On Thursday, December 14, 2023, Judge Samuel Swanberg of Benton and Franklin Counties filed his written response denying all charges of judicial misconduct brought against him by the Washington State Judicial Conduct Commission.
According to the Statement of Charges, Judge Swanberg is alleged to have violated the following rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct:
Rule 1.1 requires a judge to comply with the law.
Rule 1.2 requires a judge to uphold the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and avoid impropriety.
Rule 1.3 prohibits a judge from abusing the prestige of office to advance personal interests or allow others to do so.
On November 27, the Commission filed a formal Statement of Charges against Judge Swanberg alleging he violated judicial conduct rules relating to complying with the law, upholding independence and integrity, and avoiding abuse of office. Specifically, the Commission charged Judge Swanberg with engaging in domestic violence against a former spouse, harassing a former romantic partner who was a court employee, and improperly using his position as a judge to contact the former partner against her wishes in December 2021.
In his answer, Judge Swanberg “denies the following:” that he violated any conduct rules through unlawful harassment of Sila Salas as described in an anti-harassment protection order; that he violated any rules through a history of abusive or assaultive behavior towards former spouse Stephanie Barnard as described in her sworn declaration from January 2022; and that he violated any rules by using his judicial position to contact Ms. Salas at the Office of Public Defense in December 2021.
The answer, filed by Judge Swanberg’s attorney Scott Johnson, constitutes a general denial of all charges. If Judge Swanberg does not admit to the charges, a hearing will be scheduled before the Judicial Conduct Commission where evidence will be presented. Any disciplinary action would then require a recommendation from the Commission to the Washington State Supreme Court.
The case stems from a Commission investigation that began in January 2022 after Judge Swanberg self-reported being subject to the protection order proceeding involving Ms. Salas. He was also criminally charged and acquitted of assault against Ms. Barnard following a February 2021 incident.
Judge Swanberg’s courtroom is located at 7122 W Okanogan Pl, Bldg A, Kennewick, WA 99336-2359, and can be reached at 509-736-3071.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.