Justices: Judge’s bus ad did not violate conduct rules

February 11, 2022 GMT

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court says a King County Superior Court judge did not violate any judicial conduct rules when he agreed to be featured in a community college ad that ran on public buses.

The justices on Thursday unanimously reversed a decision by the Judicial Conduct Commission to admonish Judge David Keenan.

The 2019 ad promoted the nonprofit North Seattle College. Keenan, who got into legal trouble as a kid and dropped out of high school, obtained his high school diploma through a North Seattle College program and then obtained his two-year degree while working nights as a security guard.

He later transferred to the University of Washington and attended Seattle University Law School. The ad noted that Keenan entered law “in part to advocate for marginalized communities.”

The Judicial Conduct Commission found the ad violated rules that say a judge must be impartial and that prohibit judges from abusing the prestige of their office to advance the economic interests of others.

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But the justices said the ad merely states why Keenan wanted to be a lawyer, and that no reasonable person would infer from it that he lacks an open mind as a judge.

Further, they said, the judicial conduct rules generally encourage judges to participate in their communities and to better the legal system. The ad did that by encouraging students to attend college and suggesting they could become lawyers or judges, the justices said.

Keenan has been a Superior Court judge since 2017.