The Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct announced Friday it has filed a statement of charges against former Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman.
The commission found probable cause on Nov. 19 that Zimmerman allegedly violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when he was caught on courtroom cameras in March disparaging a local Black man who was fatally shot by Clark County sheriff’s deputies last year.
The commission said Zimmerman is charged with violating multiple canon rules “by making comments about a controversial incident and the related impending case(s) that displayed racial bias, indicated a lack of impartiality, and implied that he had a personal channel of communication with the sheriff’s department regarding pending and impending cases.”
Zimmerman has 21 days from receipt to respond to the charges. If he does not, it will be treated as an admission of the allegations, according to the statement of charges.
Following criticism and calls for his resignation, Zimmerman retired from the bench June 30. He had temporarily stepped away in mid-March after self-reporting his comments to the commission. The former judge’s son is a deputy who was on the drug task force trying to arrest Kevin Peterson Jr.
In the hot mic discussion, Zimmerman called Peterson “so dumb” and criticized Peterson’s father, whom he said acknowledged the shooting was justified but then woke up the next morning “with dollar signs in his eyes,” according to a transcript of the discussion.
He made the comments in a casual conversation with a court commissioner that took place in an otherwise empty courtroom. His remarks were broadcast over social media because the cameras and microphones were still live after a previous court session.
In the statement of charges, the commission said it received dozens of complaints about the incident in the days and weeks that followed. After a confidential investigation, the commission served Zimmerman with a statement of allegations in May, accusing him of violating the above-mentioned Canons. On July 23, Zimmerman submitted a written response denying he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Canon 1 requires judges “to uphold the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” and Canon 2 requires judges “to perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently and diligently.”