July 27, 2006
Seattle lawyer files bogus Supreme Court candidacy to confuse voters

Postman has the scoop that a man named Michael Johnson has filed as a candidate for the state Supreme Court position currently held by Susan Owens and already challenged by Sen. Stephen Johnson.

Postman says that Michael Johnson was refusing phone calls today. It's hard to believe that he filed for any reason other than to confuse voters. Postman also asks Anyone know who he is?

Here's what I've been able to find out about Michael Johnson --

His lawyers.com profile :

Hardman & Johnson practices in the following areas of law:
Guardianship and Elder Law, General Civil Litigation.

Firm Size: 1

MEMBER OF FIRM

Michael L. Johnson (Member) born Red Bank, New Jersey, March 31, 1960; admitted to bar, 1998, Washington. Education: Plymouth State University (B.S., 1995); University of Washington (J.D., 1998). Member: King County (Member, Sections on: Elder Law and Guardianship; Elder Law), Tacoma-Pierce County and Washington State Bar Associations. Practice Areas: Guardianship; Elder Law; Civil Litigation. Email: Michael L. Johnson
(if it's a firm size of 1, who's Hardman? -- Ed. Oh, wait. Hardman is here) Johnson's State Bar Association record also has his email address.

The UW degree validation site confirms his JD and adds that his middle name is Leonard. His voter registration record puts him in at this address with 3 other registered voters (2 active, 1 inactive) in the same apartment. He's missed a few primaries but is a reasonably regular voter. He lists his practice in the GSBA directory.

Among his various activities, he has unsuccessfully sued DSHS on behalf of Fircrest residents. The appeal was denied. In other cases, he lost this appeal and this appeal. This appeal was dismissed as moot. I searched MRSC and could not find any appeal in which he prevailed.

I find no reportable contributions to federal campaigns. His only reportable in-state campaign contributions are to a registered political committee called "Victims Advocates", which donates almost exclusively to Democratic campaigns and ... this year's incumbent Supreme Court Justices. Victims Advocates appears to be one of a group of closely affiliated trial lawyer PACs, which, by the way, were slapped with a PDC fine a few years ago for improper filing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at July 27, 2006 06:51 PM | Email This
Comments
1. Rather stupid if you ask me, but you didn't. It could well be that between them they take out Owen in the primary. Regardless, Steven will be then be in the general and will have that much more name recognition.

I see his intent but he is doing Steven a great service. He is just dumb enough to not understand that.

Posted by: Bullmaxon on July 27, 2006 07:17 PM
2. It should ensure the race making it to the general, instead of being decided in the primary.

Posted by: Richard Pope on July 27, 2006 07:24 PM
3. Victims Advocate has also given the "fair and impartial" FairPAC (Citizens to Uphold the Constitution) $9,000 to support incumbent justices.

Posted by: mike on July 27, 2006 07:27 PM
4. If he were running as an independent in a partisan race, I might agree. But as other have said, given that this is a nonpartisan race with a top two primary, why would it matter?

Maybe he's just a bit of a crank who really thinks he should be on the Supreme Court and decided to jump in late.

"Johnson," after all, is not an unusual name.

Posted by: ScottM on July 27, 2006 08:13 PM
5. Humm.... if Hardman and Johnson is a 1 lawyer firm why the two names. Perhaps he should do a Faith Ireland and change his name to something like "The Who"

Posted by: WakeUpFool on July 27, 2006 08:45 PM
6. Or maybe Michael Johnson really intended to run against Gerry Alexander, but accidentally checked the wrong box on the internet filing form?

Posted by: Richard Pope on July 27, 2006 09:11 PM
7. It's well known by political strategists that when confused voters will tend to vote no.

So what is this guy's motivation? Is he running in the hopes that votes will be confused about which "Johnson" to vote for? Is he hoping that voters will be confused and perhaps he'll come in second in the primary, and then not run, ensuring election for Justice Owens?

Or is he hoping that even if he's third, in the general election people won't know which "Johnson" is on the ballot, and thus vote for Owens instead of the wrong "Johnson?"

Posted by: Obi-Wan on July 27, 2006 09:33 PM
8. It is my guess that this guy is either trying to help Owens or is using his common last name in an attempt to get a seat on the bench through confusion.

If I recall correctly, Charles Johnson was first elected to the bench when he ran against a very highly regarded justice with a bit of a strange name.

Posted by: Don on July 27, 2006 10:14 PM
9. What's the motivation? Read What Phil Talmadge said at the Postman blog. With another Johnson mucking up theprimary ballot, Steve Johnson won't get over 50% of the vote and then Susan Owens and him will be on the November ballot. That would give her more time to raise money and there will be more Dems voting in the general election. It's actually brilliant if you think about it.

Posted by: Larry on July 27, 2006 10:32 PM
10. No doubt that the Trial Lawyers Assn. put him up to it. It would be good to keep following this story so this tactic will backfire. Phil Talmadge is probably spot on, if what he said was along the lines of what Larry wrote.

Posted by: KS on July 27, 2006 10:37 PM
11. A Johnson on the WASC? The court is full of them.

Posted by: Jericho on July 27, 2006 11:27 PM
12. Oh yes its a big Democrat plot, I heard Gregoire was behind the whole thing, and you can bet the voting counts will be off cause KC will print ballots with both Johnsons next to each other. Society is burning and these Democrats are rearranging deck chairs on the Hindenburg. If only more people saw the truth like the readers of this fine intarweb thing here. Did you see Shark found he was listed in the gay lawyers yellow pages?!?! Good god thats the same as his being a member of the communist party.

Posted by: DaveD on July 28, 2006 06:25 AM
13. I doubt that these laws would withstand a 1st Amendment constitutional challenge, but the RCW purports to make same last name filings a Class B Felony punishable by up to 10 years in the state penitentiary:

29A.84.320
Duplicate, nonexistent, untrue names -- Penalty.

A person is guilty of a class B felony punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW who files a declaration of candidacy for any public office of:

(1) A nonexistent or fictitious person; or

(2) The name of any person not his or her true name; or

(3) A name similar to that of an incumbent seeking reelection to the same office with intent to confuse and mislead the electors by taking advantage of the public reputation of the incumbent; or

(4) A surname similar to one who has already filed for the same office, and whose political reputation is widely known, with intent to confuse and mislead the electors by capitalizing on the public reputation of the candidate who had previously filed.

29A.84.270
Duplication of names -- Conspiracy -- Criminal and civil liability.

Any person who with intent to mislead or confuse the electors conspires with another person who has a surname similar to an incumbent seeking reelection to the same office, or to an opponent for the same office whose political reputation has been well established, by persuading such other person to file for such office with no intention of being elected, but to defeat the incumbent or the well known opponent, is guilty of a class B felony punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW. In addition, all conspirators are subject to a suit for civil damages, the amount of which may not exceed the salary that the injured person would have received had he or she been elected or reelected.

Posted by: Richard Pope on July 28, 2006 08:59 AM
14. Now who the hell is Richard Smith?!

Posted by: ScottM on July 28, 2006 12:13 PM
15. Richard, how would "intent" be proven? He seems no less qualified than other candidates in years past. The name is a common one, and no one's suggesting he changed his name recently?

Posted by: BA on July 28, 2006 12:42 PM
16. Stephan,
You said: "Victims Advocates appears to be one of a group of closely affiliated trial lawyer PACs, which, by the way, were slapped with a PDC fine a few years ago for improper filing."

I'm not clear on what you mean here. Was Victims Advocates slapped with a fine? Or are you stating that VA is similar to other groups which were in fact fined?

Posted by: Eric on July 28, 2006 01:10 PM
17. For some reason, all I kept thinking about as I read this thread is Lionel Hutz, the ambulance chasing shyster on "The Simpsons"... whose storefront law firm in the Springfield Mall is called "I can't believe its a law firm"...

Cheers, Mike in Americas Vancouver, departing tomorrow on his week long wine jaunt to Walla Walla and back...

Posted by: Mike in America's Vancouver on July 28, 2006 01:21 PM
18. Eric (16) -- Read the linked document. Victims Advocates was slapped with a fine as were the closely affiliated groups.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on July 28, 2006 02:10 PM
19. Stefan,
Thanks for the clarification.

Posted by: Eric on July 28, 2006 03:21 PM
20. Looks like Supreme Court candidate Michael Leonard Johnson (DOB: 03/31/1960, WSBA # 28172, Admitted 10/13/1998) has some recent "criminal" experience.

Johnson was arrested for theft by the Seattle Police Department in the early morning hours of September 16, 2005 and booked into the King County Jail. He was released on his own recognizance about nine hours later, and charged with theft in Seattle Municipal Court No. 475995.

Johnson hired a lawyer, and worked out a pre-trial diversion agreement on October 17, 2005 with the Seattle City Attorney. This included making restitution of the $16.50 which was the subject of the criminal charges, doing eight hours of community service, attending three sobriety meetings per week (i.e. AA or similar groups), completing an alcohol/drug information school, and no more criminal charges for the next three months.

Johnson paid the $16.50 restitution on October 17, 2005. Johnson performed the 8 hours of community service for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center on Pike Street in Seattle in January 2006. Johnson attend the alcohol/drug information school at Alternatives on Eastlake Avenue in Seattle on December 31, 2005.

As a result of this pre-trial diversion, the theft charges against Johnson were dismissed with prejudice on January 13, 2006.

Obviously, this sort of dismissal does not mean that Johnson didn't commit the theft that he was charged with. In his pre-trial diversion agreement of October 17, 2005, Johnson waived his right to a jury trial or any sort of trial whatsoever. Had Johnson failed to comply with the pre-trial diversion agreement, the judge would have determined guilt or innocence entirely based on the police report -- which would have almost certainly resulted in a conviction.

Posted by: Richard Pope on July 28, 2006 05:17 PM
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