Seattle Judge Thinks He Was Unfairly Criticized, Invites Reporter to Watch


After Seattle Judge Ron Kessler was criticized for freeing a sex offender who then allegedly raped and kidnapped a woman, the judge allowed a Seattle Times reporter to sit with him on the bench to see the parade of defendants and how he must balance their right to be presumed innocent versus public safety. Only one of the eight convicted sex offenders summoned to appear before Kessler on a recent Monday bothered to show up. Seated next to Kessler was reporter Christine Clarridge, who was given a rare opportunity by the judge to view the court proceedings that day from his bench and see what he saw as he presided over the court, where an average of 80 or so defendants are processed, sorted and judged each day. Fifteen seconds after Kessler finished questioning one defendant’s attorney about his client's living situation, he made his call, one of the 105 actions he would take that day. As chief criminal judge, Kessler, 66, oversees a factory of justice that keeps cases moving through the system. The Seattle Times story on the sex offender’s release and subsequent arrest made national headlines and became fodder for talk shows and online commenters, who assailed Kessler for his decision, calling him “incompetent” and “vermin.” Kessler believed the reaction to the story reflected a lack of understanding of the law.

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