A Clark County judge who recently derided a Black man shot and killed by Clark County Sheriff’s deputies said Tuesday he plans to step away from the bench.
Judge Darvin Zimmerman said he regretted his statements and, according to his attorney, does not know when he may return.
“I have decided to take some time off to reflect on my behavior and to determine what I can do to help heal the community I have served,” Zimmerman said. “I want my colleagues and the public to know that I have accepted responsibility for my actions.”
Zimmerman, who became a district court judge in 1986, said he plans to send a report of his own actions to the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct. His attorney said he plans to send a statement, as well as the video and a transcription of the comments caught on a hot mic after a hearing last week that sparked his controversy.
“He is acutely aware of the impact that this has had,” said Josephine Townsend, Zimmerman’s attorney.
Zimmerman disparaged Kevin Peterson Jr., a 21-year-old killed by deputies in an attempted drug bust last October, to another court official. The interaction was broadcast on YouTube but only surfaced over the weekend. The Oregonian/OregonLive first reported on the conversation.
Zimmerman can be heard calling Peterson “the Black guy they were trying to make an angel out of,” and said he was “so dumb” for not cooperating with the regional drug task force who boxed in his car at a hotel during the Oct. 29 sting.
The 70-year-old judge will use his own paid vacation time. Townsend said the judge hasn’t indicated whether he would try to return after the conduct commission considers the complaints against him.
“We have not discussed that,” Townsend said. “We’re going to take it one step at a time.”
Townsend also declined to provide to OPB a copy of the materials Zimmerman plans to send to the commission. State laws prohibit judges from discussing complaints against them.
Townsend also said there was no outside influence on Zimmerman’s decision.
“No one asked him to do this,” Townsend said. “This was a personal choice that he made.”
On Monday, Vancouver Defenders, among the largest defense firms in Southwest Washington, called on Zimmerman to resign. And the county’s top prosecutor, Tony Golik, announced his office would try to disqualify Zimmerman from any case until the commission hears his case.
The other five benches on the district court also jointly condemned his comments, saying “racial bias displayed by a judge in unacceptable, unethical, unjust and cannot be tolerated.”
Tim Murphy, an attorney with the Northwest Justice Project, filed a complaint Monday afternoon. He pointed to other comments by Zimmerman — that he sends information to the sheriff’s office about the case — as muddling the lines between the courts and police.