A Washington state agency issued a statement saying it had probable cause to believe that a district court judge violated judicial conduct when he derided a Black man who was killed by sheriff’s deputies last year.
The Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct on Friday issued a statement of charges against former Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman, who has retired since the March incident. The commission says Zimmerman violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when he appeared to have been caught on a hot mic making derogatory remarks against Kevin Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old Black man killed by Clark County sheriff’s deputies last year during an attempted drug bust.
The statement says “probable cause exists to believe” that Zimmerman violated several rules around impartiality and that his alleged comments “displayed overt racial bias.” It doesn’t list any consequences that Zimmerman may face.
“As a practical matter, the judge isn’t facing any real consequences,” said Mark Lindquist, the attorney representing Peterson’s family, by text message. “This isn’t even about the judge anymore. This is the Judicial Conduct Commission doing damage control for the judiciary. The judge’s callous comments about a grieving family, his racial bias, and his implied chumminess with the sheriff’s department undermined public faith in our justice system.”
Zimmerman’s comments were streamed live on YouTube after a court hearing concluded in March. In the video, Zimmerman is heard telling a court staffer that Peterson had a “death wish,” and that he was “so dumb” for fearing a lifetime jail sentence and not cooperating with the regional drug task force during the sting.
Zimmerman’s son, Erik Zimmerman, was one of the deputies on the case and present for the sting, investigative records show. He was not one of the three deputies who fired at Peterson as he ran away that evening on Oct. 29, 2020.
The elder Zimmerman also suggested that Peterson’s family was capitalizing on his death. He noted Peterson’s father showed up to the scene after the shooting, but that “the next day he wakes up with dollar signs in his eyes and George Floyd’s attorneys.”
A deluge of public defenders and prosecutors in Clark County called on Zimmerman to resign after his comments came to light. The commission’s statement says it received dozens of complaints, including a self-report from Zimmerman on March 15. He retired in June.
Zimmerman has 21 days to respond to the commission’s statement.