Judge in Wash. Election Case Called Fair


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Desertdog
May 22, 2005, 06:57 PM
Judge in Wash. Election Case Called Fair
http://wireservice.wired.com/wired/story.asp?section=Breaking&storyId=1037794



Sunday, May 22, 2005 4:01 p.m. ET
By REBECCA COOK Associated Press Writer
WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) -- Prosecutors, attorneys and state officials agree that the judge who will decide whether to nullify the 2004 Washington governor's election is hardworking and fair.

But even in the small town where he grew up, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges remains a bit of mystery: He's not a joiner. He doesn't belong to the Rotary. He doesn't cut a high profile in Wenatchee's social circles. No one knows his political leanings.

And no one knows _ or no one's telling _ the story behind the small diamond earring in the gray-haired judge's left ear, twinkling above his black robe and conservative suits.

On Monday, Bridges will begin presiding over a trial to decide Washington's contested governor's election, which focuses on problems involving human error in vote counting that are similar to allegations raised in the presidential vote in Ohio last year and in Florida in 2000.

Republican Dino Rossi has challenged Gov. Christine Gregoire's 129-vote victory, alleging problems including illegal votes cast by felons and dead people.

"As I was lying in bed last night, I had one of the fears that I think attorneys have had often, I'm sure _ did I miss something?" Bridges, 58, confessed during the most recent court hearing on a flurry of pretrial motions.

Not likely, say those who know his courtroom.

"He is a very thoughtful, very thorough judge," said Clyde Ballard, a prominent East Wenatchee Republican and former state House speaker. "He really makes decisions that are generally thought to be good, legal decisions ... He's right down the line."

When Republicans chose Chelan County for their election challenge, many in the state suspected them of judge-shopping. Chelan County voted 64 percent for Rossi, and hasn't elected a Democrat to local government in years.

But Bridges' politics are impossible to tell from his rulings. So far, he's steered a middle course between Republicans' and Democrats' pretrial demands: allowing Republicans to present evidence of election errors but setting a high standard of proof; refusing to speed up the trial for the GOP but also denying Democrats' requests for a six-month delay.

"I was never able to discern his personal politics," said Sanford Brown, who filed an election challenge against Wenatchee Mayor Gary Schoessler in 1999. Bridges agreed that Schoessler hadn't met the legal residency requirements, and overturned the election. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld his ruling.

"Bridges has proven he's a fair judge," Brown said. "We're in good hands with him."

Bridges was appointed to the bench in 1988 by Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner, who said he remains impressed with Bridges' handling of the challenge to Gregoire's election.

"He's been very broad in his willingness to let information in," Gardner said. "The Supreme Court will say everybody got a fair chance."

While Bridges' style on the bench is understated, he's not afraid to take risks. During the March 22 sentencing of Denise Orr, convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of her 4-year-old son, Bridges stepped down from the bench to talk to the families of Orr and her ex-husband. He urged them to put aside their bitter feuds for the sake of the couple's surviving daughter.

"I'm trying to open your eyes somewhat," Bridges said.

It was an extremely unusual move for a judge, and it took the families by surprise.

"He spoke in very plain language," said Lou Orr, Denise's mother. "I think he genuinely hurt for everybody."

Still, what about that earring? Bridges got it a few years ago _ an unusual fashion statement for a man of his age in a conservative town.

"I'm not into earrings for guys, but it kind of gives him a little extra flair," Ballard said.

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Preacherman
May 22, 2005, 09:00 PM
I've been following this case closely, since it has the potential to blow open a whole case of cans of worms - illegal immigrant voting, felon voting, multiple voting, fraudulent and/or criminal conduct by election officials, etc. So far, by all reports, the Judge has been excruciatingly fair, to the anger of both sides at times, and their occasional pleasure also. If he can get both sides alternately mad and glad, that's a pretty good sign of his impartiality, IMHO.

Watch this case real carefully, folks - if it gets to the decision I expect, it's certainly headed to the State Supreme Court, and possibly to Federal court as well. It has the potential to reshape electoral policies and procedures in many states. A good blog to monitor for reports is www.soundpolitics.com - the author has been following this case since the beginning, and has made many informative posts about it.

MarkDido
May 23, 2005, 11:51 AM
Judge Bridges will be considered a fair and equitable judge.

Unless of course he rules in Dino Rossi's favor, at which point the Democrats will call him a partisan polital hack. They'll probably call into question his diamond stud earing as well, much as they made fun of Catherine Harris's makeup.

You can take that to the bank. :evil:

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