Special Reports

Brame suit moved to King County

Crystal Brame's family moved their lawsuit against the City of Tacoma to King County on Tuesday, ending a fight over whether any Pierce County judge could hear the case.

The family's attorney, Paul Luvera, said Tacoma's lawyers stalled the case by interrogating every judge assigned to it about potential conflicts of interest.

"We're never going to get this case heard if we don't do something drastic," Luvera said.

He said he would rather the case be tried in Pierce County where the homicide-suicide happened, but didn't feel he could wait because he said delays hurt his clients and help the defense.

"It's more important to move this ahead and get the truth than to play this game of dominoes in which judges drop like flies," Luvera said.

Tim Gosselin, lead lawyer for the city, called the move an unnecessary and ridiculous political stunt.

"We had a trial date in October," he said. "We produced thousands of pages of documents. We had agreed to begin depositions. We had a judge that, from all appearances that we knew of, had no connections to the city, and the case was ready to move forward. There was nothing gained."

The case now is scheduled for July 2005 before King County Superior Court Judge Jay White at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

"Very bizarre," Pierce County Superior Court presiding judge James Orlando said of Tuesday's events. "I guess it was a little bit unexpected after all the work gone into finding a judge to hear the case."

Eight of Pierce County's 21 Superior Court judges had recused themselves from the case or said they would if it came to them. Four others were unable to hear it because of assignments.

Monday, it was assigned to Judge Bruce Cohoe. Tuesday, he signed the order dismissing the Pierce County case so it could be filed in King County.

Luvera said he didn't know the case had been assigned to a new Pierce County judge on Monday when he prepared and then sent legal documents asking for the change.

Plus, Luvera said, he didn't expect the October trial date in Pierce County to happen, based on the delays encountered so far.

He said city lawyers were intimidating judges by scrutinizing their every movement and passing association.

Gosselin said he's just looking for a judge who'll be seen as fair, in a case where it's especially important because of allegations of corruption and favoritism.

The lawsuit - brought by Crystal Brame's parents, children and sister - alleges city officials caused her death by giving her husband, Police Chief David Brame, power and then doing nothing as he spiraled out of control.

David Brame fatally shot his wife and himself April 26.

The lawsuit names the city, Mayor Bill Baarsma, former City Manager Ray Corpuz and former assistant police chief Catherine Woodard.

Karen Hucks: 253-597-8660