Porter still whining
Judge Rick Porter appeared before the county commission this week seeking more taxpayer money to pay off his campaign debts. Well, that is not how he phrased the request but is essentially how it works. Porter explained to county commissioners there is an increase in work at District 1 and he needs more money to pay substitute judges to handle the increased case load. Porter said he needed more time to administer the court, study the law and write opinions.
This seems strange since Porter has a $70,000 per year court administrator and, after 14 years on the bench, according to sources, has written only one opinion.
According to research done by Porter and his people Porter claims to be doing the work of one and a half judges. Looking back to the time Porter first took the bench the trend is actually downward. In 2006 District Court had 14,369 filings. Last year there were only around 9,500.
Porter wants the county taxpayers to provide more money so his appointed part-time judges can get more hours on his bench. Whenever Porter has a conflict with a case or someone files an Affidavit of Prejudice against him then Porter must bring in a sub. Anyone can file an Affidavit of Prejudice on any judge and have them removed from their case.
The subs are local lawyers, usually friends of Porter, usually those who worked on his election campaign or provided donations to his campaign. Now taxpayers are to repay Porter’s campaign favors.
He wants the county commission to grant him $42,000 to employ more of his cronies to act as pro tem judges when he is just too tired to raise the gavel or has a conflict with a case as was described in a previous article where Porter alleges he has a conflict with the entire office of the Clallam County Public Defender.
It is interesting the way Porter manages his pro tem substitutes. For instance a while back Porter was going to hear a dog bite case brought by a local lawyer, one of his pro tems who was also his campaign treasurer. When the defendant bounced Porter for bias Porter brought in another of his campaign workers to hear the case. This caused one of his campaign workers to judge a case involving another of his campaign workers.
Just in case the defendant got wise to that he had yet another out of town judge waiting in his office. This means there were 3 pro tem judges on the clock, paid by taxpayers, to sort out Porter’s campaign conflicts.
While this reporter was in the judge’s chambers interviewing Porter during the last election cycle Porter had a pro tem hanging out in his office until time for the interview. When this reporter showed up at the appointed hour the pro tem throws on a robe, picks up a gavel and mounts the bench. The taxpayers were paying his sub while Porter campaigned for office–in his office.
Evidently someone was sitting as pro tem while Porter was lobbying the commission for a crony to replace Clallam Public Defenders as new indigent defense council. Evidently someone was sitting pro tem for him while Porter was lobbying the commission for more money to pay his pro tems.
Much of the caseload Porter groans about is of his own making. Porter has crowed repeatedly about his Pay or Appear program. A program described by the ACLU as a “debtors prison.” This is a program where those found responsible in his court must pay fines and fees or appear regularly in court to explain why they cannot pay their fines and fees.
These pay or appear victims must appear in Porter’s court at least once a month, usually for many months, just to tell Porter they are still unemployed, or have only enough money to keep the utilities on at home.
Porter claims his Pay or Appear program brings in over one million dollars a year. He does not list the costs of the program. For instance, if someone is picked up in Neah Bay on a Pay or Appear warrant then the deputy must transport the individual all the way to Port Angeles for lodging in the county jail. This takes the deputy off his regular duties for hours at a time for transportation and booking. Then the taxpayers must pay $75 per night for the individual to stay in jail until Porter is able to hear why the poor fellow cannot pay his fines and fees.
These are the type of cases that add to the court’s work load, add to the taxpayers burdens, add to the jail costs and do nothing to stop crime.
Also, the only cases Porter hears are misdemeanor cases meaning these are not dangerous criminals he parades into his court over and over.