as friends and admirers of the judge's, told reporters they're standing by her.

"I'm very, very disappointed and really stunned by the news," Locke said. "I've known Justice Bobbe Bridge for many, many years and have seen her on many social occasions. I have never noticed her having any problem with alcohol.

"I am pleased she has completely owned up, taken full responsibility for what happened.

"I think she can continue to be a great justice. ... I have full confidence in Justice Bobbe Bridge. But she's going to have to pay the consequences."

The governor said a number of prominent public figures have weathered drunken driving charges. He said the situation is a good reminder for all who drink and drive.

"You need to know your limits and not cross over it," he said.

Gregoire, a political ally and a friend of the judge's, said she was shocked by the "terribly unfortunate incident," but stands by her.

"She made, no question, a terrible mistake," but showed in her statement that "she accepts responsibility. She accepts that she will be held accountable and she expects the justice system to treat her like it would anybody else."

Gregoire said when she talked with Bridge Monday night, she sounded "devastated. She is paying dearly, personally, by her own disappointment in herself."

Gregoire told reporters she felt compelled to counsel Bridge not to step down.

"I encouraged her with all my might to remain a Supreme Court justice. It would be another part of the tragedy for her to step down. She is one of the finest justices, currently and in the state's history.

"I would never want to see her step down. We need her leadership. We need her insight. ... I remain committed to her."

Alexander and Justice Mary Fairhurst said the justices believe Bridge has handled a bad situation very well. Her statement of contrition was genuine, "not a spin or PR effort," the chief justice said in an interview.

Fairhurst said the judges are supporting her through her ordeal, while being careful not to condone drunken driving.

Alexander said Bridge shows every sign of sticking to her duties.

"We want to help her through this difficult time in any way we can," he said.

"She's a colleague, but she's also our friend."


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