VOLUME 28 NO. 14 | MARCH 28 - APRIL 3, 2009

Taxpayers to pay for judge’s mistake

Last updated 3-26-09 at 8:05 a.m.

Judge Ron Mamiya

By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

The City of Seattle and Judge Ron Mamiya, 59, have to equally split a settlement of $135,000. A former Seattle Municipal Court employee said Mamiya sexually harassed her this past November according to public documents released by the city.

The employee is not identified in pages of documents due to the state’s public disclosure act.

The employee, a single mother of two, according to documents, said Mamiya insisted on kissing and fondling her after she ended a sexual relationship with him, according to the settlement agreement released by the City Attorney’s Office on Friday, March 20.

In a statement released Friday, Mamiya expressed his regret over what had transpired. “I want to acknowledge my horrible lapse in judgment,” he stated. “I have no excuse for my role in this incident, and my actions have hurt many people important to me, including my wife, family, and my community. I take full responsibility for my behavior.”

Mamiya graduated from Franklin High School in Seattle in 1967. He went on to attend the University of Washington before getting his juris doctorate from the Gonzaga School of Law. As a judge, he has served on the bench since 1981.

The court employee said in a declaration filed by the City Attorney’s Office that she initially saw Mamiya as a mentor, but their relationship reached a personal level in 2007.

In February 2008, the two began a sexual relationship, according to the declaration.

Mamiya told his wife about the relationship, and in April 2008, Mamiya and the court employee decided to end the affair. After that, the employee became alarmed when the judge repeatedly returned to her office and called her into his chambers, kissing and touching her sexually without her permission, the declaration said.

“I tried to avoid situations when I would be alone with Judge Mamiya, as he seemed to think it was open season whenever we were alone,” she said in the declaration.

The employee said she dreaded coming in to work. In June, she claimed that the judge showed up uninvited at her home.

The employee said she became depressed and resigned from her court job in August.

Mamiya was married at the time of the affair, but he and his wife filed for divorce on Feb. 25, according to court documents.

Several years ago, Mamiya planned to run for King County Superior Court Judge. He had hired a campaign manager, released a press packet, and lined up supporters. However before an announcement was made, Mamiya dropped out, giving vague reasons, disappointing his Japanese supporters. It lead some to speculate that there was something more than the vague reasons he was giving.

“Words cannot describe how sorry and horribly embarrassed I am by my conduct, and I hope people judge me not on this incident alone, but by the balance of my contribution to the community,” read Mamiya’s statement. “I want to thank my friends and coworkers who have offered me kind words and support as I try to atone for my actions, and mend bridges where I can.”   

A staff member, who works inside the court house, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said she was shocked.

She liked Mamiya because “he took time to help and talk to people, always said hi, was never arrogant. He is one of the judges you can really talk to.”

Kiku Hagashi, a community volunteer, said, “It is sad to see leaders in our com-munity taken down by something like this.”

Tama Murotani-Inaba, whose wedding was officiated by Mamiya in 2003, said, “I am surprised by what he did. ... But I still admire him greatly and always will.”

The Asian Bar Association of Washington (ABAW) had not released a statement at the time of this report regarding the settlement. “At this time, we just found out about it. It’s difficult to come out with anything,” said ABAW President Benes Aldana. Aldana said the ABAW has a scheduled board meeting next week. He said he will bring up the situation with Mamiya, and after that, there may or may not be a statement.

Mamiya was Nikkei Heritage Association of Washington DBA Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (NHAW/JCCCW)’s board of directors’ president and resigned in the fall of 2008.

NHAW/JCCCW released a statement that read, “The local media recently released information regarding Judge Ron Mamiya. Nikkei Heritage Association of Washington DBA Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (NHAW/JCCCW) is saddened by the reports and was not aware of the allegations made against him.”

Reiko Callner, executive director of the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct, noted that any kind of scandal would affect a judge’s career, as “judges are held up to a higher standard [morally].” Reiko stressed that she is not involved in the case and is speaking based on what she read in the press.

A gag order prohibits the parties to discuss the specifics of the case. Both the employee’s lawyer and the City Attorney’s office refused to comment on the settlement. According to documents, the employee is not to seek employment with the Seattle Municipal Court again.

According to the Court, Mamiya remains a sitting member of the Municipal Court Bench though he is currently on leave. (end)

The Seattle Times and Assunta Ng contributed to this report.

Stacy Nguyen can be reached at stacy@nwasianweekly.com.


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