EDITORIAL: Drunken judge should resign

A notorious drunk driving incident in Seattle had an interesting local twist when it turned out it cost Island County Superior Court the use of a judge pro tem — someone to fill in for judges Hancock and Churchill when they are away or involved in a trial.

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge was arrested Feb. 28 for DUI and hit-and-run. Since she has a second home on Whidbey Island, it had an impact here. Our Superior Court judges immediately and wisely decided to find another pro tem judge, “rather than have any questions about a possible conflict of interest,” as Judge Churchill explained. In Superior Court, Judge Bridge would have a high probability of presiding over cases involving drinking and motor vehicles.

Bridge was hardly sober as a judge the night she was arrested. Her blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit, and when she hit a parked vehicle she drove away. An alert citizen stopped her car or a tragedy could have occurred.

One would think that a judge who has dishonored herself and her high position in society would immediately resign. But not so. Judge Bridge announced her desire to retain her position on the state Supreme Court and although she offered a public apology, she pleaded innocent at her arraignment. No doubt she’ll find a smart lawyer to defend her; she already has the public support of other high elected officials including fellow members of the Supreme Court.

Bridge does indeed have a illustrious legal resume and has made noteworthy efforts to help the poor and powerless. Nevertheless, how can someone sit on the Supreme Court who is herself a lawbreaker? She should resign and, perhaps, dedicate the rest of her life to fighting alcoholism and helping the poor and disempowered. Some things should be out of the question -- such as being a Supreme Court justice after driving drunk and leaving the scene of an accident.

Will she resign? Probably not. We live in a society where responsibility is typically not given to individuals in government. Terrorists steal planes and kill thousands, and no one in the FBI, CIA or Congress did anything wrong. The Space Shuttle disintegrates, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Millions lose their retirement savings and that’s just the way it goes.

Judge Bridge will probably go through rehabilitation and come out as an example to others -- someone who overcame a problem with the help of caring individuals. That might be good for her career, but it doesn’t say much about the importance of individual responsibility in our society.

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