Baumgartner calls on Justice Yu to recuse herself from WEA case

OLYMPIA – Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu should recuse herself from a high-profile charter-school case involving the Washington Education Association, says Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, following her appearance over the weekend at a political gathering staged by the state teachers’ union.

“Yu’s decision to speak at a WEA event raises doubt that she can rule impartially in the charter-school case,” Baumgartner said. “When a justice appears before an organization that has an active case before the court, it really crosses the line. The only proper thing now is for Yu to recuse herself from the case.”

Yu appeared in Spokane Saturday at the legislative assembly of WEAPAC, the union’s political action committee. Her speech came as WEA attorneys are preparing for oral arguments before the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn legislation permitting publicly funded charter schools. The hearing is set for May 17.

The Washington Code of Judicial Conduct states that judges “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” It goes on to explain, “The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated this code or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality, temperament or fitness to serve as a judge.”

“By appearing before WEA, Justice Yu has created a situation that would raise questions in any reasonable mind,” Baumgartner said. “What distinguishes this incident from similar cases is that WEA has an active lawsuit before the Supreme Court. What Justice Yu said is immaterial. The appearance of impropriety is bad enough. How can we trust the impartiality of a judge who shows her support for one of the parties in a lawsuit?”