On Thursday, May 23, 2024, the Tri-City Herald reported that the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct held a hearing regarding former Superior Court Judge Sam Swanberg.

The two-day hearing at the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick focused on allegations of abusive behavior by Swanberg towards his ex-wife and a former girlfriend. Attorney Terry Scanlan, representing the Judicial Conduct Commission, argued that Swanberg should never have been a judge due to this alleged misconduct in his personal life.

Scanlan maintained that Swanberg, who resigned from his position as a Superior Court judge for Benton and Franklin counties earlier this month, violated codes of judicial conduct and behaved in a way that damaged public trust in the courts. He asked the eight-member commission to officially censure Swanberg, even though he is no longer a sitting judge.

The commission will make a ruling in the case within the next three months. If they agree with Scanlan, their determination will be presented for adoption at an open commission meeting in either June, September, or November.

Evidence presented at the hearing included testimony from Swanberg’s ex-wife, Stephanie Barnard, who he was married to for 33 years. Barnard alleged that Swanberg began emotionally and physically abusing her only a few years into their marriage. She claimed he lashed out violently on at least one occasion, throwing her against an exercise bike. Two of their children also testified that they witnessed their father push their mother.

Barnard said the marriage followed a pattern where periods of calm would be interrupted by Swanberg’s violent outbursts several times a year. A domestic violence expert testified this cycle is common among abusers. Barnard and Swanberg decided to divorce in 2020, but Swanberg stayed in the house, living in the basement during the process of their divorce. That led to two confrontations on Feb. 7 and 8, 2021, that eventually led to him being charged with assault against Barnard, charges of which a jury later acquitted him.

The commission hearing also covered Swanberg’s relationship with a former girlfriend, a Franklin County clerk’s office employee. She said what began as a good relationship became unstable, with Swanberg disappearing for long periods. After they broke up in late 2021, Swanberg allegedly stalked and harassed her for weeks via text, calls, and unwanted in-person encounters, despite her telling him the relationship was over.

Testimony was also provided by law enforcement, a friend of the girlfriend who said Swanberg offered her money to intervene, and officials from the local public defense office where the girlfriend later worked.

Swanberg denied the allegations against him, and his lawyer argued the case was politically motivated. He maintained his innocence on charges related to his ex-wife.



Source: Tri-City Herald