On Friday, April 21, 2023, the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct and Hon. Robin McCroskey, a judge of the Pend Oreille County District Court, entered into a stipulation, agreement, and order of admonishment to discipline the latter for her inappropriate Facebook posts.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Robin McCroskey,” with case no. 9879-F-203.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 1, rules 1.1 and 1.3 and Canon 3, rule 3.7(b) which states:

Comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.

Allows judicial officers to participate in charitable organizations, but states that judges may solicit contributions for such organizations only from members of the judge’s family, or from judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisor or appellate authority.

The stipulation requesting discipline against the respondent was rooted in the posts of the respondent on his FaceBook page. Allegedly, during a confidential investigation, the commission became aware of a post the respondent made to her Facebook page that appeared to solicit money and other posts that appeared to promote or advertise specific local businesses.

The filing states:

“On October 10, 2020, Respondent shared a photo of what appeared to be a bride and groom with the text: “Thank you Nissa: Floral Traditions, for the beautiful bouquet and boutonniere [sic]! You are so talented!” Respondent also shared this as a memory on October 10, 2022. On May 3, 2021, Respondent shared a post from the business Floral Traditions, which highlighted merchandise available for Mother’s Day. One of the photos contained a caption that read: “Order for Mother’s Day. We deliver!” On October 20, 2021, Respondent created a post that included a photo of an arm with a bracelet and sweater and text which read, “It is awesome to be able to wear local purchases from years ago and know they are still in business!!!! Bracelet, circa 2012 Shanty. Sweater and jeans, JB Boutique, September.”

The filing continues:

“Pursuant to CJCRP 17(c), after independently investigating the complaint concerning Respondent’s Facebook posts, the Commission on Judicial Conduct initiated disciplinary proceedings against Respondent by serving her with a Statement of Allegations on December 15, 2022. The Statement of Allegations alleged that by posting advertisements and endorsements for businesses and soliciting monetary contributions to a GoFundMe account on her Facebook page, Respondent abused the prestige of judicial office to advance the economic interest of others, in violation of Canon 1 (Rules 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3) and Canon 3 (Rule 3.7(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

In response, the respondent answered the statement of allegations, stating that in creating and sharing the posts, she was acting on her own, and not in her official capacity.

The filing further states:

“In sharing the GoFundMe post, Respondent explained to the Commission that her intent was not to solicit donations, but rather to update local friends about someone who was ill and had moved out of the area. In sharing posts from local businesses and in creating her own posts about them, Respondent explained that her intent was simply to express her pride in local businesses that were able to weather the pandemic. Specifically, as to the post regarding wedding flowers, Respondent indicated that it was her daughter’s wedding, and she was relieved that they were able to find flowers during the pandemic, so she was expressing her appreciation of the flower shop.”

The filing additionally notes:

“Respondent further indicated that there are no other flower shops in her community and told the Commission that she receives nothing in exchange for any of these posts. Respondent explained she believed that she was not violating the Code when she made any of the posts, but accepts the Commission’s determination that a reasonable person would view a GoFundMe post as a request for monetary donations and as such, a solicitation which the Code prohibits.”

Based upon the above-stipulated facts, the respondent and the commission agreed that the “GoFundMe post” on the respondent’s Facebook page violated the above-mentioned Code of Judicial Conduct. The stipulation noted that the respondent’s Facebook posts promoting local businesses raise concerns that the judge could be seen as abusing the prestige of her judicial office by promoting advertisements for those businesses on her social media page, which identifies her as a judge. Moreover, it explained that the advent of social media has not altered the Code of Judicial Conduct, but the reach of social media and its interactive nature amplifies and thus alters the impact of judges’ comments posted on social media.

In lieu of this, the respondent and the commission agreed that admonishment is the appropriate form of sanction.

The stipulation states:

“Taking into account the factors listed in CJCRP 6(c), the Respondent and the Commission agree that an admonishment is an appropriate action in this matter. An “admonishment” is a written action of the Commission of an advisory nature that cautions a respondent not to engage in certain proscribed behavior, and is the least severe disciplinary action available to the Commission. As set forth in the Preamble, paragraph 4 above, the Code is intended to provide guidance to judges. Respondent affirms that she will read the Code of Judicial Conduct in its entirety and affirm to the Commission that she has done so within 30 days of entry of this stipulation.”

Judge McCroskey attended the Gonzaga University School of Law, graduating in 1999.

Judge McCroskey sits as a judge of the Pend Oreille County District Court located at 229 S Garden Ave, Newport, WA 99156, and can be reached at (509) 447-4110. Her info can be found on Trellis. law.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.