Letter gets Votendahl in hot water

As a part-time judge, he was prohibited from endorsing a nonjudicial candidate.

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OLYMPIA -- Retired Walla Walla County District Court Judge Jerry Votendahl has been admonished by the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The order was entered at a meeting of the commission Friday, according to a commission news release.

Based on stipulated facts, Votendahl agrees he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when -- while still a part-time judge -- he wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Union-Bulletin endorsing a nonjudicial candidate for public office.

Votendahl was a supporter of Bill White for Walla Walla County Sheriff in last fall's election. White's opponent, John Turner, won.

Votendahl retired in January.

The news release says Votendahl stated he didn't intend to violate the code at the time he wrote the letter. But on further reflection he agrees his actions violated judicial canons that prohibit judges from "publicly endors(ing) a nonjudicial candidate for public office" and from "lend(ing) the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interest of the judge or others."

Taking into consideration the nature of the action, that Votendahl cooperated with the commission's process and has since retired for unrelated reasons, Votendahl and the commission agreed that an admonishment is the appropriate sanction, the news release says.

An admonishment is a written advisory that cautions a judge not to engage in certain behavior and may include a requirement that the judge follow a specified corrective course of action. An admonishment is the least severe disciplinary action available to the commission.

The stipulation, agreement and order of admonishment are available at the commission's website at www.cjc.state.wa.us.

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