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"Mittet censured, resigns as Municipal Court judge"

"Port Orchard Mayor Jay Weatherill couldn’t disguise his dismay while reading over Municipal Court Judge Martin P. Mittet’s letter of resignation Friday afternoon.“I am sorry this happened,” Weatherill murmured. “I think that if Marty found out what was wrong ahead of time, he could have corrected it. I believe his actions weren’t malicious. He has the community’s interest at heart. I feel bad in that respect. I’ve always regarded Marty as open and above board.”Mittet retired from the bench as part of a stipulation agreement reached with the Commission on Judicial Conduct in Olympia last Friday.The 11-member judicial oversight committee also publicly censured the judge, which is the most severe ruling the panel can hand down. The decision was reached after the commission investigated at least five separate charges against Mittet, including those surrounding the city’s case versus abortion protestor Ernest Schramm, as well as charges surrounding the Case law firm and one of its attorneys, Alan Harvey. In the end, the commission ruled Mittet violated at least six canons of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.Mittet explained in a written statement that he opted to resign rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, though he maintained a public hearing wouldn’t have resulted in suspension or his resignation.“The choices I was given by the commission were to resign or engage in the protracted process of a public hearing. No middle ground was made available,” Mittet wrote in the release. “When faced with the prospect of putting my family and the community through the terrible process of a public fight in order to maintain a position, which I performed primarily as a public service, I chose to simply accept a censure and resign.”Schramm, an avid abortion opponent, was found guilty earlier this year of telephone harassment and filing false police reports after calling 9-1-1 and claiming premeditated murders were occurring at an abortion clinic in Bremerton.Mittet admitted to overstepping his bounds by initiating contact with reporters at the Independent and the Bremerton Sun to discuss the Schramm case while he presided over the matter. Mittet told the commission he was concerned publicity could encourage others to follow Schramm’s dubious example. Harvey represented Schramm for the Case firm, which has the public defender’s contract with the city of Port Orchard. Harvey called Mittet’s actions prejudicial, and filed a motion for Mittet to excuse himself from the case with prejudice. Mittet initially denied the claim of prejudice and Harvey’s motion.Harvey persisted and, to prove his claim, issued subpoenas to an Independent reporter and editor and a Sun reporter. A hearing was set on the matter for March 23. Prior to the hearing, though, Mittet and Harvey reached a tentative agreement behind closed doors: Mittet would excuse himself without prejudice and Harvey would drop his challenge, Harvey said. But allegedly Mittet changed his mind when the Independent published an article detailing the tentative agreement. According to court transcripts, Mittet claimed Harvey was in contempt and was considering filing complaints against him with the Washington State Bar Association. He said he ultimately excused himself from the case because of undue publicity, not prejudice.“I find that Mr. Harvey, in the manner in which he has conducted this defense, has acted contemptuously, insolently, disrespectfully all toward me in open court and in the form of affidavits and that this behavior is intended to impair the authority of this court and to interrupt the due course of this trial,” Mittet said in court. “I’m disqualifying myself becuase of all that publicity and I think that all that publicity and all this talk of newspapers...there’s no factual basis for these allegations....”Mittet also agreed Friday to free Harvey from those complaints filed with the bar association.“I’m glad that the bar complaint was withdrawn,” Harvey said Friday. “I was just doing what I thought was in the best interests of my client (Schramm), which was getting (Mittet) off the case because he talked to the media.” Harvey, who is now a deputy prosecutor in Clark County, said he was “very saddened it had to go to this point.”Mittet also agreed that he directed court staff to delete specific court docket entries, leaving an incomplete docket record during the appeal period in the city’s case against Schramm. He admitted to directing a staff person to check the “judicial information system,” a public information system for purposes which were not related to the business of the court. He also admitted to shouting and the use of profanities directed at a public defender, in the presence of others. He also apparently signaled his staff to go off the record and he did so without informing one or both parties that he was doing just that, the commission reported. Weatherill said he intends fill the bench with pro tem (temporary) judges until the city can appoint another candidate for the part-time position which pays about $45,000 a year.Meanwhile, two related claims against Mittet and the city are pending.One claimant, Case Law Offices,which contracts with the city for public-defender services, is seeking $1 million in damages for what the firm charges were Mittet actions that damaged its reputation and business.The second claimant is court administrator Kevin Durgin, who is seeking $62,000 in damages for emotional distress allegedly caused by Durgin.On Friday, Durgin said he was relieved the investigation of Mittet has reached a conclusion. Since July, Durgin was asked to work as a part-time court administrator and a part-time code-enforcement officer.Mittet’s resignation ends his 10 years as Municipal Court judge and cuts short his most recent employment contract, which stated he would serve through December 2001.According to the commission ruling, Mittet can’t hold another judgeship or other judicial position without commission approval."

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