On Thursday, April 25, 2024, The Spokesman-Review reported that Superior Court Judge Sam Swanberg resigned from his position ahead of a judicial conduct hearing regarding accusations of misconduct.

Judge Swanberg, who had served as a Superior Court judge in Benton and Franklin counties for six years, announced his decision to step down effective May 17th, just three days before a scheduled hearing by the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct. The Commission was set to consider charges that Judge Swanberg had violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct relating to his behavior both in and out of the courtroom.

The allegations stemmed from incidents dating back to 2021. It was reported that Judge Swanberg’s former girlfriend had filed for an anti-harassment order against him that year. His ex-wife also claimed that she had suffered mental and physical abuse during their 33-year marriage. These accusations prompted a criminal investigation by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, resulting in charges of domestic violence assault against Judge Swanberg. However, he was ultimately acquitted of these charges in a 2022 jury trial.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Judicial Conduct launched its own parallel investigation. After their probe concluded and the criminal case was resolved, the Commission formally notified Judge Swanberg in October 2022 that it intended to bring misconduct charges against him related to violating public trust in the judiciary and misusing his position. His attorney condemned the planned hearing as unfair, arguing that the Commission was refusing to accept the verdict acquitting Judge Swanberg of criminal wrongdoing.

By resigning days before the hearing, Judge Swanberg stated he wanted to return to private legal practice and avoid turning the proceeding into what his lawyer called a “political grandstanding” show trial. It remains to be seen who Governor Inslee will appoint to replace Judge Swanberg and fill the vacant judicial seat in Benton and Franklin counties. The Commission did not provide a comment about the resignation.



Source: The Spokesman-Review