Controversial judge Kenneth Walker seems have stepped in it again. Judge Walker, of Multnomah County, is best known for his rant about wanting to confiscate all guns and throw them into the ocean.
But now he may be staking a new claim to fame. During the sentencing for a domestic abuse case, Walker reprimanded the victim three times during her victim’s impact statement, before he eventually left the courtroom without even bothering to hear what she had to say. He’s now facing multiple complaints submitted Oregon Judicial Fitness Commission.
The Oregonian first reported:
Dana Parks appeared in a Multnomah County courtroom last month armed with a four-page, typed statement. In December, her ex-boyfriend, who’d already pleaded guilty once to assaulting her, had pleaded guilty to a second assault charge and to violating his probation regarding his first assault conviction. Now, Zachary Ball, 22, was in court to be formally sentenced.
But while she attempted to read her victim impact statement, Judge Kenneth R. Walker interrupted three times and ultimately walked out of the courtroom without allowing her to finish, according to a tape of the hearing.
It’s hard enough for victims of domestic violence to feel heard in the legal system. After leaving Walker’s courtroom, Parks said she questioned herself: “Am I being hysterical?”
Oregon law gives victims the right at sentencing to “reasonably express any views concerning the crime, the person responsible, the impact of the crime on the victims, and the need for restitution and compensatory fine.”
There’s no word limit. No time cut-off.
When she began to speak about a time she said Ball allegedly sexually assaulted her, Walker interrupted.
“Ma’am, please don’t tell me the details of this,” the judge said, according to an audio recording of Ball’s sentencing hearing.
“Why?” Parks asked.
“I don’t want to hear this. Continue with your message.”
Ball never faced any sexual assault charges involving Parks, but her victim’s advocates hadn’t said anything was out-of-bounds for her statement. If the judge had told her she wasn’t allowed to say that, Parks wouldn’t have felt so stung.
But it wasn’t “You can’t say that.”
It was “I don’t want to hear it.”
Parks had one paragraph left – about her complaints regarding the court system – when Walker said, “OK, I’ve heard enough. Thank you. Thank you.”
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Bostwick spoke up.
“Your honor, respectfully, I do think she—”
Walker cut her off: “I know what you think.”
He told Parks to sit down and proceeded to hand down the sentence already agreed upon by both parties – 36 months in prison and credit for time served.
“And if the court would allow,” Bostwick said at the close of the decision, “I do believe Ms. Parks would like to finish her statement to the court.”
“I think Ms. Parks has said enough,” Walker said. Then he left the courtroom. On the recording, it sounds like a door slammed behind him.
The last words on the recording are from a bewildered Parks asking the district attorney, “How come I … had to go through that?”
Since then, the community has been in a uproar about the judge’s antics. People are now making formal complaints
The latest Oregonian article includes:
Complaints about Walker’s actions were filed with the Oregon Judicial Fitness Commission over the last few days by Anne Pratt, vice president of Crime Victims United; Mary Elledge, Portland chapter leader of Parents of Murdered Children; and Danielle Tudor, a rape survivor and victims advocate.
Such complaints are generally confidential, but the three women released theirs to the public.
“If Judge Walker’s actions are not challenged and addressed, we risk setting a precedent for future victims that they can expect to be interrupted, treated with contempt and disrespected,” Tudor wrote in her complaint. “Judge Walker publicly demeaned Ms. Parks in the presence of her abuser and, in so doing, minimized the crime of domestic violence, whether he intended to or not.”
The judge is trying to backstep:
“After listening to the tape, I could have been, I think, a little more courteous to Miss Parks, but I was thinking in my own mind that I was redirecting her to say things that would have an impact on the court,” he said. “I wanted her to talk about how she felt and what impact it had on her and what impact it was going to have on her future and how the crime she affected her. And each time that she went off, talking about what her friends were writing on Instagram or what charges that were not before us or saying something about the defendant’s mother, I thought (those) were inappropriate comments and I thought I was trying to redirect her.”
At one point during her statement, when she began to describe an alleged sexual assault – for which her boyfriend had never faced charges – Walker had cut Parks off by saying, “I don’t want to hear that.”
“I probably should have said ‘Ma’am, that’s not appropriate, would you please direct your comments more directly to the issues of how you felt.’ The words that I used, I think, certainly, could have been changed,” Walker said. “And it was a reminder, to me, that this is the most important day of her life, and she’s been struggling to get up in public and say something. … I think all judges should be reminded that even though we do a lot of cases and it’s pretty routine for us, we must consider in every case that it is the most important thing happening in that person’s life, and 99.9 percent of the time I do, I think.”
All three complaints claim Walker violated the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct which states, in part:
A judge shall not engage in conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s character and competence temperament or fitness to serve as a judge.
A judge shall accord to every person who has legal interest in a proceeding the right to be heard according to the law.
“I have been a victim advocate for over 18 years, held many hands in the courtroom as the victim readies themselves to face the court and the accused. I have never experienced this kind of disrespect for a crime victim,” Pratt wrote. “It is outrageous behavior, unbecoming of a judge and an action that ultimately re-victimizes an already very wounded victim. If this judge were to act similarly towards a defendant while they were giving an allocution under identical circumstances, the sentence would likely be reversed.”
The Oregonian also published an editorial by the aforementioned Danielle Tudor:
Last week, I filed a complaint against Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Walker challenging his fitness to be a judge. The complaint was filed for Judge Walker’s refusal to allow a domestic violence victim to finish delivering her victim impact statement at the sentencing of a felon convicted of repeatedly abusing her. Audio from the hearing records a shocking move by Judge Walker: He interrupted the victim, Dana Parks, on three separate occasions before abruptly rising from the bench and exiting to his chambers, slamming the door behind him.
The right of a victim to give an impact statement was enshrined in the Constitution by Oregon voters in 1999. Judge Walker’s actions in the courtroom clearly violated the right of this crime victim to be heard. If he had acted similarly toward a defendant making his or her statement before sentencing, the defense attorney would likely object or even appeal the sentence.
From the perspective of a crime victim, a victim impact statement is a chance to let offenders know how their actions affected your life and their enduring effects. It’s giving life to your thoughts and your words – spoken and uninterrupted. It takes courage to give an impact statement. That courage should not be destroyed by being embarrassed and demeaned in front of your abuser. Make no mistake: the next victim to consider giving a victim impact statement is watching and taking note.
Judge Walker chose to respond to his egregious behavior on March 20, after learning of the judicial fitness complaint (“Complaints filed about Oregon judge’s treatment of domestic violence victim“). But the fact that he had already let three weeks pass before responding to Samantha Swindler’s Feb. 25 column exposing his behavior in The Oregonian is very concerning. In his March 20 remarks, Judge Walker took mild responsibility for his actions and acted as if he was merely offering fatherly advice to steer the victim to what “he” wanted to hear. He then stated that all judges should be reminded to treat crime victims with respect. And yet, Judge Walker couldn’t handle 20 minutes of a victim impact statement.
I cannot help but make the comparison to Judge Rosemarie Aquilina who listened to over 140 women and girls as they gave victim impact statements during the sentencing phase of former U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Judge Aquilina’s vow to let every victim speak as long as they needed provided a cathartic forum.
In the words of Judge Aquilina after hearing days of testimony, “Leave your pain here and go out and do your magnificent things.” She profoundly understood the healing power of taking the first step to facing your offender and speaking your truth. It’s the crucial first step in leaving your pain behind and reclaiming the shattered pieces of your life.
Judge Walker has set a dangerous precedent – victim impact statements are dictated on his terms and on his time. If he doesn’t approve, he will redirect or cut them off. In light of this victim mistreatment and his lack of remorse for his actions, it is time for Judge Walker to resign.
Danielle Tudor is a rape survivor, advocate and activist. She is also a member of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Joint Interim Task Force on Testing of Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Kits. She recently moved to Oklahoma from Oregon.
Ken Walker was appointed to the Multnomah county circuit court in 2007 by then-governor Ted Kulongowski (D. Of course). At the time, Kulongowski said “I am pleased to appoint four outstanding judges to the Multnomah County bench,” said Governor Kulongoski. “Oregon is fortunate that these four talented lawyers have dedicated their careers to public service and seek to serve on the bench. Increasing diversity on the bench continues to be a priority for me because I believe it is important to have judges of varied backgrounds and experiences. This group of judges has diverse perspectives and life experiences that will enrich the Multnomah County bench and make it one step closer to reflecting the population that the Court serves.”
Walker also made headlines in 2012 with bizarre statements about the Mitt Romney Dog-gate.
In 2016, the gentlemen of the bar gave preference to Walker, a fellow gentlman of the bar, and ruled there was no violation of anything stemming from Walker’s gun rant.
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