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Anonymous critics attack Kitsap judge candidate

Opponents deny leaking 11-year-old records to local media

By CHARLIE BERMANT

Staff Writer

A candidate for Kitsap County Superior Court is drawing anonymous criticism for his behavior in an 11-year-old case during which he received a sanction and a fine after his client challenged the residency of a Pierce County judge.

The candidate, Bruce Danielson, acknowledges the case and the fine, but says that he is proud of his involvement in the case.

He said he is still convinced the judge in question was violating the law.

“This was a very interesting case,” Danielson said. “It had to do with whether a judge lied about his primary residence. But we lost and it was never followed up. We moved on.”

Several related court documents detailing the rulings and subsequent fines were forwarded to the Port Orchard Independent by a source who did not want to be identified but indicated in a cover letter that “...the case brought by Danielson lacked any understanding of principles that any first-year law student should know.”

The letter noted that, “To make things worse, he didn’t pay and was found in contempt.”

This, at least, is an erroneous statement, since Danielson is still practicing law and Pierce County reports the $2,910 fine was “satisfied and vacated” in May 2000.

Danielson could not recall exactly when he paid the fine, but was certain he did so in full.

The case in question involved a residency challenge to Pierce County Superior Court Judge Arthur Verharen, following his 1996 election.

Verharen had recently married Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Karen Conoley, and the couple bought a house in Kitsap County.

State law requires that elected officials maintain their official residence in the district that elects them.

Verhaven, currently retired, said he spent most of his nights on a boat that was moored at a Tacoma marina, which made him a resident of Pierce County.

Danielson’s client, Steven Quick Ruben, had lost the election to Verharen but brought the case forward in what was perceived to be an attempt to invalidate the results and then assume the office. It was this strategy that has presumably caused the criticism, since judicial vacancies are filled by the governor.

The basis of the fine was that Quick Ruben’s lawsuit was frivolous, a contention upheld by the Washington Supreme Court.

Richard B. Sanders, however, one of the dissenting judges on that opinion, has publicly endorsed Danielson in this year’s race.

The case was dismissed and sanctions imposed. Danielson said the judgment “hurt my professional reputation for a while because I went against the good old boy’s network.”

He called the sending of the anonymous letter “an act of desperation” and suspects one of his opponents — or their supporters — is responsible.

“I’m actually glad they did bring this up,” he said. “I suspected they would sooner or later. I like to talk about this, because it shows that I go against the grain and that if someone breaks the law — a judge, or anyone else — I will not tolerate it.”

Both of Danielson’s opponents, Jeanette Dalton and Greg Wall, denied sending the document or having any knowledge of who did.

Wall said he had been aware of the case for some time but has not discussed it in public.

Wall said feels that the sanction underscores Danielson’s hypocrisy, however, and that it contradicts the stated intention to impose sanctions on those who deserve them without political considerations.

“It is almost unheard of for an attorney to get this kind of sanction in a civil case,” Wall said. “And he was cited for contempt for not paying it.”

Dalton said she first heard of heard of the case when someone left a package of court documents (presumably the same ones leaked to the media) on her car after a political forum on July 24.

She said there was nothing indicating the source of the documents, but they were obviously authentic court filings.

Dalton said she called several of her colleagues about the case, learning that “the client was out of control” and Danielson wasn’t the driving force in the suit.

She agreed with Wall, saying that the contempt citation was rare in civil cases, and the type of citation, CR-11, is fairly serious.

Dalton said she chose not to pursue the matter and that neither she nor her campaign staff distributed the documents.

“If it was going to come from me, it would have come from me,” Dalton said. “I would not have gone through the back door. It’s not appropriate to be sneaking about.”

Documents supporting the exact date and final amount of the fine could not be located, aside from Danielson’s recollection and the Pierce County statement that nothing is outstanding.

Wall said he was trying to run the current race “without a lot of mudslinging,” but that “there is nothing wrong in telling the truth about somebody.”

Accordingly, while Wall said he did not encourage any of his supporters to leak the information, he would not criticize them if they had sent the document.

Dalton said if she learned one of her supporters had leaked the document, “I would tell them that I wish they hadn’t done that.”

While he has not talked about this case for some time, Danielson said his involvement in it is one reason he isn’t popular with local attorneys.

He has made a point of not accepting money from attorneys who might appear before him, saying it is a conflict of interest.

Wall feels this announcement meant nothing.

“Bruce is turning down these endorsements because he isn’t getting any,” Wall said at the time. “No one knows who he is and what he stands for. People know who I am, and know who Jeanette is, and that we will both be fair and impartial.”

Wall recently received the support of the Deputy Prosecutor’s Guild, while he and Dalton have received a several endorsements from local judges and attorneys.

Danielson came in third in a preference poll of the Kitsap Bar Association, where he was rated as “unqualified,” but has received the endorsement of Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

All three candidates were scheduled to appear at an Eggs and Issues breakfast forum at in Bremerton on Tuesday morning.

Danielson, Wall and Dalton will face each other in the nonpartisan primary on Aug. 19.

If one of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote they will take office in January, replacing retiring Superior Court Judge Leonard Costello.

If no candidate receives a plurality the third place candidate will be eliminated and the top two will face off in November.

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