CJE Response to Campagna Campaign Untruths

Why CJE Exists

Citizens for Judicial Excellence (CJE) was formed by a group of lawyers and citizens in 2006 with the mission of getting the best possible judges and lawyers elected and re-elected to the bench. In Washington, the public has an opportunity to elect its judges to ensure that the very best judges are making decisions in our courts. However, voters have very limited information about judges and often judges, even those that consistently receive poor ratings from bar associations and private lawyers, run unopposed election after election. CJE was formed to help voters make informed decisions and have an opportunity for meaningful choices instead of just a single judicial candidate. 

CJE has worked hard to support only the finest candidates who were rated Exceptionally Well Qualified by local bar associations after conducting a rigorous screening of each. Just like any new, well-intentioned organization or individual, CJE has made a few mistakes along the way, especially considering the many judicial campaigns in which CJE has participated. However, those few mistakes have taught us to be even more careful in with our screening process, recommendations to voters, and support of candidates. CJE has taken definitive steps to avoid in the future any of its past mistakes.

A number of the CJE-recommended candidates have not only been elected or appointed to the lower bench (District and Municipal Courts), but have also later been elevated to the Superior Court.

Several judges serving on the bench were, prior to becoming a judge, members of CJE.

CJE’s mission to inform the public of candidates’ qualifications and make voting recommendations based on impartial evaluations and feedback from the attorneys who actually appear before the District and Municipal Court judges on a regular basis, continues. Most citizens simply do not know for whom to vote in judicial elections and thus one of CJE’s core objectives is assist them when voting for judges. 


Campagna Campaign Falsehoods

CJE takes strong exception to the recently published comments by Joe Campagna’s campaign (through his campaign manager Mary Ann Ottinger) about our organization and process for making judicial recommendations. These comments were riddled with inaccuracies and half-truths. We have been transparent and scrupulous in our communications and websites.

It is unfortunate that candidate Campagna and his campaign manager seek to deceive the public and undermine legitimate recommendations about important judicial elections in Washington State. Their conduct is another reason why Joe Campagna is not the best person to sit as the next judge in Shoreline District Court and voters should choose the more experienced candidate Les Ponomarchuk.


CJE Is An Open Book

Contrary to their assertions, CJE has not attempted to disguise its involvement in judicial campaigns through its use of GoodJudges.org. In fact, CJE’s websites and all of its campaign materials clearly identify the connection between CJE and GoodJudges.org. No one who has thoroughly read our GoodJudges Voter Guide or campaign materials can honestly state otherwise. CJE’s use of GoodJudges.org was and is intended to make it easy for the public to access judicial campaign information while reserving CJE’s website primarily for information about the organization, its continuing legal education program, member services, upcoming events, etc. There is no deception or attempt to “disguise” anything by CJE as alleged by Mr. Campagna’s campaign.


Bar Association Rejects Judge’s Complaint

Some judges of the Seattle Municipal Court and King County District Court have issued strangely identical letters criticizing CJE with respect to the Shoreline District Court race. And stranger still, these letters were immediately posted only on the Campagna campaign website.

Seattle Municipal Court Judge Damon Shadid also recently filed a complaint with the King County Bar Association alleging that CJE violated the KCBA’s Fair Campaign Practices Guidelines. The King County Bar Association’s Fair Campaign Practices Committee fully investigated the complaint and advised Judge Shadid that nothing that he had complained of constituted an unfair campaign practice by CJE.

CJE was not afforded the opportunity to see or review the complaint filed by Judge Shadid.


Judges Trying To Pack The Court

The Shoreline District Court race is not part of the Seattle Municipal Court system and these municipal court judges should not be interfering in King County District Court races, just as District Court judges should not interfere in Municipal Court races.

Participating in judicial races, other than their own, is not the role of judges and they should remain impartial in politics. It is the right of the voters to elect the judges they might appear before and not the role of the judges to make that decision for them.

Ironically, CJE has supported several of the complaining judges in the past and, by their own admissions, CJE played a pivotal role in their elections or appointments to the bench. Furthermore, several of these judges and/or their campaign managers have attended CJE’s judicial candidate training seminars to assist in their elections or re-elections.

Citizen voters, not the judges, should determine who sits on the bench.


Not Telling The Whole Story

The complaining judges say that they all declined to “participate” in CJE’s endorsement process. This is an inaccurate statement as CJE does not invite existing judges in uncontested races to “participate” in its endorsement or support process as it is burdensome to the judges and CJE’s Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee. Only candidates (whether existing judges or candidates who are seeking to become judges) who are in contested races are asked to participate in this process.

For judges in uncontested races, CJE determines its support by reviewing the surveys/ratings of bar associations and CJE’s Rate the Judges online reporting system which is used by practicing attorneys who appear before judges. Again, this is made quite clear in CJE’s GoodJudges Voter Guide and GoodJudges.org website.


Citizens’ Freedom of Expression

CJE and its members are entitled to endorse and/or support whomever they choose. We do not need the permission of any candidate, seated judge or not, to support or endorse them just as a citizen does not need the permission of a candidate to support or vote for them. Similarly, The Seattle Times does not require the permission of candidates in order to endorse them, nor does the King County Bar Association need the judges’ permission to include them in their surveys of attorneys who appear before them or to publish the results.

It is called freedom of expression.

Every judge serves at the pleasure of the public and part of a judge’s role is to protect the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression for all of us, not interfere with it.


CJE Supporters Are Not Just Lawyers

Mr. Campagna’s campaign states that Citizen’s for Judicial Excellence has “morphed” into an organization primarily supported by DUI defense attorneys and companies involved in the DUI industry. In reality, in addition to its members and corporate donors, CJE has received financial donations from hundreds of citizens who are not attorneys but rather are school teachers, postal workers, Boeing factory workers, engineers, doctors and their staffs, small business owners, and real estate agents to name just a few. In other words, CJE receives abundant support from ordinary citizens who believe in CJE’s mission and procedures.

CJE’s corporate members assist defendants in meeting their court-ordered obligations, including alcohol evaluations/treatment, installing ignition interlock devices in their cars, wearing alcohol detecting devices, obtaining special insurance mandated by the Department of Licensing, and electronic home monitoring and/or posting bail to get out of jail while their charges are pending and they are still presumed innocent.

Mr. Campagna’s campaign has attacked CJE’s treasurer/board member because she owns a bail bond company, which is the best known, most reputable and highly respected such company in Seattle. The purpose of bail bond companies is to assure the appearance of a defendant at all court appearances, while at the same time allowing them to be productive members of society. Being able to post bail allows non-violent offenders the ability to keep their jobs, provide financial support to their families, and get alcohol/drug treatment while their cases are pending, rather than stay locked up in our overcrowded jails at the taxpayers’ expense.

These reputable companies often work in the DUI and criminal defense field — more significantly they are a critical asset to the court system because they help defendants comply with the courts’ orders and avoid getting into more trouble.

CJE and the courts are fortunate to have the support of these fine companies. 


No Show Joe

Mr. Campagna was invited to participate in the CJE endorsement/support process. It would have involved a lengthy questionnaire, two-hour interview with its election committee of lawyers and citizens, and reference checks. Joe might have received a favorable rating and support from CJE. However, through his campaign manager, Mary Ann Ottinger, he declined to participate in the process. Accordingly, CJE was not able to evaluate Mr. Campagna for the bench and per its campaign policies CJE had to indicate in its GoodJudges Voter Guide that he “declined to participate.” 


Campagna IS a DUI Attorney

Ironically, Mr.  Campagna’s website criticizes CJE for its support by some DUI defense attorneys, yet on his firm’s website (http://sgb-law.com/attorneys/joseph-campagna/) he is described as achieving favorable results in DUI cases, boasting that he “Achieved favorable reductions in charges in difficult drug and DUI cases through creative and aggressive motions that led to the suppression of key prosecution evidence.”

In other words, Mr. Campagna is a DUI defense attorney. Therefore, since Mr. Campagna is a DUI lawyer, (and according to his campaign CJE is made up of a bunch of DUI attorneys) theoretically we should be supporting Mr. Campagna against a non-DUI attorney, Les Ponamarchuk.

However, we are in fact supporting the non-DUI attorney Ponomarchuk.

Regardless of all of this, as far as CJE knows Mr. Campagna is a fine man and good attorney. However, CJE does not believe that he is the best candidate in this election. Mr. Campagna has only practiced law in Washington for ten years. With more years of practice and pro tem experience under his belt, he may make a good judicial candidate in the future. 


Why Les Ponomarchuk Is The Right Choice

Superior Court Commissioner Les Ponomarchuk

Les Ponomarchuk is also a fine man with deep roots as a resident and community volunteer in many organizations throughout the Shoreline, Kenmore and Lake Forest Park communities. He is clearly the best candidate in this race. As a King County Superior Court Commissioner, hearing and ruling on 80,000 motions and trials in sensitive, highly volatile, complicated cases, Les would bring 20 years of experience to the District Court bench.

He has been rated as Exceptionally Well Qualified by the King County Bar Association, LGBT Bar, Joint Asian Judicial Evaluation Committee, and CJE even after being admonished (not censored or suspended) for a single minor mistake out of the tens of thousands of cases he has presided over from the bench. Unlike Joe Campagna, Les has never been a DUI lawyer, but he is certainly capable of presiding over DUI cases and other misdemeanor charges and civil cases.

Clearly, Les is the candidate who will be best able to hit the ground running and when elected immediately contribute to the court.




GoodJudges is a Voter Information Project of Citizens for Judicial Excellence made possible by the generous support of these top 5 contributors: 2 Watch Monitoring, LifeSafer, Lacey O’Malley Agency, Be Prepared Investigative Services & Vern Fonk Insurance.