On Friday, September 9, 2022, the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Susan Mahoney, Judge of the King County District Court, for using the N-word. The case is styled as ‘In the matter of Judge Mahoney’ with case number #10807-F-202.

The judge was charged with violating Canon 1, Rules 1.1 and 1.2, Canon 2, Rule 2.8(B), and Canon 2, Rule 2.3, of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which states:

A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A judge 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.

A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.

A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.

The judicial canons can be found here.

On February 21, 2022, the Judicial Conduct Commission received a complaint alleging Judge Mahoney used the N-word during a February 9 Zoom meeting regarding the possible discipline of a court employee who had used derogatory terms such as “Nazi” and “Brownshirt” with the apparent intent to demean and intimidate others in the workplace who sought to enforce the court’s face mask policy.

During the meeting, Judge Mahoney argued that using the term “Nazi” or calling someone a “Nazi” would be unprotected speech, just like using the term or calling someone the N-word. The judge later clarified that her point was to emphasize that using the term “Nazi” was an example of hate speech comparable to a racial slur and equally unacceptable in the workplace. She clarified that the term she used was not intended to be offensive or directed at any particular person. Instead, she said it was meant to serve as an example or analogy of the unacceptable nature of the derogatory language the employee had used.

During the course of its investigation, the Commission found out that there were two other occasions where it was alleged that Judge Mahoney made racially insensitive and/or race-based stereotypical comments. The allegations include Judge Mahoney introducing a new judge to a Black staff person as someone who likes watermelon and making generalities about Asian or Chinese drivers.

In her answer to the allegations, Judge Mahoney stipulated that she violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. The judge agreed that she engaged in conduct that was undignified and discourteous, eroded public confidence in her integrity and impartiality, and created the appearance of impropriety since her words could be seen as manifesting bias regardless of her intent.

The order reads:

“Based upon the above stipulation and agreement, the Commission on Judicial Conduct hereby orders Respondent Susan Mahoney REPRIMANDED for violating Canon 1, Rules 1.1 and 1.2 and Canon 2, Rule 2.8(B), of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Respondent shall not engage in such conduct in the future and shall fulfill the terms of the agreement as set forth above.”

The Judge earned a law degree from Seattle University School of Law.
The Judge’s Courtroom is at 516 Third Avenue in Seattle and can be reached at 206-296-0100.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.