The leaker, not Danielson, was the real loser
August 8, 2008 · Updated 11:52 AM
Over the past few weeks, an uncredited source has been papering the county with reports of how Port Orchard attorney Bruce Danielson, who is running for Kitsap Superior Court judge, was cited for contempt of court 11 years ago.
The ruling was that Danielson represented a client in what a Pierce County judge believed was a frivolous lawsuit (although at least one Washington State Supreme Court justice disagreed when the case was appealed).
Also, the anonymous tipster insists Danielson didn’t pay the fine, hence the contempt citation. But court records show Danielson did pay the fine, or else he wouldn’t be practicing law now.
The only controversy is that he didn’t pay it in a timely fashion as he was contemplating his legal options.
In any case, the intent of the sender was that the allegations would knock the pesky challenger out of the race and hand the seat to one of the two remaining candidates (one of whom, presumably, the letter writer supports).
It had the opposite effect.
Danielson, a sole practitioner who revels in his reputation as a maverick among members of the local legal community, comes off as the victim of a rather lame smear attempt, while the story became more about how the information was conveyed — and by whom — than Danielson’s decade-old misstep.
If, in fact, it even was a misstep.
For his part, Danielson makes no attempt to evade responsibility. On the contrary, he gladly cites the case — which involved challenging the residency status of a sitting judge who maintained a home in Kitsap but claimed to be a resident of Pierce County because he had a racing sailboat moored in Tacoma — as an example of how he is willing to challenge authority when he believes an injustice has been committed.
One suspects that, had the unnamed source — even if it was an opponent — asked Danielson directly about the fine he would have answered directly. The product, and not the process, would draw all the attention.
So Danielson, who entered the race a long shot and is fighting the local legal establishment, is given a shot in the arm.
Not surprisingly, Greg Wall and Jeanette Dalton, Danielson’s opponents, both deny any knowledge of or involvement in the leak (although both conceded they were familiar with the case).
Dalton reported that someone left a copy of the court papers on the windshield of her car hoping she would use them to discredit Danielson but that she had declined to do so.
Wall, meanwhile, said that while he hadn’t asked any of his supporters to distribute the documents, he wouldn’t criticize the leaker if it turned out to be someone close to him.
While not a confession, that answer at least puts a lot of dots on the page that might be connected.
We pick judges because we trust them to make wise decisions. And smearing one’s opponent — particularly if the act is followed by a phony denial — is not wise judicial behavior.
We may never know the truth, whether a candidate was directly involved, whether a supporter leaked the documents with the approval of the candidate, or an overzealous supporter was simply acting on his or her own.
That is, unless someone comes clean.
We can look at the presidential races as an example. Supporters of those running for the nation’s highest office have been known to wander off the reservation and indulge in inappropriate behavior.
And when it happens, the candidate is usually called on to take responsibility for the deed and disavow it.
This shouldn’t be too much to ask in a local election.
In this case the responsible party should have the guts to come forward and allow Danielson a privilege accorded to all in the judicial process — the right to face his accuser.