Special Reports

King County judge opts out of Brame suit

Two days after Crystal Brame's family moved their wrongful death lawsuit north because of difficulty finding a Pierce County Judge to hear it, the King County judge assigned to the case recused himself.

King County Superior Court Judge Jay White said Thursday that although he felt no bias, coincidences between his personal life and the Brame case might cause some to question his impartiality.

White wrote that his girlfriend "was the victim of domestic violence when her attorney husband was murdered in 1982 by the estranged husband of a woman the attorney was representing" in a divorce.

The attorney's widow - with whom White began a personal relationship in 1998 - sued a police department, saying it failed to protect her husband. White said he had no interest in the litigation and no personal knowledge of it. But he then worked at the same Seattle law firm as the attorney who was killed.

White didn't specify which police department was involved and couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

He told attorneys the case would be assigned to another judge. King County has 51 Superior Court judges, fifteen of whom hear cases at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

"This case is star-crossed," said Paul Luvera, attorney for Crystal Brame's family. "We're disappointed that we need to again look for a trial judge for this case, but we fully understand the court's concern and accept it."

Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife Crystal and himself April 26, 2003. Her family sued the city, Mayor Bill Baarsma, former City Manager Ray Corpuz and former assistant chief Catherine Woodard, saying they contributed to her death by negligently giving her husband power and a weapon and then ignoring signs he was in trouble.

Luvera first filed the case in Pierce County, saying it was important for it to be tried where the killings occurred. But eight judges in the county recused themselves or said they would, while another four were unable to hear the case because of other assignments. Luvera then withdrew the Pierce County suit and refiled in King County.

An attorney for the City of Tacoma said he was confident that a judge who can hear the case will be found.

The city feels that it was a peculiar set of circumstances that led White to believe he should recuse himself, he said.

Karen Hucks: 253-597-8660