Former Pierce County Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz recently settled a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court for $10,000 plus $3,740 attorney fees and costs. Judge Stolz, in her failed 2016 re-election campaign, managed a full-fledged election campaign without reporting or filing any documents with Washington State’s Public Disclosure Commission. This stealth campaign included mailers, campaign signs, a campaign website, and a social media campaign, yet it was impossible for any concerned citizens to discover who contributed to her
campaign or how she spent her campaign dollars. As part of this legal settlement, $9,000 of the fine is suspended, provided she complies with the law and discloses this previously hidden information (see final settlement agreement linked here).
This legal case was initiated by a complaint filed by this author with the Public Disclosure Commission on August 16 last year (linked here). This ghost campaign was discovered on the PDC website (linked here) with the only disclosed information a C1 form to indicate she was running for office (linked here) and an independent expenditure of $637.94 reported by “Fuse Votes” who supported Judge Stolz in her reelection efforts (linked here). Despite the obvious and egregious nature of this violation, neither the Public Disclosure Commission nor the Washington State Attorney General’s Office chose to take any action. This lack of enforcement of the law (it is not necessarily nefarious – both agencies have been busy lately) forced this author to initiate a Citizens Action Notice, which ultimately resulted in the settlement and hopefully a full, transparent accounting.
After this complaint was filed, this author was contacted by one concerned local Pierce County resident who had believed that her former roommate had received an unusually harsh sentence by Judge Stolz. This person believed that Judge Stolz was influenced in this sentencing decision by letters sent to the Judge from people who had funded Stolz’s election campaign. However, this person could not investigate this matter because Stolz willfully failed to disclose ANY donors to her campaign. There appear to be other residents concerned about who funded Judge Stolz’s campaign and it appears fortunate for Pierce County residents that Stolz lost her re-election bid. However, losing the election should not exempt anyone from complying with the law (despite some recent Democrat legislator’s efforts to do just this).
This case is particularly noteworthy because this is a long-time Superior Court Judge (re-elected four times for 16 years) who presided over sentencing and the enforcement of the laws against thousands of people. As a judge, she must be above reproach and demonstrate her willingness to comply with the law in her personal life. She clearly failed to do this in 2016, and it is hoped that she will come clean about who and how she funded her failed political campaign. If she fails to do this, then she will be paying the additional $9,000 and drawing even further attention to her lawbreaking.
There is an important message to be sent by this case, and a similar case this author has filed against another failed judge candidate (linked here). Judges can’t presume they are above the law. They must comply with the same laws they enforce on the rest of us little people. If anything, they must hold themselves to a higher standard. Those standards have been slipping lately. Perhaps this case is just one small step towards restoring the high standard we all expect and deserve in our judges.
OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.” IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE. IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT. IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.” UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED…