Judge Drinks with DUI Jury!

Judge’s Booze Party Will Cost Him His Job

Tacoma News Tribune

TACOMA, Wash. — A judge bought beer for attorneys and jurors during a
drunken driving trial and invited them to drink with him, state
investigators have charged. Judge Ralph Baldwin said he will resign
because the charges are largely true.

Baldwin, who has served just three months as the $65,000-a-year
appointed Lakewood municipal judge, said he’s embarrassed about the
incident and apologetic.

“When I saw it put down on paper, it looked awful,” Baldwin, 54,
sheepishly admitted. “It was stupid,” he said. “When I thought about it,
I thought, ‘Oh my God, you fool.’ “

The Feb. 20 incident also led Lakewood City Attorney Dan Heid to take
action against Assistant City Attorney Mike McKenzie for consuming
alcohol on city property. Heid declined to specify what form of
discipline he took against McKenzie.

According to state Judicial Conduct Commission charges Monday, the
incident began when Baldwin left the court briefly during jury
deliberations in a drunken-driving trial. He returned to the courtroom
minutes later with a 12-pack of beer.

That alcohol consumption violated both state law and Lakewood
personnel policies, the commission noted.

After the jury returned a guilty verdict against the defendant,
Baldwin invited jurors and attorneys to join him in the jury room to have
a few beers and to discuss the case, the commission charges.

“This invitation was made from the bench while still in his judicial
robes and in the presence of the defendant,” the commission charges.

“Respondent made remarks such as, ‘Stay for a cold one,’ ‘I know this
is uncommon and kind of funny following a DUI case,’ ‘I’ll deny it if any
of you repeat it,’ and ‘I’m not responsible for any drinking and
driving,’ ” charging documents say.

According to the documents, two jurors and McKenzie joined Baldwin in
the jury room and drank some beer.

Baldwin acknowledged the commission’s account was essentially true.
The trial had been long and arduous, and he was trying to cajole the
jurors to stay and talk about the case with the attorneys by offering
them some refreshment.

After the jurors left, charging papers say, the judge instructed the
court administrator and McKenzie to help him gather up the empty beer
cans. While he was doing so, he remarked that he was an unconventional
judge who didn’t “play by the rules.”

The commission charges that Baldwin carried the empty beer cans from
the building along with a partially full can. “Respondent made remarks
such as ‘I might as well drink and drive. I do it all the time anyway.’

©1998 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.

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