Two more judges recuse themselves from Initiative 6 hearing

by Anne Wagner, Citizen Review Online

Clallam County, WA - Sept. 4, 2001 - Bob Forde received a telephone call at 4:45 p.m. yesterday afternoon from the Clallam County Courthouse:  Both elected judges are refusing to hear the case filed by Clallam County against him to determine whether Initiative 6 - Repeal of the Critical Areas Code - will be allowed to appear on the ballot in November.

Judge George Wood, slated to hear the case on September 7, and Judge Ken Williams, both elected Superior Court judges, have declined to state the reason they have recused themselves.  They filed papers with the court on Sept. 4.

Bob Forde said he doesn't understand why the judges would take such an action.  "If I were to meet either one of them in the hall, they wouldn't know me," he said. "I no of absolutely no reason why they wouldn't want to hear the case."  

Forde, the only citizen named as defendant in the case in which Clallam County is suing for a declaratory judgment, will be defending himself.  Two county commissioners, Steve Tharinger (D) and Mike Doherty (D) tossed the issue into the courts instead of sending it to a public hearing, as was called for by county law.  Only Commissioner Mike Chapman stood firm, asking the other two why they were afraid to "hear what the people have to say."  He was overruled.

The case was initially set for Aug. 24, but Judge Wood was out of town, and Forde requested that he hear the case, since he is an elected official, rather than the pro-tem judge that had been assigned.  It turned out, however, that the pro-tem judge didn't hear the case anyway, as Forde brought forth the fact that he was a former partner of the prosecuting attorney, and he was forced to recuse himself.

Forde was given the choice of having the case heard before the family court judge, William Knebes, or waiting for a visiting judge in October.  "To wait for a visiting judge would take us well past the time to get the issue printed on the ballot," he said.  He agreed to have it heard on Sept. 7 by Knebes. 

In another hearing last Friday, Aug. 30, Dr. John Bennett asked that a "writ of mandamus" be served on the county commissioners, which essentially tells them to "do their job" and place the initiative on the ballot.  Judge Knebes heard the request, refused to make a decision in favor of the initiative at that time, but set a hearing for Sept. 14 on the matter.  The county commissioners were served notice to appear in court at their Tuesday regular meeting, Sept. 4.

"All I've ever asked is that the initiative go on the ballot, for a vote of the people," Forde stated.  "Commissioner Tharinger stopped it from going there by turning it over to the court to decide whether the people have the right to the initiative process in this matter."  The Clallam County Home Rule Charter and the State Constitution both clearly state that the first right reserved to the people is the right of the initiative, Forde continued.  "There is no reason this shouldn't be voted upon."  

The case is set to be heard before Judge Knebes at 1:30 at the Clallam County courthouse.  It is yet to be determined which courtroom the matter will be heard in.

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

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