by Lois Krafsky-Perry

Port Angeles, WA - Sept. 5, 2001 -  Within one week, three judges have recused themselves from hearing a case involving the voting rights of the citizens of Clallam County.

The first hearing was attended by approximately 40 people August 25, when three groups asked to be interveners in a suit directed at a group of 3,781 citizens. The community members had signed a petition to get Initiative 6 on the November ballot. Bob Forde, from Sequim was singled out from the large group and listed as the only defendant in the case.

The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) requested to join in as an intervener for Forde and the petition signers, after Protect The Peninsula’s Future (PPF) and 1000 Friends of Washington demanded to be included as interveners in the case against the local citizens.

Clallam County Commissioners, Steve Tharinger-D and Mike Doherty-D, with the exception of Mike Chapman-R, had voted for a Declaratory Judgment” against Initiative 6, which is supported by the county constitution, The Home Rule Charter. Chris Melly, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, as attorney for the plaintiff, Clallam County, led the action.

A conflict of interest caused local pro-tem judge, Gary Sund, to be the first judge to recuse himself from the event, when it was pointed out by Forde, August 25, in the courtroom, that Sund was a former business partner with Prosecuting Attorney, Chris Shea. Sund immediately relieved himself of the case.

George Wood, Superior Court 1, of Port Angeles, who was slated to hear the case September, 7, recused himself Tuesday, September, 4, by a phone call from a county employee stating that Wood would not be presiding on Sept. 7 or 14th as scheduled. At that same time the caller said that Judge Ken Williams, Superior Court 2, also would not be hearing the case. Reasons were not given for their decision.

The local judge remaining to preside is Bill Knebes, who is a family court judge.

Many local citizens are asking this question. Do all three of the judges who declined, have a conflict of interest?

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