City of Seattle Municipal Court Judge 2022 Candidate Forum

City of Seattle Municipal Court Judge Candidate Forum

October 12, 2022



[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Greetings, everyone. My name is Crystal Fincher. I'm a political consultant and the host of this candidate forum tonight. Welcome to this Hacks & Wonks 2022 Primary Candidate Forum for City of Seattle Municipal Court Judge Positions 3 and 7.

For those who need a refresher, the Seattle Municipal Court handles all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes, civil infractions, and other offenses authorized under the Seattle municipal Code and Revised Code of Washington statutes.

Misdemeanors are crimes where the maximum sentence is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Gross Misdemeanors are crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, including offenses such as driving under the influence, domestic violence, theft, and trespass.

Infractions are acts that are prohibited by law but are not legally defined as a crime, like parking tickets and traffic or non-traffic infractions.

And Civil Offenses are filed with the court when the City of Seattle seeks enforcement of its fire code, housing, and other city ordinance violations.

The majority of the Seattle Municipal Court Judges' time is dedicated to jury trials and pretrial hearings. They also hear sentencings, arraignments, reviews, non-jury, or 'bench' trials, and can perform marriage ceremonies.

Seattle Municipal Court has seven judges who are elected to four-year terms. Every other year, the judges select one judge to act as the Presiding Judge for a two-year term. The Presiding Judge's responsibilities including: overseeing the magistrates, lead the management and administration of the court's business, recommend policies and procedures that improve the court's effectiveness, allocate resources that maximize the court's ability to resolve disputes fairly and expeditiously, and determine judicial assignments.

We're excited to be able to live stream this forum on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Additionally, we are recording this forum for rebroadcast and later viewing.

We invite our audience to ask questions of our candidates. If you're watching a live stream online, then you can ask questions by commenting on the live stream. You can also text your questions to 206-395-6248, and that number will scroll at the bottom of the screen.

The candidates running for City of Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position 3 with us right now are - in alphabetical order - Adam Eisenberg and Pooja Vaddadi. And for Position 7 we have - again, in alphabetical order - Nyjat Rose-Akins and Damon Shadid.

A few reminders before we jump into the forum. I want to remind you to vote. Ballots will be mailed to your mailbox starting Wednesday, October 19th - that's this coming Wednesday. You can register to vote, update your registration, and see what will be on your ballot at

I want to mention that tonight's answers will be timed. Each candidate will have one minute to introduce themselves initially, and 90 seconds to answer each subsequent question. Candidates may be engaged with rebuttal or follow up with questions and will have 30 seconds to respond. Time will be indicated by the colored dot labeled "timer" on the screen. The dot will initially appear as green, when there are 30 seconds left it will turn yellow, and when there are 10 seconds left it will turn red. You will be muted when time is up.

Now we'll turn to the candidates who will each have one minute to introduce themselves, starting with Adam Eisenberg. Then Pooja Vaddadi. Next Nyjat Rose-Akins. Finally Damon Shadid.

So starting with our first candidate.

[00:03:43] Judge Adam Eisenberg: Good evening. Municipal courts present a unique opportunity for restorative justice and diversion. For many of the people who come before me, this is their first stop in the legal system - I want it to be their last. I grew up with an abusive father and I know that treatment is critical to healing survivors, families, and abusers. That's why I helped create the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, a community-based program that serves as an alternative to jail. DVIP provides individualized treatment to break cycles of abuse and trauma. I'm proud to be the only LGBTQ+ member of the Seattle Municipal Court bench. Before being appointed in 2017, I had 25 years of experience as a prosecutor, civil defense attorney, magistrate and commissioner. I believe my diverse background is why I've been rated "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by the King County Bar and four minority bar associations. It's also why I've been elected Presiding Judge by my peers and why I have the support of Supreme Court Justices Yu, González and Whitener, local district Democrats, the unions that represent our court clerks and many more. Thank you.

[00:04:41] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And next.

[00:04:48] Pooja Vaddadi: Okay, sorry - thank you. My name is Pooja Vaddadi and I'm running for judge in Seattle to serve the community that raised me and bring about a positive change in the culture of Seattle Municipal Court. I'm a career public defender and my platform is centered on a recommitment to fairness, compassion, and restorative justice. At this time, I've been endorsed by every Democratic organization in Seattle and King County that has endorsed in this race, as well as the Washington Young Democrats, the Democrats for Diversity and Inclusion and the National Women's Political Caucus. Aside from three legislative districts, these endorsements are exclusive. I always planned to run for judge, but I wish that I didn't have to run right now. Practice at Seattle Municipal Court showed me a toxic and biased judiciary acting against the interest of public safety and undermining the institution of the court. I'm running now because it is urgent that we change direction. This campaign is about the people of Seattle. As a public defender, I came to understand the specific challenges that prevent misdemeanor defendants from interacting productively with the criminal justice system. I'm running to bring the court back in touch with the law and with the circumstances of those it serves.

[00:05:48] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Nyjat Rose-Akins.

[00:05:52] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Thank you. Good evening. My name is Nyjat Rose-Akins and I'm running for Position 7 on the Seattle Municipal Court bench. I love Seattle. I became a U.S. citizen here, but I've seen the breakdown in collaboration across the city. I'm running to help repair that breakdown to improve the community's confidence in the court and to return to an individualized approach to judicial decision-making. I'm running because I've spent the last 12 years working with victims and managing relationships - the community relationships with police. In my 12 years at the City Attorney's Office, I've partnered with businesses, government officials, community members, and law enforcement. I've seen firsthand that issues affecting communities are rarely resolved in silos. Real change takes collaboration from all those involved, a willingness to listen, and the ability to have the courage to say when things are not working. I am running for Seattle Municipal Court to make it better. Thank you.

[00:06:49] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Damon Shadid.

[00:06:53] Judge Damon Shadid: My name is Judge Damon Shadid. I've been a judge at Seattle Municipal Court for the past eight years. For the past four years, I've been presiding over the majority of Seattle Municipal Court's therapeutic courts - including Community Court which I helped found, Mental Health Court which I helped expand, and the Consolidated Calendar which I was able to create in partnership with other criminal legal system organizations. All of these programs have one thing in common. Accountability is best sought through rehabilitation, not through holding people in jail. Without rehabilitation, we are not going to make our community safer - and that's what all of my programs do. It is an individualized approach to find out what people's barriers are and to help them connect with the vital social services that will help them exit the criminal legal system. I'm proud to be endorsed by the Progressive Voters Guide, by The Seattle Times, by nine Supreme Court Justices, by many labor organizations, as well as community leaders, including -

[00:07:56] Crystal Fincher: Thank you, I believe that's your time.

Our first question will begin with Nyjat Rose-Akins, then follow up with Damon Shadid. What is your evaluation of the Community Court system? What is working and what's not working?

[00:08:16] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Thank you for that question. My evaluation of the Community Court system that is run out of Seattle Municipal Court is that it is not working. I have been partnering with members in the community as well as businesses and really trying to understand what is happening in that court. As a prosecutor - when I initially started at the City Attorney's Office in 2010 - I worked in Community Court. So I understand how the program is supposed to work. And currently I do not believe it's working because right now it seems as if it's a very indiscriminate approach to low-level crime, meaning it seems as if all types of crimes can come in regardless of what that individual may be doing in the community and whether or not that individual continues to commit crime even after being in Community Court. For instance, an individual - me reviewing the docket in the court, the court dockets - I've seen individuals with six, seven, eight crimes all at one time in Community Court. That shows me that that is not working. And low-level crime should be something very small. However, I'm seeing crimes where individuals are stealing thousands of dollars, $970 from businesses and Home Depot and Target. So my issue with it is that it doesn't seem to be working and we continue to just recycle people in and out without any real solution.

[00:09:49] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Judge Shadid.

[00:09:52] Judge Damon Shadid: It's interesting. My opponent has never appeared in Community Court, which I founded - she was in a prior iteration of Community Court. But let me give you some numbers to show you how Community Court is working. 80% of the graduates of Community Court have no further criminal law violations - 80%. That's over two years that we ran the numbers and the graduates are not coming back in the criminal legal system - that is results that work. Let me tell you something else - now, Community Court was created in a collaboration with the City Attorney's Office and with the Public Defender's Office. We meet every two weeks, we tweak the program, we make it better. And in all of these meetings - my opponent has never come to the meeting, has never offered any sort of critique of the court, but instead has come from the outside where she's only reviewed dockets, but never actually been in the court, never been in the meetings. If she had been in the meeting, she would know that they work. She would know that we're collaborating and she would know that what we are trying to do is bring accountability through rehabilitation and it is working. Of the people who come to court, 90% of those people enter Community Court. Of those 90%, 75% graduate. And of those graduates, 90% don't re-offend in the next two years. Those are real numbers. Those work and we should keep going with Community Court, make it better, and expand it.

[00:11:19] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Pooja Vaddadi.

[00:11:24] Pooja Vaddadi: Thank you. I believe a lot of Community Court is working. I've had a lot of clients that cycled in and out of Community Court and have been met with very many resources through that court. What I've noticed that hasn't been working is that a lot of roadblocks have been set up by the City Attorney's Office and a majority of the judges have more or less gone along with what the City Attorney proposes - and that is to exclude everybody off the High Utilizer Initiative list. That list is made up of people who have severe mental illnesses and people who are homeless and struggling with desperation and poverty. And I believe those people are the people that would benefit the most from a court like Community Court. Certain people on that list are also part of the Trueblood class and should just not be capable of being prosecuted because of the severity of their mental illness as well. And so Community Court obviously would not be the right place for them. But again, prosecution or keeping them off of any kind of diversion list is not going to help people who just cannot be prosecuted because of a mental illness. I believe that the Community Court can work better if the City Attorney, the Public Defenders and the Judges - again - decide to work together and come to a policy that works for everybody on the same page. I don't think it's working right now because people are butting heads in the court and in the Public Defenders and the City Attorney. People need to be on the same side and that's the side of public safety and helping prevent poverty and homelessness. Thank you.

[00:12:54] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And Adam Eisenberg.

[00:12:57] Judge Adam Eisenberg: Yes. So the thing that's most important to understand about Community Court is it's a triage court. It's meant to get people in the court system and out of the court system as quickly as possible, hook them up with social services, give them - if we can get them to housing, get them to housing - and move them on. The reality is some folks don't fit in Community Court. And while I don't necessarily agree that coming up with a list of 109 people or 110 or whatever is the best solution, the reality is that we need to figure out a way of addressing the folks who commit very low-level crimes, but don't succeed in Community Court. That's what this group is about. The group that doesn't succeed that keeps coming back. So while there's a great success rate as Judge Shadid talks about, how do we address the folks that don't fit? There is a dispute between the prosecutors and the public defenders - the prosecutor has discretion, judges have discretion as well. And I think over time we'll see that those folks will try to figure out more services that we can provide them with. But the reality is not everybody fits in Community Court and that group is the group we have to figure how to target. Thank you.

[00:14:01] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Nyjat asked for some rebuttal time.

[00:14:06] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Thank you. I just wanted to address the 80% of people who go into Community Court graduate. That number is very skewed because when you do review the court docket, there are also a number of people who fail to appear or don't even show up for court. So I believe that is a skewed number based on the fact that there are multiple Community Court offers, but a number of people who do not show up for court. Additionally, the City Attorney tried to negotiate and opt some people out because they felt they -

[00:14:42] Crystal Fincher: That is time there and just another reminder - rebuttal is a 30-second period. Does anyone else want any rebuttal time, or are we good?

We will move on to the next question. And we'll start with Judge Shadid. We have seen news of overcrowding in jails, asks from various jail employees - including corrections officers and public defenders - saying that they don't currently have the staffing to safely man the jails, asking to reduce the population. Should that be taken into account by judges when imposing sentences?

[00:15:22] Judge Damon Shadid: Well the short answer is "No, but..." And there's a big but there - and that is that the criminal legal system should be steering away from incarceration because we know incarceration doesn't help people... the criminal legal system. And as a deterrent, it is very, very controversial of whether or not a jail deterrent is actually effective. What we need to do is be expanding programs for diversion, expanding programs for rehabilitation - that's what I've spent my career doing. That's why I created the new Community Court. That's why I brought together a Consolidated Calendar where people who are already working in the community with case workers can come on one-stop shopping to a court and can resolve their cases many times without the need of jail. That's why I've expanded Mental Health Court - so that we can create release plans for the most dangerous, most vulnerable in our community - people who need close supervision, and so we can release them with very close supervision with the aid of a court clinician. This is the direction the court should be going. Accountability should come from rehabilitation, from a person's willingness to engage with the social safety net services. I am proud to say that Seattle Municipal Court has not been booking people in jail up to the level of beds that we have available. We consistently come under that and we have lowered that number every year. And one of the big reasons, of course, is because of our diversion programs and I'm very proud of that fact.

[00:16:50] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Next up is Nyjat.

[00:16:56] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Yes, there has been a lot of issues with King County Jail, and as Judge Shadid stated, the court is not in charge of the jail and can't necessarily tell the jail what to do. I do think the court does have to factor that in when people are trying to be admitted into the jail and the jail is closed. So I think those are definitely some considerations that should be made when you are looking to maybe sentence someone to jail or determine whether bail is warranted. But I think that is done on a case-by-case basis.

[00:17:33] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Adam Eisenberg.

[00:17:39] Judge Adam Eisenberg: Thank you. I think the reality is judges are very much aware of the crowding in the jail. The job that we have is to decide - in this particular case, is this person a safety threat to the community? And that's really what drives most of the decisions to whether someone is going to be in jail or not. Is there substantial likelihood they're going to commit a violent crime? Are they going to interfere with the administration of justice? And then to a lesser extent, whether they're going to show up to court or if they've failed to show up multiple times. We are very much aware of the limitations of the jail. And there's also issues with staffing in general - because of COVID, they're not able to staff as well. So it's very challenging. We are booking fewer people - we've been doing that ever since COVID started. So I think that that shows that judges are very much aware of it. But at the end of the day, it comes down to - in this particular case, is this person a danger to the community or not? That's the primary driver of why someone's held in jail. And the judge has to make a decision based on that. Thank you.

[00:18:35] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And Pooja.

[00:18:40] Pooja Vaddadi: Thank you. I do agree with Judge Shadid. The court should be steering away from incarceration. And so while over-crowding for sentencing should not necessarily be taken into consideration, I do think that sentencing needs to be, that culture around sentencing needs to change dramatically. Studies have shown that public safety is not improved with increased rates of incarceration. In fact, a lot like what Judge Shadid was saying as well, studies have shown that diversion programs really do help to promote public safety. With the increased rate of incarceration, with the increased rate of jail sentences between 15 to 60 days - all it does to the individual is destabilize them. Their mental health deteriorates significantly when in jail. They're faced with the overcrowding problem. They're faced with dealing with individuals that they'd never encounter in the system. And they're also cut off from all resources. I've had clients that have had a lot of problems getting their mental health meds or any other kind of medical assistance while in jail. And all it does is cut them off from the resources that can help them re-enter society more effectively, that can help them not reoffend in the future. We should focus more on diversion programs. We should teach individuals who do touch the criminal justice system to reincorporate with society a little bit better. That is what improves public safety.

[00:20:08] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. And for this next question, we will start with Adam Eisenberg. What factors do you consider in granting and setting bail amounts for defendants? Should it strictly be based on whether or not someone is dangerous to society or a safety risk, therefore kind of making bail irrelevant, or does bail have a role to play in your court? How do you evaluate that?

[00:20:36] Judge Adam Eisenberg: So judges are guided by Criminal Rule 3.2, which does provide that the least restrictive means is what's appropriate. And in order to set bail, you have to decide that there's a substantial likelihood someone's going to commit a violent crime if they're released, substantial likelihood that they will interfere with the administration of justice or witnesses - which could be violate no-contact orders, or continue to drink and drive after they've been charged with a DUI, or fail to appear. That is the legal requirement that we have. We're also supposed to consider whether the person has the ability to pay or not. The bail system was created over 100 years ago in our state through statutes that seem very out-of-date and don't really apply to the modern world, because clearly people who have financial means are able to bail out easier than those who don't. Although there is the Northwest Bail Fund, which actually is able to bail people out who aren't able to afford it up to a certain level. As a judge, those factors are the factors that are the ones that I'm guided by. In looking at a particular case, is this person a danger to the community? That is the primary concern that I have. The bail system is not a perfect system. California is experimenting with a no bail or bail, so you either decide to hold someone or you release them and there's not an option to bail them out. I don't know if that's a better system or not, but I'm guided by the rules and I apply it in a case-by-case basis. Thank you.

[00:22:02] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Next up will be Pooja. I'll just repeat the question. What factors are considered in granting and setting bail amounts for defendants and what do you believe should be the primary consideration?

[00:22:15] Pooja Vaddadi: Thank you. So that's correct - the setting of bail is determined by CrRLJ 3.2. It is what needs to be considered when determining whether a person should be released or not, or what the terms of that release are. It does need to be the least restrictive means. What I believe that a lot of judges do frequently forget though, is that the presumption of all pretrial release is actually release. Bail is not at all presumed. What this means is that unless the prosecutor can meet a very high burden in proving that that person is either a danger to the community, at risk of interfering with the administration of justice, or a risk for failure to appear - that person needs to be released from jail. The problem with bail right now is that the danger seems to be - the level of whether that person is a risk to community safety seems to be driven by how much that person can afford. The bail system, as everybody knows, is not perfect. In fact, it is incredibly flawed and it seems to incarcerate more people who simply are poor rather than anybody else. The bail and the setting of bail is also guided by the constitution and it never should be excessive. A judge needs to consider whether the setting of bail is going to do more harm than good. I've seen a client that was bound for diversion and dismissal made homeless by a capricious application of unnecessary bail in this court and I do think that the individual needs to be taken into consideration with this. Thank you.

[00:23:49] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Damon?

[00:23:53] Judge Damon Shadid: The plain fact of the matter is that all cash bail discriminates against poor people. That is just a fact. There's no getting around it. If you set bail on somebody, a rich person can afford to pay to get out, but a poor person can't. And that's why judges need more tools when it comes to release. That's the whole point of the Community Court, the Mental Health Court, and the Consolidated Calendar - is to give us more tools to allow people to be released on structured release programs that help them connect with services - even predisposition - so that they're safer in the community. Now, I've also started a larger project called the Jail Release Toolkit that I plan to start in Seattle and provide - and that's to try to give judges more options for structured release plans that conform with Rule 3.2, to allow us to follow the laws. Now, it also can't be ignored that the Supreme Court, when COVID started, very much told the judges that we need to only hold people in jail pretrial if they are a substantial risk of committing a violent crime. And so we've been following that, and we've learned really important things from that - and that is we don't have to hold as many people in jail pretrial as maybe we thought we did. And I think a lot of judges have learned from that as well, and so we're really in a great place right now where I believe judges are open to alternative structured releases that can make the community safer instead of just using jail.

[00:25:25] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Nyjat?

[00:25:28] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Yeah, so the presumption of release is where I start when reviewing a person's case. However, as everyone has said, the court is bound by looking at Rule 3.2. And other than whether or not someone is likely to commit a dangerous offense, you also will have to look at whether or not someone is actually going to come back to court. And if someone has a very high failure-to-appear rate, you have to maybe consider - if I release this person, will this person come back to court? For misdemeanor cases, the point of having alternatives and other types of programs is that these cases need to be addressed relatively quickly, and we can get the services to the people who need it. So in addition to maybe looking at someone's failure-to-appear history, maybe some other examples of things that can be done is maybe electronic home monitoring and/or day reporting, because the point is to make sure that people do not lose contact with the court. And how can we increase contact with people who are committing crimes in our community?

[00:26:39] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much.

And we will start this with Pooja. If you observed a party in your courtroom being poorly represented by an unprepared or ineffective lawyer, how would you handle the situation?

[00:26:53] Pooja Vaddadi: So a judge cannot get in between a client and their attorney. It's not my position to do that. All I can do is preside over the law. Now I'll have to rule, however - everything presents in there - and hopefully one of the attorneys speaks up in objection to the way that the representation is going on, but I can't let my personal bias get in there. Just because I think I might do the job differently doesn't mean that I would do it better than the attorney that's doing it right then and there. I should never be the one, as the judge, to substitute my own judgment for how an attorney is handling their case. They have the personal experience with their client. They have the personal experience with their particular case - the victim of the crime, the police officer, whatever it is that they're dealing with - they have that experience to know how to handle that case. Now if I do think that somebody is being unethical or anything like that, that might be a different situation where a judge might have the ability to rule on a particular ethical violation - something that is bound by the law. But again, I would never replace my own judgment nor question the authority of an attorney when they're dealing with their own case - that undermines the credibility of every attorney in that courtroom and it undermines people's confidence in the court. Thank you.

[00:28:08] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Adam?

[00:28:10] Judge Adam Eisenberg: Thank you. Well, I think that generally what Ms. Vaddadi has said is correct - the judges are not to interfere. However, there are certain circumstances - one day when I was a prosecutor actually, the defense attorney was drunk in the middle of a trial and her own attorney - the client is like, Your Honor, my attorney is drunk. And then the judge said, Judge Eisenberg - or sorry, Adam Eisenberg, I was his prosecutor - do you notice that she's drunk? Well, I'm sitting fairly close by and it put me in an awkward position, but the bottom line is that case resulted in a mistrial. And so there are circumstances where - and they're very rare, honestly - most attorneys that appear in front of us do a really good job. They may make tactical decisions that you might go, Why did you make that tactical decision - after the fact. But that's the area where the judge absolutely cannot invade. If you make a tactical decision to enter, submit evidence or not submit evidence - that's totally within the discretion of the attorney and the judge has to back away. If you have a situation where an attorney is obviously drunk in court or otherwise incapacitated in a way that's severe, you have to take some action. The nicest thing to do is reach out to the supervisor, ask the supervisor to come down, talk to the attorney, see if they can gauge what the situation is. In the case of the drunk attorney, that resulted in a mistrial. So that's an extreme case, I've only seen that once in the 30 years I've worked in the court system, but those things do happen. Thank you.

[00:29:38] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Nyjat?

[00:29:43] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Yeah, I think if I see someone in the courtroom that is treating their client badly and I'm on the bench - and it seems as if it's more than just a tactical decision, maybe it just seems as if it is just treating someone inhumanely - I would likely take a sidebar or maybe take a recess and take both prosecutor and the defense attorney into chambers and just basically explain what I'm seeing because judges can't have ex parte contact. So I would probably make a note of it to the attorney - that this behavior is not appropriate - especially again, if it's outside of trial tactics and it's just behavior that's just inhumane or treating their client disrespectfully, I would likely address it in chambers.

[00:30:49] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And Damon?

[00:30:52] Judge Damon Shadid: We are very lucky in Seattle Municipal Court to have a very high level of representation both from the private bar, the Department of Public Defense, and the City Attorney's Office. I never stop being impressed with the level of representation that we have, but that doesn't mean that sometimes there doesn't come an attorney who comes and is doing a poor job representing their client. And what we have to avoid here is we have to avoid - one, the client not getting a fair shake. And number two, a setup for ineffective assistance of counsel so that all the work that went into that trial, all the jurors, all the court staff, and everyone else who spent days trying to go through this trial only to have it overturned because there was ineffective assistance of counsel. Now, I'll tell you what I wouldn't do. I certainly wouldn't take them into my chambers - I think that would be unethical. It needs to be on the record - everything you say needs to be on the record so the public can hear it. I would very much try not to embarrass the attorney in front of their client, and that's when a sidebar may be appropriate as long as it's recorded. But if the attorney doesn't seem to be catching on, then the case has to be continued so that they can get prepared. Or, as Judge Eisenberg said, sometimes it will rise to the level of a mistrial. So while I would normally keep hands off as much as I can, I'm not going to let a defendant and my court be misrepresented by an attorney.

[00:32:25] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much.

I now have a question submitted from the audience during this forum, and it's a two-part question really. One, do you consider any types of crimes to be victimless? And for those that aren't, how will you work to assure that victims are listened to and considered when imposing a sentence or adjudicating a case? And we will be starting with Nyjat.

[00:32:53] Nyjat Rose-Akins: I apologize. I didn't hear the last part. Do you consider any types of crimes victimless? And I didn't hear the last part of the question?

[00:33:00] Crystal Fincher: Sure. How does each candidate work to assure that victims are listened to and considered when imposing a sentence or adjudicating a case?

[00:33:12] Nyjat Rose-Akins: So do I think any crime is victimless? No, I do not. I think some cases are definitely going to be more impactful to victims. But I believe when people are committing crimes, even low-level crimes - if it's a crime that continues to be done every day, it is impacting the community. The community is the victim if people are calling the police or observing this behavior. So even though all crimes are not going to be created equal, some crimes are definitely going to be more severe than others and impact more people. But I think for - to make sure that victims are being listened to, I think the main thing is to make sure that they have a seat at the table, they understand the process, they understand what the court is doing. What I've realized over the last number of years is that a lot of people really don't understand how the court functions or how it works. So I think the prosecutor's office - they have victims advocates that - I think it's good for them to talk with the victims to make sure that they understand the system and what and how things are happening. And even make sure that they come to court to see the process.

[00:34:37] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Damon Shadid?

[00:34:43] Judge Damon Shadid: Sure, there are some victimless crimes - failure to transfer title, driving with license suspended in the third degree - I have trouble figuring out who would be a victim there. But I, in general, agree with my opponent that it's a matter of impacting - how does it impact the community? How does it impact the individual? Now in Washington, we have a Victims Bill of Rights. It used to only apply to felonies, but now it applies to misdemeanors as well. But I've always followed it, even before it applied to misdemeanors. If a victim comes into my court and wants to speak at any level of the prosecution, I will allow them to speak because it's difficult to come into court. It takes a lot of bravery to speak to the judge and to face the person who may have abused you. And so that person should be given a high amount of respect. But on the flip side of that, that person should be given a lot of respect if they, for instance, do not want to continue with prosecution. So you have to listen to both sides of it. As far as community crimes like that, there's a reason why we call it Community Court. And the way that we have people give back to the community is through things like community service work, or things like that that are going to actually give back to the community that's been taken from. So yes, victims will be listened to at all stages of the proceedings, and I have tried to do that.

[00:36:10] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Pooja Vaddadi?

[00:36:14] Pooja Vaddadi: By definition and in general, no crime is going to be completely victimless and especially not in a strictly criminal court. I do agree with Judge Shadid - there are certain crimes like driving while license suspended or any licensing-type situation that is a failure to pay fines - I find it hard to believe also that there would be a real victim attached to that. But property crimes, thefts, whatever - the ordinary administration of justice is the tool by which we address these wrongs. However, the temptation for any judge is to substitute their outrage for the narrow bounds of sentencing permitted under the laws - and it's a challenge that we must rise to be impartial. It's essential not to misapply the law or you do risk revictimizing everyone through a second trial. That includes oversentencing, because you as a judge may think that a certain crime is particularly outrageous, but the worst thing that can happen is for that case to come back to court for a second time for a retrial or a resentencing where the victim has to, again, readdress the court to get any kind of recourse. That's traumatizing for anybody involved in the system. I do think it's important to listen to victims as well, especially when the court is trying to help that individual. Sometimes there are victims that come into court that wish to have the no contact order lifted so that their partner can support their lifestyle and their children. And I've seen this court deny administratively those requests to rescind the no contact order. And I would like to prevent that. Thank you.

[00:37:48] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Adam Eisenberg.

[00:37:48] Judge Adam Eisenberg: Thank you. Yes, as everyone has mentioned, there are a few categories of crimes that perhaps are victimless, but most of the crimes that appear in front of us have some sort of victim. I'm most involved in the domestic violence cases. And one of the things that's unique about the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, which is the diversion program that I've described in my opening that is an alternative to jail for domestic violence offenders, is an individualized approach and a multidisciplinary team that includes victim advocates. So the voices of victims, not necessarily the victim of the particular crime, but victims - community victims or community advocates who are very familiar with the survivors of domestic violence are able to provide input into how to manage the intervention. The goal, of course, is to make it safer for the victims. We take victims very seriously - I know all my colleagues do when they come to court and wish to explain what they experienced. Sometimes they have to do it through the trial, sometimes they have to do it at sentencing. But I think even low-level crimes - if the victim wants to come to court and present, certainly the Revised Code of Washington provides for that - for them to be able to explain. And I think the court has to hear and consider their opinion, their concerns along with the other evidence that they've heard when they make a decision. So victims' voices are very, very important in our court. Thank you.

[00:39:15] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And thank you to the audience for that question.

This next question will start with Judge Shadid. We've had several high profile incidents in Seattle where police officers' accounts of events may have differed from video evidence and other things turned up in subsequent investigations. Do judges have any responsibility or role in interrogating the honesty of police and law enforcement in the court?

[00:39:42] Judge Damon Shadid: Well, that is a very difficult question because it depends on what stage of the proceedings that you're in - whether or not you're in a pretrial, a motion, or a trial - and what would be appropriate in each case. What I will say is this - if a police officer breaks the law by perjuring themselves in court, that police officer should be subject to the laws just like any other person who comes into the court and they should be prosecuted. I've never actually seen a police officer prosecuted for perjury, but I have seen police officers lie on the stand in my eight years. And that's pretty shocking to me - police officers not only should be held to the same standard as everyone else, but they should be held to a higher standard. And they should not be coming in to lie in order to get somebody convicted. They need to be able to prove their case just based upon the truth. What I will say is that - at least the prior administration of the City Attorney's Office regularly dismissed cases when they saw a discrepancy between the police officer's testimony and contravening evidence. I think that's the right move. But unless it meets a very high standard, a judge is not able to dismiss the case themselves, it is incumbent upon the prosecutor to do so. If there is a motion to dismiss, then the defense attorney would have to make their proof based upon the rules, particularly 8.3.

[00:41:12] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Nyjat Rose-Akins.

[00:41:19] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Sorry. I agree with my opponent that everyone has a role when it comes to the court, and the court cannot necessarily just summarily dismiss a case that has been brought by the prosecution. I will say that the court can - there are many points in a case - for instance, if there is information about an officer, for instance, they call it Brady information - so it's information that the prosecution has to turn over and if they do not turn that over, then the court can entertain motions to dismiss because that is a huge violation. So if an officer has been found to have lied on the stand or any other behavior that has been deemed under Brady that needs to be disclosed to defense. So those are some ways that the court can, I guess, intervene when there is an issue with an officer specifically. But yeah, so that is the main thing - I would say that as I myself have actually prosecuted a police officer - because I truly believe that we all should be held to the same standard.

[00:42:46] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Judge Eisenberg.

[00:42:50] Judge Adam Eisenberg: So you asked the question, can judges interrogate? Well, it's not really our role to necessarily interrogate. However, in certain hearings, we do have the opportunity, as the fact finder of the hearing, to ask questions. I can give you an example of a stage where I did find there was not probable cause for arrest and it was based on how the officer behaved. The officer saw the defendant driving late at night at a high rate of speed - that was pretty clear. He pulled him over and he asked him to step out of the car and he said - I smell some alcohol, I would like you to do some field sobriety tests. The defendant was very polite - I don't want to do any field sobriety tests because I know what happens next. If I do field sobriety tests, you take me to jail. And the officer's like, No, I'm not going to do that, but I just need to know. And what happened was 15 minutes of the officer trying to cajole the defendant to take field sobriety tests and the defendant clearly didn't want to. The defendant was Black, the officer was not. There was some question as to whether this was racially biased or not - it wasn't 100% clear, but it was very suspicious. And at the end of the probable cause hearing, I determined there wasn't probable cause for the arrest - the officer did not have enough information and the case was dismissed. Unfortunately, the officer left the courtroom before he could hear my ruling, but it was a very troubling situation. And that's a circumstance where a judge can see what an officer is doing because my job is to determine whether there's probable cause. And at that point, I could say the officer was inappropriate in what he did.

[00:44:15] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Pooja Vaddadi.

[00:44:20] Pooja Vaddadi: And so I agree with pretty much what everybody else has said already. It's not necessarily a judge's role to take it upon themselves to litigate a case where an officer maybe is lying or engaging in any misconduct. But I have seen, as a public defender, police officers engaging in racially biased policing, which in my opinion is bad and sometimes in a lot of cases worse than perjury in court. The judge is a gatekeeper for evidence and has the power to address Brady issues or entertain motions to dismiss under circumstances that Ms. Rose-Akins actually described. And they should. There must be some distance between judges and the police so that they don't enjoy a special relationship and show any kind of bias towards any officers that are in that court. I've taken a case to trial actually in which a white officer investigated a scene for 40 minutes before releasing one person and then pretty much deciding that he smelled alcohol on my client's breath. The officer in that situation was a white man. My client was a Black driver. Such a case would raise a suspicion for me, although there is not much I can do in that situation unless the defense attorney does raise a type of motion. And then we are then faced with the ability for me to make a decision on whether that officer should testify or whether there needs to be some other kind of hearing to exclude that kind of testimony. Judges are bound by the law and that is how they need to operate. But we shouldn't let people with a lot of authority just get away with blatant disregard for the law.

[00:45:56] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much.

This next question, we're going to start with Adam Eisenberg. What do your endorsements say about you and what do you think your opponent's endorsements say about them?

[00:46:11] Judge Adam Eisenberg: Well, I've been endorsed by The Seattle Times, eight of the nine sitting justices on the Supreme Court, retired Justice Bobbe Bridge, judges across the state who I've worked with on committees on statewide issues related to domestic violence, related to how do we have a jury trial in the middle of COVID - which I was assigned to be on the task force for that - on various rules that I have been engaged with. And I've also been endorsed by the union that supports our court clerks, I've been endorsed by public defenders, prosecutors, defense attorneys - male, female - and I've been rated Exceptionally Well Qualified by the bar associations I listed. I think that says that I try to do the best job I can and it seems like the legal community recognizes that. My opponent has been endorsed by a lot of the - I've been endorsed by some of the legislative districts, she's been endorsed by all of them. And she's been endorsed by, I believe, a lot of the progressive diversity groups. I don't really have a thought on what that says, but I'm very proud of the endorsements that I've gotten, including The Seattle Times - and including former Governor Christine Gregoire and many, many other Seattle City Councilmembers and County Councilmembers. So I feel like I have a pretty diverse background of support. Thank you.

[00:47:38] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Pooja Vaddadi.

[00:47:41] Pooja Vaddadi: I believe that my endorsements, which are all of the Democratic organizational endorsements - I believe that they say that people are looking for a change in Seattle - they're dissatisfied with the way that the judiciary has been operating, they're dissatisfied with the way that the City is being policed right now. What they see is an increase in crime and a decrease in the amount of services that are there for the people of Seattle - there has been an increase of homeless people on the streets, there has been an increase of encampments. And the judiciary and the leadership in Seattle has been doing nothing about that. And people are ready for a change - people are ready for the type of perspective that I bring there. My campaign is staffed by dozens of defense attorneys who are actually afraid to publicly endorse, or who aren't permitted by their leadership to endorse. My opponent's endorsements do tell me that there are two versions of him. There's the version of my opponent that his personal friends see - I'm sure he is a great friend. But there is a version of my opponent that I know there. And unfortunately, a lot of people are not able to speak publicly about some of the behavior that they've seen on the court. And I have their support and their volunteer, I have their support in private. But I do have the support of a lot of organizations that are looking to make a change in Seattle right now and I plan on doing that.

[00:49:13] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Judge Shadid.

[00:49:18] Judge Damon Shadid: I am proud to be endorsed by every civil Democratic organization and every one of those are sole endorsements. I'm proud to have the endorsement of eight current and former Supreme Court Justices, and community leaders, elected officials like Larry Gossett - who is my personal hero - Girmay Zahilay, Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, Senator Rebecca Saldaña, City Councilperson Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, Andrew Lewis, Debora Juarez. I'm very proud - I've also got community leaders, including the president of the statewide NAACP endorsing me, 75 judges - elected judges across the spectrum. And I've actually gotten The Seattle Times and the Progressive Voters guide to agree that they should endorse me solely, which I don't know how many of us can brag that. So I'm very, very pleased with my endorsements - I think it's great. My opponent's been working hard. She's gotten some endorsements from judges and from former Mayor Durkan - who was a former prosecutor - as well as former Governor Gregoire, another former prosecutor. Her support definitely comes from the prosecution - that is clear - and she's been a career prosecutor all her life and so that makes a lot of sense to me. You go to the people that you know and who you've worked with in the past. But my support comes from across the spectrum - it's not single-focused.

[00:50:51] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Nyjat Rose-Akins.

[00:50:53] Nyjat Rose-Akins: I think my endorsements say that I'm not a politician. My endorsements say that I decided to run for this office because I believe that I am qualified. I'm endorsed by people who know my work and know what I have done and what I've done for the City for the last 12 years. I've been basically behind the scenes for the last 12 years, and this is my first time saying - I am going to put myself out there and be in the forefront because I know that I can make Seattle Municipal Court better based on all the work that I've done over the last 12 years collaborating and partnering with communities and with government officials. So I believe that's what my endorsements say about me. In regards to my opponent, I believe - he's been a sitting judge for the last eight years, so he has made those relationships. And usually, in all honesty, judicial candidates have difficulty because judges do not like to endorse against a sitting judge. So I think the fact that I've been able to get some endorsements from judges and retired judges - and mainly some Seattle Municipal Court judges, retired Seattle Municipal Court judges - I think that shows that I am more than capable of fulfilling this position.

[00:52:22] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much.

Now, we also asked each candidate to submit a question to ask their opponent. We will cover some of those questions right now. We will begin with a question from Judge Adam Eisenberg to Pooja Vaddadi - and I will read it verbatim.

Candidates for judicial positions usually get vetted by the King County Bar Association and the minority bar associations. It's a rigorous process in which each bar association reaches out to more than 30 attorneys familiar with your work on the bench, and conducts individual interviews with the candidates. I've gone through the vetting process and have been rated "Exceptionally Well Qualified" for Seattle Municipal Court by a number of associations. Why have you chosen not to be vetted?

[00:53:13] Pooja Vaddadi: So the answer to this question comes in two parts. I'm running a lot earlier than I meant to because it's urgent to bring change in the leadership in SMC. The court has been failing the people of Seattle. I saw that when I was a public defender in that court and I'm still seeing it right now. I enjoyed my career as a public defender and I was not planning on doing this quite this soon in my career, but here we are and I'm needed. Second, from what I've seen, judicial ratings seem to measure nothing more than tenure. Tenure and how often you've pro temmed in the court or tenure on how long you've been on a bench. They obviously don't look at practitioner surveys, they don't look at staff reviews and complaints, overturns on appeal for constitutional violations, or courtroom demeanor. I don't know if these bar associations have sat in my opponent's courtroom for a lengthy period of time. I don't think that I would have had a fair shake in front of these judicial ratings because they would have held my lack of tenure against me. I know I can do this job and I know I will be good at it. Thank you.

[00:54:31] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

Now I'm going to ask a question for Judge Adam Eisenberg from Pooja - verbatim. There's nothing more stressful than representing a client who is innocent and falsely accused; or when an innocent defendant insists on pleading guilty to get out of jail or to avoid a penalty for going to trial. Can you tell me about a time that these have happened in your courtroom and how you were personally impacted??

[00:55:26] Judge Adam Eisenberg: If someone's entered a guilty plea in front of me, I have to read the facts - and if there's a basis to support the plea, I have to accept the plea - so I'm not really sure there's - I understand the perspective of being a defense attorney and having a client who's doing something perhaps that you don't agree with or wish they would make a different choice. But people do make these choices to plead guilty for a variety of reasons and I don't often have - I very seldom have any understanding of why they're doing it specifically and their attorneys don't share that information with me. When someone enters a guilty plea, I try to give - if it involves a jail sentence, I try to give an appropriate sentence. If it's a guilty plea, the vast majority of times I agree with whatever the sentence is because it was a negotiated plea between the defense and the prosecution. If the defendant has agreed to a negotiated plea, I have no basis to disregard that. The perspective of a defense attorney isn't the same as the perspective on the bench when you hear someone entering a guilty plea. That's what I would say.

[00:56:37] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Pooja has asked for a rebuttal to that.

[00:56:40] Pooja Vaddadi: Oh, sorry. I guess I needed to unmute.

I just want to tell a brief story. I had a client in Snohomish County that was held on a DUI. It was a second lifetime DUI and he was held on a substantial amount of bail, a decision that a judge made. There was no blood test results yet and so we did not know what his Blood Alcohol Content was or if he had any drugs in his system. The prosecutor offered him a sentence that would have taken - and trial would have taken a lot longer to go. The point is - I'm running out of time - the point is he did have to plead guilty -

[00:57:19] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Judge Eisenberg has also asked for a rebuttal.

[00:57:25] Judge Adam Eisenberg: I just wanted to say that I'm really sorry about this situation that happened with her defendant that she represented in Snohomish County, but that doesn't really have anything to do with me or my court.

[00:57:37] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

Now I'm going to ask a question from Nyjat Rose-Akins to Damon Shadid. How does the court monitor a participant's connection with meaningful services if multiple cases are dismissed within 14 days of entering into Community Court?

[00:57:59] Judge Damon Shadid: Each individual who comes into Community Court is vetted by a judge for their appropriateness to enter the court. They have certain - we call them connections - that the person has to make in order to graduate from the court. There are different levels of connections - 2 weeks, 30 days, and 45 days that the person goes through. But here's what's really important to remember. This is a predisposition court. We connect people with services and then it's the City Attorney who moves to dismiss the case. This is what the City Attorney has agreed to. The City Attorney has never sought to change when they dismiss the case and it is their discretion to do so. We monitor to make sure they've made their connections, to make sure they've done a life skills class, to make sure they've done community service. We individually structure the program to make sure that we're addressing their specific barriers. But this is really important - it takes multiple connections to services for them to take. And so this criticism that - Oh, you're not holding them there long enough - well, how long do you expect someone to keep coming to court for a trespass or for a theft of socks? The actual rehabilitation has to match the crime has been committed and that's what we're trying to do. If a person's not willing to make those connections, they are prosecuted in mainstream court to the full extent of the law.

[00:59:29] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

I now have a question for Nyjat Rose-Akins from Damon Shadid. When I ran for Judge 8 years ago, I ran with specific plans for expanding and revitalizing Seattle's Therapeutic Courts. Over the past 8 years, I've delivered on those promises. I've not seen or heard any specific policy proposals that you would enact if you became a judge. Please give specific details of a policy proposal you would enact if elected.

[00:59:58] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Thank you. So - when elected, I plan to revamp Community Court - reset the standards of accountability and requirements, review individual case history to determine if they are currently a good fit, limit the number of cases that can be addressed at one time, review the types of cases that are eligible, and redefine what is considered low-level crime. With doing that, I'd like to incorporate more probation and social services support to track and assist with program progress and participant needs. Also collaborate with more social service providers to bring them to the court to create a one-stop shop for individuals. I also want to collaborate more with nonprofits, other government agencies to create a pipeline - a proper pipeline for housing, mental health treatment, and job placement. I also would like to work more with probation services and resources, renew day reporting options - which would allow maybe Zoom options for people to check in with probation and not always have to come into court. And also maybe get more funding - not maybe, really try to get more funding - on electronic home monitoring for indigent defendants. So those are a few of the things I plan to do once elected. Thank you.

[01:01:25] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Judge Shadid has asked for a rebuttal.

[01:01:30] Judge Damon Shadid: Sure. So the one policy proposal my opponent has is to reform the court that I created, which is very interesting because she works for the City Attorney's Office and she has never come to a meeting [garbled] in court. She's never bothered to actually get to know what the court is. Instead, she's read a few dockets and she thinks she has an opinion on it. But why hasn't her boss ever asked for these changes? They haven't. So if she had been in the court for the past eight years, she'd know that we're already doing these things and that her policy is not policy.

[01:02:07] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Nyjat, you have rebuttal time.

[01:02:12] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Thank you. I think it is somewhat disingenuous to say that the City Attorney's Office has never asked to make some changes to Community Court. I believe the City Attorney's Office requested trying to opt some people out because they had way too many cases and my opponent said no. And that is why there was an issue with the high utilizers. Aditionally, revamping Community - we had 90 seconds to speak - I brought up one specific thing in regards to Community -

[01:02:49] Crystal Fincher: I will allow a second round of rebuttals for both of you since we are in this conversation here. Judge shadid.

[01:02:57] Judge Damon Shadid: Community Court took two years to negotiate. My opponent doesn't seem to understand that all changes to Community Court have to come through negotiation. Her boss came to me with a requested change, which I disagreed with. That is how you negotiate. That requested change then went to the full bench and the bench voted to adopt the change. That's what negotiation is and that's how you create programs.

[01:03:30] Crystal Fincher: And Nyjat.

[01:03:31] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Yes, thank you. I also had the opportunity to review Community Court outside of Seattle. I went to Auburn Community Court and that program is a model structure for what a community court should be - where individuals actually engage with resources - it's a one-stop shop where they can come in and actually get the services they need and actually check-in with the court, check-in with their defense attorney, and check-in with the prosecution on a weekly and sometimes bi-week, bi-monthly basis based on the type of court.

[01:04:08] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

Now, these probably will be quick questions, but we'll see - two short ones - and we will begin with Nyjat Rose-Akins. Have you ever been disciplined by the bar association or state commission on judicial conduct?

[01:04:23] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Have not. No, I have not.

[01:04:26] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And Damon Shadid?

[01:04:30] Judge Damon Shadid: No.

[01:04:32] Crystal Fincher: And Pooja?

[01:04:37] Pooja Vaddadi: No.

[01:04:37] Crystal Fincher: And Judge Eisenberg?

[01:04:40] Judge Adam Eisenberg: No.

[01:04:41] Crystal Fincher: Okay.

Next question - are there any specific types of cases in which you know you'll have to find it necessary to disqualify or recuse yourself? We will start with Damon Shadid.

[01:04:58] Judge Damon Shadid: There have been times when I've had to recuse myself. I was a public defender for quite some time before and I've had clients come into my courtroom who I represented in the past and I certainly recused myself from those cases. There have been times when I've made mistakes and I've agreed to recuse myself from a case. It happens to the best of us. It's very important to me that there is not only the fact of an impartial judge, but the appearance of one as well. And so if I even suspect that somebody is perceiving me as not being impartial, I'll recuse myself most of the time, unless I think that the attorney is forum shopping. So yes, a judge should be ready to recuse themselves whenever they feel that it's in the best interests of both the community and the defendant.

[01:05:49] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Nyjat?

[01:05:53] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Yes, I think the fairness is very, very important in court, so I would likely - I have not had to recuse myself as I've been pro temming in court, but I believe I would likely recuse myself from friends and/or people that I have worked closely with in the City Attorney's Office or even in City government.

[01:06:19] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Adam Eisenberg?

[01:06:25] Judge Adam Eisenberg: There have been some cases where I've had to recuse myself because I either knew some of the parties, or there was an incident with my neighbor that was reported to the police and I was actually a witness. So I made sure, right out of the gate, that when the case came to our court - because I suspected it would, based on the charge - I went and talked to the Presiding Judge and said, I can't have anything to do with this case because I saw the police arrive last night at the house. So those things happen - obviously, that happens very, very rarely. But otherwise, recusal is normal when you know parties or you have information about the case that you shouldn't have had, you heard - because of a neighbor talking or whatever. But there's not a particular type of case that I recuse myself from. It's really a - it's a case-by-case circumstance based on if I know the players or witnesses or whatever. Thank you.

[01:07:19] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Pooja Vaddadi?

[01:07:23] Pooja Vaddadi: Oh, I imagine I would have to recuse myself pretty often, at least in my first year as a judge, seeing as I was practicing in that court most recently. Unlike most of the bench, I'll have been a public defender within the last decade, so I imagine that I would recognize a good number of people that come through that court. I also agree with a lot of what was stated here. If you do recognize parties, probably best to recuse yourself. And certainly at any point when a defense attorney or a prosecutor does motion for me to recuse myself, I agree with both Judge Damon and Ms. Rose-Akins that the appearance of impartiality is important. And if any party believes that I need to recuse myself and they make - go so far as to make a motion - I think it would be important to hand the case off to a different judge at that point, too. I think the confidence in the judiciary is definitely elevated when judges do take their role of impartiality very seriously, and don't take it personal when an attorney does motion for the judge to recuse themselves in that court. So that would be the only cases I can imagine myself having to recuse myself from.

[01:08:33] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

I have a submitted question for Judge Adam Eisenberg. You've received survey results from the King County Bar Association survey for attorneys who have appeared before you. Respondents rated you lowest amongst your colleagues for impartiality, and you had the highest percentage of people respond to the survey call. In coverage of this, you said it could be explained by the fact that people are more likely to respond or survey if they have negative feedback. But do you feel you have a responsibility to look more deeply into these concerns, and possibly uncover the root of biases that you may not be aware that you have that may be impacting the trust and integrity of your court?

[01:09:16] Judge Adam Eisenberg: So the King County Bar Association poll that they're talking about is simply an anonymous poll. And I feel that the six bar associations that do very detailed vetting, which my opponent says she's not done because she didn't have time - although I did it this summer - once I knew I had an opponent, I got my ratings renewed. That process is extremely detailed. You have to fill out an application with many essays, you have to list the last 10 attorneys who appeared opposite you, you have to list 10 more attorneys who appeared in front of you, you have to list 10 more attorneys who are aware of your work, you have to list the last 5 trials that you've done with both the prosecutor and the defense attorney, and 6 more people who are aware of your work. And the bar associations - each bar association calls these people up and asks for their opinions - confidential, which I have no knowledge of. And so they're hearing from vast number of attorneys that have appeared in front of me and they're actually hearing them, it's not an anonymous poll. And through this process, I've been rated "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by the King County Bar Association, the Loren Miller Bar Association which represents African-American attorneys, the Latino Latina Bar Association, the Joint Asian Bar Association Rating Committee, and QLaw the LGBTQ+. And each one of these panels has men and women and prosecutors and defense attorneys on it. And so I feel like that is a much more accurate rating of my performance.

[01:10:40] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

Thank you. And a follow up question from me, actually. In that situation, notwithstanding your Very Well Qualified ratings from several bar associations, do you dismiss any criticisms that have mounted there, or any validity of that concern? Or do you feel the need to look into that further to potentially provide more confidence in those people who responded that way?

[01:11:06] Judge Adam Eisenberg: Whenever I - over the years, if an attorney has expressed some concern about how I've been in court, I've met with them personally and asked for their feedback and incorporated that into how I handle my courtroom. So an anonymous poll is an anonymous poll. So it's really not something you can actually respond to. There's no one to call and say, Hey, why did you say that? But if an attorney in the past has expressed concerns, I have reached out to them and asked them, Can you talk to me about this and maybe I can learn from it. And I feel like I have - any time that's been brought to my attention.

[01:11:43] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much.

And I have another round of questions submitted for Damon Shadid and Nyjat Rose-Akins by each other. And I will start with this question from Damon to Nyjat.

Most, if not - many, if not most of the people your employer, the City Attorney, calls "High Utilizers" in the criminal legal system have significant needs in untreated mental health issues, addiction, housing, and employment. If these people, most of whom are people of color, are held in jail pending trial - without being connected to services for these needs - how would you propose that the issues that led them to being repeatedly incarcerated would be any better when they are finally released?

[01:12:30] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Can you read that one more time, please? That's a very compound question.

[01:12:36] Crystal Fincher: I can. Many, if not most of the people your employer, the City Attorney calls "High Utilizers" in the criminal legal system have significant needs in untreated mental health issues, addiction, housing, and employment. If these people, most of whom are people of color, are held in jail pending trial - without being connected to services for these needs - how would you propose that the issues that led them to being repeatedly incarcerated would be any better when they are finally released?

[01:13:09] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Okay. So what I will first say in regards to the High Utilizer Initiative that the City Attorney has brought forward over the last few months - the only thing, I guess, I would say that the request from the City Attorney was that these individuals are not screened in Community Court. As the question states, these individuals have significant needs - housing, addiction, all of those things - and Community Court, where you only have 14, 30, or 45 days to interact with the court, was likely not serving these individuals in the first place. So that's first and foremost. Additionally, the court is who sets bail or who keeps someone in jail. So the prosecution can make a bail request. However, ultimately, that decision is made by the court in regards to whether or not someone is going to be held on bail or what the release conditions should be. So the court is the ultimate gatekeeper and the decision maker in regards to what happens to High Utilizers. The question for the City Attorney was that they no longer thought High Utilizers or individuals who are committing large amounts of crime should be...

[01:14:47] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Judge Shadid, you've asked for rebuttal time.

[01:14:51] Judge Damon Shadid: This is an incredibly misleading answer that my opponent just gave, and it's a little shocking actually. The City [Attorney's Office] went behind the judges' backs and reserved beds in the jail for High Utilizers without even telling the court they were going to do it. They have provided no other solutions for High Utilizers other than holding them in the jail beds that they reserved for those High Utilizers. They excluded High Utilizers from the specific program that was meant to help them and refused to change the program in order to...

[01:15:32] Crystal Fincher: Looks like we arrived at time there. Nyjat, did you wish for a rebuttal?

[01:15:40] Nyjat Rose-Akins: I'm not sure - I'm in the criminal division. I am a City Attorney and I do speak with my colleagues, but again, I don't know what was misleading about saying that the court is the one who makes the bail determination, not the City Attorney. We ask and we make a request, but ultimately the court decides whether or not to set bail, not the City Attorney.

[01:16:08] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Additional rebuttal time - Judge Shadid.

[01:16:14] Judge Damon Shadid: For her to pass the buck - the City Attorney is the one who is requesting bail of the judge, so it's a two-way street. But Community Court was specifically engineered to connect people to services instead of holding them in jail. This is what the City Attorney's Office has stopped their so-called High Utilizers from doing without any review of the disproportionate impact on BIPOC people, of the Trueblood class of people, who have mental health issues and so many other issues. They ignored all of it in this catch-all program.

[01:16:48] Crystal Fincher: And Nyjat?

[01:16:53] Nyjat Rose-Akins: There's no ignoring of anything. There are still a number of people in Community Court that have multiple - 5, 6, 7+ cases - that are still in Community Court and not considered High Utilizers. So my opponent is shifting the blame to the City Attorney when everyone has a role and the court cannot say now that they're not going to be the one setting bail or setting bail. That is the court's role - is to...

[01:17:27] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Looks like time is up.

Now this question, we will start with Pooja Vaddadi. Do you believe the current system for disciplining lawyers and judges is effective?

[01:17:47] Pooja Vaddadi: Oh, that's a complicated question. No, I think, might be the short answer. How to fix that - I'm not sure. But I have seen attorneys engage in pretty unethical behavior in terms of holding fines or fees from clients that had not yet been granted to them, holding money that they've recovered from civil forfeiture claims and depositing it into their own accounts - and getting something as simple as six months of suspension on their license. I think the system is working in such a way to prop up the careers of attorneys and judges sometimes, despite what kind of ethical violations that they've broken. I think judges need to be held to a much higher standard, especially when it comes to whether or not they are acting impartially in their courtroom. I've seen judges act in a biased format, I've seen judges not check their biases in the door before presiding over a matter - and I don't think that should happen. I think there needs to be a better oversight for judicial discipline or even attorney discipline as well. How to fix that? I'm not entirely sure right now, possibly a little bit more oversight - people actually coming into the courtroom and watching lengthy calendars, much like the SMC Court Watch. But that would be my solution.

[01:19:16] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Adam Eisenberg.

[01:19:20] Judge Adam Eisenberg: So attorneys are monitored by the Bar Association, judges are monitored by the Judicial Conduct Commission. And I think our state has a very, very high bar of judicial conduct investigations. So we're bound by the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Judicial Conduct Commission does investigate judges when there are complaints. A lot of complaints the judge never hears about because the commission dismisses, which is also true with the Bar Association. But when they investigate and find that a judge has done something inappropriate, or an attorney - in both cases, these commissions take them to task. And I've had colleagues on the bench be reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Commission for various behavior. And I know that they take their role very seriously. I know that judges throughout the state - because we have conferences - we have representatives come and talk to us about ethical issues. I know that I certainly take the Judicial Conduct Commission very seriously, as I think my colleagues do. And I think it's actually one of the most effective judicial conduct commissions in the nation. So there is something there. Yeah.

[01:20:34] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Nyjat?

[01:20:38] Nyjat Rose-Akins: I agree with Judge Eisenberg that I believe the Washington State Bar and the judicial ethics committees - that they actually do a good job. I mean, I've known of a number of people who have been sanctioned or reprimanded through the bar. And it's been because of their interaction with one client. So I believe if there is a complaint made to the bar or to the judicial board, I believe they do investigate those claims robustly and do try to hold attorneys and judges accountable.

[01:21:23] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Judge Shadid?

[01:21:27] Judge Damon Shadid: Well, it works when it works, but there are some serious flaws in both. And the biggest flaw that I see is that there's a lot of deference to power. Let me tell you - eight years ago, when I ran against an incumbent judge, the judge was caught red-handed in an ethical violation. And the Judicial Conduct Commission refused to say anything about it until after the election was over. And after the election was over, that's when they decided to discipline him by saying that he could never be a judge again. Now, that's not right. They obviously should have let the voters know that there was an issue, but they refused to do so. They also seek to make examples of certain judges. Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu was made an example out of for speaking out on a topic that she was passionate about. And sometimes I think that judges are held to too high a standard when balanced against their First Amendment rights. I also think that a lot of the problems with prosecution also happens with judges and lawyers, where the judges and lawyers are threatened with much harsher sanctions if they don't cooperate with the different committees. So even though I've never been sanctioned as a lawyer or a judge, I think there are some serious flaws with the way the systems work.

[01:22:42] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

And this question from Nyjat Rose-Akins to Damon Shadid. Does the court impose a limit to the number of cases participants can bring into Community Court?

[01:22:54] Judge Damon Shadid: So this was a big part of our negotiations and the City Attorney's Office decided that they would allow cases to be bundled, and there is no upper limit. However, each of these bundles of cases has to be individually approved by a judge in order to come into the court. And so although they're referred to Community Court for their first appearance, the judge has to say, Okay, this is appropriate. Now, there have been times when bundles of cases have come before me where I've said, No, these cases do not belong here, there's been too much of an impact on the public and these need to go through mainstream court. And sometimes the defense attorney and the prosecution will then work together and come back to me with a new package that they think will work better for that individual. So it's a case-by-case basis - the judge has to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not a bundle of cases is appropriate to come into the court.

[01:23:52] Crystal Fincher: Thank you.

And for our last question this evening, we will start with Nyjat Rose-Akins.

Why should the public vote for you instead of your opponent?

[01:24:05] Nyjat Rose-Akins: Thank you. And thank you for this opportunity. The public should vote for me because I understand what is happening in the community. I have worked for the City of Seattle for the last 12 years - and not only as a prosecutor in the criminal division for the first 6 - but for the last 6 years, I've been meeting with community. Meeting with people in the East Precinct, in Chinatown ID, in Downtown area - so I understand the issues that are happening on the ground. I see those issues, I talk to community members and understand - and businesses - and understand some of the issues that they are seeing. I get emails from community members and businesses that are closing and community members that feel they can't go outside because of the issues in their communities. And that's why I decided to run - because I know what is happening and I have the qualifications to do this job and to actually put forward a program that can actually work and help people. As I said, working and going to the Auburn Community Court and working in Community Court myself when I started at the City Attorney's Office in 2010, I understand how the program is to work. It's to provide services and connections for people, not to just shuffle them out because that shows that they're 98% or 80% completed the program. We need meaningful programs. And that is why I...

[01:25:43] Crystal Fincher: Thank you very much. Judge Damon Shadid?

[01:25:47] Judge Damon Shadid: As we found out with the latest appointments to the Supreme Court - United States Supreme Court - sometimes candidates will say things that then don't come true when they get appointed or elected to the bench. And that's what's lucky about me - I've been here for eight years. I have a proven history. I have a proven record of collaboration, of breaking down silos, of creating programs that actually help people, that actually get people out of the criminal legal system instead of sitting and rotting in jail, that actually make our community safer, but also help defendants get better. And that's what we need more of. If you want more of the same, then yes, you could vote a career prosecutor onto the bench who hasn't even stepped foot on the court for six years. Or you can look at my record, you can look at my endorsements, you can look at everything that I've done - including the testimonials that I posted on my website - and you can see that I am a judge who delivers results. Sometimes I have to fight for those results. Sometimes I have to beat my head against a wall, but I never stopped fighting - I think that Judge Eisenberg will agree with that. So that's why I should be here. I think I've earned four more years and it's just going to get better if I get re-elected and I'd appreciate your vote. Thank you.

[01:27:02] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Pooja Vaddadi.

[01:27:05] Pooja Vaddadi: Thank you. I love being an attorney. I love being a public defender because I felt purpose in protecting the most vulnerable from an indifferent system. I've managed caseloads as large as 200 and I've taken 11 cases to trial and prepared hundreds more. I believe that Seattle Municipal Court has the power and potential to promote public safety with tools like treatment, diversion, and other intervention programs - without which the court does nothing but contribute to the revolving door of crime. If elected, I will dedicate my career to public safety through the faithful application of the law and the rigorous implementations of programs that are proven to help the most vulnerable and end the cycle of incarceration. The stakes of this election are very high. I practiced in this court and it was the urgency of what I saw in that court that drove me to run this election term. I've said that many times, but I think now is the time to raise an issue that elevated my urgency even more, as I learn more about the people that Judge Eisenberg does interact with. A number of women leaders from Seattle Municipal Court are watching this program tonight and have been waiting for the question to be asked. Judge Eisenberg, how have you taken personal responsibility as a leader for the staff morale crisis, staff exodus, actual or threatened employment litigation by former staff that named you, and related settlements? If you're watching this podcast, you should understand the stakes of this election. The institution of Seattle Municipal Court is in tatters caused by a pattern of abuse and sex-based discrimination.

[01:28:47] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. Judge Eisenberg.

[01:28:52] Judge Adam Eisenberg: I'm not sure how to exactly respond to that last claim. I became Presiding Judge in July of this year and there have been many administrative decisions that have evolved over the last several years, as the court goes, and so I'm not exactly sure what specific allegations are being labeled against me. I've been Presiding Judge since July, and I'm trying to lead the court the best I can. I focus on three things - restorative justice, which is recognizing systemic racism that we have, and trying to come up with alternatives to traditional models of jail, like my DVIP program, the Domestic Violence Intervention Project - that's an alternative to jail. I also focus on the individuals - the people who come in front of me, as well as in the DVIP program - it's an individualized treatment program. I believe that's the best way to help people heal and move on from the court system. And third, I try to move the needle of justice, and I do it in various ways. I'm on committees. One thing I did is GR 22 - GR 22 is General Rule 22. It protects family court records and guardianship records from disclosure on the internet, from public disclosure. Four years ago, I proposed that we expand GR 22 to protect chemical dependency evaluations, mental health evaluations, and any time a court orders treatment of a defendant, those records should be protected so that they can't just appear on a public portal. This summer, the Supreme Court unanimously approved my rule change, and now those records are protected effective September 1st. That helps the defendants, that helps the community, that's the kind of judge that I am and I appreciate your vote. Thank you.

[01:30:25] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And with that, this forum comes to a close. I want to thank our candidates for participating and making this an engaging and informative event. To those watching online, thanks so much for tuning in and sending in questions. If you missed any of the discussion tonight, you can catch up on the Hacks & Wonks Facebook page or on Twitter, where we're @HacksWonks. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii. Special thanks to the coordinators for this evening, Dr. Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli, as well as our fabulous volunteer, Ilona, who works incredibly hard to put on this event this evening.

Most importantly, I want to remind you to vote. Ballots will start arriving in your mailboxes next week and are due on November 8th. You can register to vote, update your registration, and see what will be on your ballot at Be sure to tune into Hacks & Wonks on your favorite podcast app for our midweek interviews and our Friday week-in-review shows, or at

I've been your host, Crystal Fincher. We'll see you next time.