By Edward Snook
ID – In 2011, Dorothy Walker was forced to file suit against
neighbors attempting to “steal her property,” and now, six
years later, she is still searching for justice in the State of Idaho
within a broken judicial system. For a complete background on this
case and this bad judge, look to the right column or scroll down for
a list of past articles.
On February 24, 2017, Attorneys representing Ms. Walker of Grangeville, Idaho filed a Motion to Disqualify for Cause, Idaho District Court Judge John Stegner from her case.
The disqualification motion reads as follows:
Motion to Disqualify
Plaintiff respectfully moves the Court to recuse himself without having to state a reason under IRCP Rule 40(c); or, in the alternative, if he chooses not to exercise the option set forth in Rule 40(c), then Plaintiff’s moves for Judge Stegner to disqualify himself from conducting further judicial business in the consolidated cases under Rule 40(d)(1)(D) based on CAUSE; relying on specific grounds upon which said disqualification request is based with facts in support thereof, as stated below and in the attached exhibits (including hearing transcripts and supporting Affidavit of Plaintiff Dorothy Walker) as follows:
Demonstrated Bias and Prejudice
The instant motion by Plaintiff for disqualification of Judge Stegner is based on various instances which occurred at hearings over the past year, five of which are listed below. These events, when viewed in totality, demonstrate a pervasive pattern of bias and favoritism by Judge Stegner toward Defendants and manifest judicial-prejudice against Plaintiff, rendering him unable to continue to execute his judicial functions with impartiality; and for which he should disqualify himself. Canon 3(B)(6) and 3(E).
1. Hearing of December 14, 2015: Judge Stegner’s’ unfounded attribution to Ms. Walker of “obstreperous” conduct.
a. Judge Stegner used hostile, demeaning and humiliating words when he stated, “If Dorothy Walker is being obstreperous in allowing Mr. Edwards to do his contractual duty with regard to Mr. Risley’s clients, I think I can fix that problem.” (Exhibit A, Transcript of 12-14-15 Hearing, Pg. 15, lls 11-13.)
b. The reasonable inference from this statement is that Judge Stegner believes that Ms. Walker had been “obstreperous” in the past, which is not true (see attached Exhibit “B”, Affidavit of Dorothy Walker). In fact, the statement is insulting and demonstrates the prejudiced nature of Judge Stegner’s preconceived opinion of Ms. Walker.
c. Plaintiff Walker believes this preconceived opinion is prejudicial and has, and will continue to sway his judgment in favor of Defendants, preventing him from being impartial when exercising his judicial functions. (See Exhibit B.)
d. Judges are required to perform their duties without bias or prejudice and are prohibited from manifesting either bias or prejudice in their words, actions and deeds; thus, Judge Stegner’s unfounded opinion that Ms. Walker had been “obstreperous” is sufficient cause to disqualify him from the case, even if he were to take the position that he is “not really” prejudiced because he has not adhered to the Judicial Canons by not avoiding the appearance of prejudice and impropriety. A judge should personally observe the high standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved. (Canon 1.)
e. Defendant Walker believes that because she will not be able to obtain a fair hearing or trial before Judge Stegner based on his statement and opinion, he should disqualify himself for CAUSE. (Per Canon 3(E), Rule 40(d)(1)(D)s and see Exhibit B.)
2. Hearing of February 8, 2016: Judge Stegner’s finding that a $5,000.00 attorney fee award against Plaintiff’s attorney was “reasonable” and his contradictory statement to court staff (calling the award a “wild-a** guess”) was a compromise of the integrity and objectivity of his judicial office.
a. Moments after his stated finding that a $5,000.00 attorney fee award against Plaintiff’s attorney was “reasonable”, Judge Stegner shared with his staff that said award was really just a ‘wild-a***guess’ an indication that he was being disingenuous with the litigants and their attorneys.
b. After he said the $5,000.00 award was “reasonable,” Judge Stegner told court personnel that the award was really a “SWAG,” which he said was an acronym for “Swinging Wild Assed Guess.” (See attached Exhibit C, Transcript of February 8, 2016 hearing, Pg. 21, lls. 23 through 25 and Pg. 22, lls. 1-24, excerpt below):
a. This post-hearing interchange between Judge Stegner and his staff, as preserved by the Court’s official recording device, shows that his $5,000 award of attorney fees was really a “swinging wild-assed guess” rather than a “reasonable” award as he claimed on the record (see Exhibit C, at pg. 22, line 10).
b. Further, the fact that it was a “Swinging Wild Assed Guess” was disrespectful to Plaintiff and counsel. (See Canon 3(B)(6) and Commentary: A judge should avoid “an appearance of judicial bias.” See also Idaho Standards for Civility: Court’s Responsibilities to Attorneys and Litigants (1) “We [the judiciary] will be courteous, respectful and civil to lawyers, parties and witnesses.” (2) We [the judiciary] will not employ hostile, demeaning or humiliating words…with attorneys, parties and witnesses.”)
c. A judge has a duty to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. Making a statement on the record that an award is “reasonable” and then moments later stating that said award was really a “Swinging Wild Ass Guess” undermines the integrity of the judge and holds the Plaintiff and her counsel up for ridicule by the judge’s staff and reflects poorly upon the judiciary as a whole.
d. Such a statement detracts from public confidence that this judge is capable of maintaining the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary in general; and is incapable of being objective in the present case. (See Canon 3(B)(6). See also Civility Standards 9) “We [the judiciary] will do our best to ensure that court personnel act civilly toward attorneys, parties and witnesses.”)
e. If a judge is responsible to “ensure” that his staff, i.e., the court personnel, act civilly toward attorneys and parties and that they should be courteous, respectful and civil to lawyers and their clients, then, as the one charged with leadership of court personnel and the manner in which they treat attorneys and parties, is it inconsistent for the judge to openly treat attorneys and parties with disrespect? Does it set the wrong example and is it contrary to ensuring that his court personnel are respectful to witnesses, parties and counsel?
f. Under the Idaho Code of Judicial Conduct and its Cannons, when a judicial official views the facts of a case through the lens of either bias or prejudice, he should disqualify himself (Canon 3(E)) because he can no longer inspire public confidence (see Preamble to Canons) or provide assurance to the parties that he is capable of fairly, independently and objectively determining the facts and/or law involved in the case.
g. Stating that this attorney fee award was a “Swinging Wild Assed Guess” after the judge held it was a “reasonable” award demonstrates prejudice against a party or her attorney (Plaintiff Walker and Attorney Hoyt). A judge should personally observe the high standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved. (Canon 1.)
h. The fact that there was laughter by the Judge and his Court staff when he explained what he meant by the acronym “SWAG” shows that his remark was intended to ridicule Plaintiff and her attorney in the eyes of the court personnel.
i. A judicial official is required to disqualify himself in a proceeding where he cannot be impartial or where his impartiality might be questioned. The facts of this incident require that Judge Stegner disqualify himself for CAUSE.
3. September 23, 2016 Onsite Viewing: Plaintiff’s expert was treated unfairly during an on-site viewing when the Judge asked “why” the expert had located a monument at a certain place, then, as the expert began his answer, the Judge refused to allow the expert to explain “why”, which is contrary to the litigant’s right to be heard through her expert witness; and is contrasted with Judge Stegner’s contemporaneous willingness to allow Defendants’ experts to expound at great length regarding their theories.
a. On September 23, 2016, at the judicial viewing of Plaintiff’s property that was designed to provide the Court with an actual ‘on-the-ground’, informational tour so that he could observe the respective positions of the parties in this boundary dispute matter, Judge Stegner prematurely terminated/”cut off” the input offered by Plaintiff’s surveyor, Pete Ketcham, which the Judge had requested.
b. This event had a chilling effect on the transmittal of information between the parties, created a dampening of the free exchange of ideas for Plaintiff and was a denial of due process.
c. Reversing his demeanor concerning Defendants, Judge Stegner accepted and encouraged Defendants’ experts to explain their theories as to their surveying opinions, an equal- protection violation, having treated Ms. Walker discriminatorily because she is a woman, whom the Judge had previously deemed to be “obstreperous.” This behavior constituted a judicial display of bias in favor of Defendants and prejudice against Plaintiff.
d. Plaintiff’s expert, Mr. Pete Ketcham was asked by Judge Stegner: “I would like to know why you put that there [referring to the survey monument made up of a piece of rebar rod sticking out of a pile of rock with a surveyor’s cap, designating a stone that Mr. Ketcham found to be the SW corner of Sec. 24].” (Emphasis supplied.) (See attached Exhibit D, Transcript of On-site Viewing of September 23, 2016, Pg. 9, lines 1-2).
e. When Mr. Ketcham attempted to give the Judge a brief background statement as to why that location was chosen, he commenced with the words, “Well, it all started in 2010 for me, and my client Dorothy Walker requested that I review Carl Edwards’ surveys.” (See Exhibit D, Pg. 8, lines 21-23).
f. Mr. Ketcham’s explanation was unreasonably interrupted and cut short by the Judge, who, rather than being courteous to the witness, stated, “I’m not here to hear a recitation of everything that’s gone on to this point.” (See Exhibit D, Pg. 8, lines 24-25 and Pg. 9, line 1).
g. Within a short time, Judge Stegner asked Surveyor Ketcham another question, “Anything else to see here?” which Ketcham was not allowed to answer, but to which Mr. Ketcham protested, “But you asked me why, so I was explaining.” The Judge’s retort was,“I misspoke,” showing recognition by Judge Stegner that even though he had asked the “why” question, he had changed his mind about wanting the answer, to the detriment of Plaintiff, not allowing Mr. Ketcham to speak freely. The Canons require that a judge shall accord to every person the right to be heard. Canon 3(B)(7).
h. It is incomprehensible that after refusing to accept a fairly simple informational background statement from Mr. Ketcham, as Plaintiff’s expert, which statement would have answered the Judge’s question as to “why” a monument was located at a particular place, the same Judge, at this onsite viewing then allowed the Defendant’s experts to explain, without unreasonable judicial interruption, their theories regarding certain monuments, boundary lines and corners. (See Idaho Civility Standards: Court Responsibility to Attorneys and Litigants 7) “…to present a case free from unreasonable or unnecessary judicial interruption.”) Disruption of a witness’s statement, especially when having been asked by the Court for such an explanation, coupled with unequal treatment of the Plaintiff and Defendants is a further hallmark of both bias and prejudice.
i. Because Judge Stegner cut off the ability of Plaintiffs’ expert witness to answer the Judge’s question as to “why” Ketcham placed a monument at a certain location, Plaintiff believes that Judge Stegner would not be objective or fair or impartial in presiding over the remainder of the case and should therefore disqualify himself for CAUSE.
4. October 6, 2016 Hearing. False narrative created by Judge Stegner concerning stone ‘found’ by Ketcham.
a. On October 6, 2016, the Court made a false finding of fact relative to the issue of surveyor scribe marks that normally would be on an original GLO stone. The stone in question was “found” by Mr. Ketcham, who identified it as the Southwest corner of Sec. 24.
b. At the September 23 on-site viewing, Mr. Ketcham clearly stated that the scribe marks had “weathered away.” (See Exhibit D, Pg. 13, lines 11-12). However, despite Mr. Ketcham’s clear statement that the scribe marks had “weathered away,” Judge Stegner, during the October 6, 2016 hearing wherein he stated that “I want to make a record” and then entered a ruling that there were no scribe marks on Mr. Ketcham’s found stone and further that he was “unfamiliar with whatever dispute” was being alluded to as to the existence of scribe marks on that stone. (See Exhibit E, Transcript of October 6, 2016 hearing, Pg. 6, Lines 6 thru 15.)
c. This denial by Judge Stegner that a dispute arose at the on-site viewing just two weeks before as to the existence of scribe marks on the stone in question is in direct contradiction with the record.
d. That Plaintiff’s expert Ketcham clearly stated at the on-site judicial viewing of the Walker Property that the scribe marks on the stone had “weathered away.” The transcript regarding this matter reads as follows:
“Mr. Ketcham: This one [referring to a stone]. This is the one I accepted.
Mr. Dokken: May we remove that to examine it?
Mr. Ketcham: You can. You probably won’t find any scribes on it, but it’s still indicative.
Mr. Dokken: Probably won’t or there aren’t any scribes?
Mr. Ketcham: Probably won’t find them. They’re weathered away.”
(Exhibit E, Pg. 13, lines 3 – 12.)
e. Judge Stegner’s ruling of October 6, 2016 is problematic because, if not challenged, it could be construed as part of the “Law of the Case” doctrine and would thus become binding as to the state of the evidence and would prevent the Plaintiff from even attempting to prove that scribe marks existed on the stone in question and had been weathered away.
f. This scenario goes to the issue of authenticity of the stone as an original GLO stone found by Mr. Ketcham and, from the Plaintiff’s perspective, goes to the very heart of the case.
g. There was no motion in limine filed by Defendants requesting that the Court determine if there was a dispute as to whether scribe marks ever existed on Mr. Ketcham’s stone. An element of the bias shown by Judge Stegner is that he, began, with this ruling, assisting Defendants in trying their case with an evidentiary ruling that is based on a false premise, i.e., that the Court incorrectly assumed that there was no dispute as to the existence of scribe marks on the Ketcham found stone.
h. When this (or any) Court deems it necessary to run interference for one party in litigation to the detriment of the other, and, sua sponte, makes an evidentiary ruling going to the very heart of the case, it would seem he is denying that other party, Defendant Dorothy Walker, the opportunity to fairly present her case.
i. Making the ruling that there were “no marks” and that there was “no dispute” as to whether any scribe marks ever existed on that stone, when the record shows that a dispute had previously been raised whether such marks had “weathered away,” shows that Judge Stegner has a predisposition to an outcome favoring the Defendants in the case.
j. The fact that Judge Stegner would so dramatically misinterpret information provided by Mr. Ketcham at the judicial viewing reflects the level of unfairness, prejudice and hostility with which he views the Plaintiff and anyone working for her, such as Mr. Ketcham.
k. This is a further example of prejudice by the Judge where he created a false narrative benefiting only the Defendants and aligning himself with the Defendants’ posture of the case and he should, therefore, disqualify himself under Canon 3(E) and Rule 40(d)(1)(D) for CAUSE.
5. June 20, Hearing and Court Minutes. Threats of reprisal directed at Plaintiff Walker.
a. On June 20, 2016, Judge Stegner threatened Plaintiff by stating “If I get any inkling that Ms. Walker moved survey monuments, she will have a real problem for Ms. Walker. Because at that point, I’m just gonna say, “Whatever Mr. Hunter Edwards says is right is right.” (See attached Exhibit F, at page 11.)
b. On the same subject, the Deputy Clerk noted in the Court Minutes that “The Court stated that if it has any question that Ms. Walker has moved those survey markers, then that will be a real problem for Ms Walker.”
c. Herein lies another example of Judge Stegner demonstrating prejudice against Ms. Walker and expressing his desire to aid Defendants in prevailing in this case by assuming, falsely, that Plaintiff Walker had, or would ever “move” monuments.
d. According to the Affidavit of Plaintiff Walker, substantial evidence exists that Hunter Edwards (and his father Carl Edwards) are the only ones who have been moving survey monuments in Section 24. (See Exhibit B.)
e. Threatening Ms. Walker with having “a real problem” for doing something she has never done, and then stating that the Court will accept whatever Hunter Edwards does as “right” demonstrates judicial bias in favor of Defendants and prejudice against the Plaintiff.
f. The prejudice reflected in such false allegations and threats is inconsistent with the exercise of judicial function in an impartial manner because there has been no evidentiary hearing or fact-finding to indicate that monuments were ever moved by Ms. Walker (See Exhibit B, Affidavit of Dorothy Walker indicating that neither she nor any member of her family have ever moved survey monuments) and therefore, Judge Stegner should disqualify himself from this case for CAUSE.
Editor’s Note: Judge Stegner is obviously a bad and prejudiced judge. The US~Observer will provide the outcome to our readership once the motion to disqualify Stegner is ruled upon.
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