If you’re on the dance floor, near the hot trombone, it ain’t no sin, take off your skin & dance around in your bones!
Thurston County Superior Court judge Anne Hirsch was once the director of the Office of Assigned Counsel–a public defender creature of the courts. Christine Schaller is a Commissioner in her Court. And Rick Fallows is an unwed father whose young daughter is being denied his companionship because Thurston Court officials can’t seem to get the law they enforce figured out.
Rick fathered his daughter with her mother, Colleen. They co-parented their child until the relationship soured to the point Colleen invited a notorious local personality, Arthur West, to befriend her.
Arthur, a self styled ‘paralegal’ sued Rick in the latter’s capacity as the director of a non-profit, Media Island. Rick successfully defended against the suit.
Colleen sued Rick–seeking a domestic violence protection order and the termination of Rick’s parental rights. Commissioner Indu Thomas dismissed the suit as without merit. Rick initiated a petition seeking a parenting plan so he could continue to visit & raise his daughter. Commissioner Indu Thomas heard this action as well. The mother, Colleen moved to have Rick’s petition dismissed. Thomas denied the motion. Colleen timely filed a motion to revise the Commissioner’s ruling and that motion was heard by Judge Anne Hirsch while Rick, pro se, and Colleen, represented by counsel, argued the motion’s merits.
Judge Hirsch denied the motion to revise as it cited no error and argued no basis in law for overturning the Commissioner’s ruling. Thus, Rick’s petition for a parenting plan remained viable. But contrary to local court rule LSPR 90.14 which prohibits arguing issues not listed in the Motion to Revise or jurisdiction over any issue not in the record or ruled on by the Commissioner, Judge Hirsch improperly allowed a Motion for a Change of Venue to Minnesota (where Colleen had absconded w/the child once the legal confrontation with the father began) to be brought, argued, and granted.
A Change of Venue under Washington State law is discretionary. What is not is the requirement a judge have subject matter jurisdiction before granting such a request. Judge Hirsch had no such jurisdiction, presiding over a statutorily mandated review of the record only, to become the trial court inasmuch as her function was solely, in law, to provide a review de novo of the record. Her ruling was not simply voidable, but void from the outset, i.e. void ab initio. All subsequent actions flowing from that void ruling wherein Judge Hirsch had no subject matter jurisdiction were void and without force of law as well. Hirsch gave Colleen 30 days in her erroneous ruling to file an action regarding custody or a parenting plan in Minnesota. Colleen served Rick with a Minnesota summons and petition before that window of time closed.
Rick was (rightly as it turns out) still under the impression Washington State remained a proper venue to seek relief. He filed yet another pleading requesting his daughter be returned to her birthplace and his access be restored. Commissioner Schaller sanctioned him for filing a ‘specious’ motion under Rule 11, reasoning ignorance was no excuse for thinking venue remained in Washington. Schaller fined Rick $225. The trouble was, Rick was right. Venue did remain in Washington because Judge Hirsch had no basis in law for subject matter jurisdiction or to grant Colleen’s motion for a change of venue to Minnesota–a State that requires both parties to pay filing fees in a civil action such as this.
The upshot is Rick has been saddled with a punitive fine for a ‘specious’ motion when it is the Court’s own ignorance of the law that lead to the fine. A challenge for lack of jurisdiction is always timely at any stage of the proceedings or on appeal. Rick appealed.
Rick also plans to file a motion for reconsideration in which he hopes to educate Commissioner Schaller and possibly gain Judge Hirsch’s notice for her void ab initio ruling when she granted the improperly docketed Motion for a Change of Venue to Minnesota. Washington Courts disfavor, though they are discretionary, changes of venue. Thurston County judges are no exception–except, it’s well known, for Judge Hirsch. Colleen’s counsel surely was aware of this fact when he improperly calendared the motion for a change of venue.
CONCLUSION: Don’t assume the person beneath that black robe is smarter than you are or understands the law. The reason a court of review is not allowed to review matters never made a part of the record is transparently obvious–judge shopping, prohibition from doing so in law, and mooting the entire court of record proceedings. By doing so, Judge Hirsch not only violated the prohibitions in law and local court rule, but she rewarded the mother’s bad behavior when she absconded to Minnesota for the very reason of denying the father access to his daughter when the father had properly sought relief from the Washington Court to preserve said access through a parenting plan.
“I don’t care what the law says, just tell me who the judge is!” -Roy Cohn-
“The monarchists will hide in the judiciary.” -Ben Franklin-