A longtime Tri-City attorney said he is troubled by this week’s arrest of a Benton County District Court judge and questions if the judge should keep serving.
Patrick McBurney Jr. announced Thursday that he has formed an exploratory committee to determine if he should run in the next election cycle for the seat currently held by Judge Terry M. Tanner.
McBurney acknowledged that his decision was in light of reports about Tanner’s arrest late Tuesday for driving under the influence.
“It is unfortunate that Judge Tanner finds himself in a situation where he is alleged to have committed a DUI,” said McBurney.
“While Judge Tanner has a long record of public service and has entered a plea of not guilty to the charge, if in fact he has committed a DUI, or is convicted of a lesser alcohol-related charge, it calls into question his judgment and his ability to serve as a District Court judge,” he said.
Tanner was released from the Benton County jail Wednesday after his first appearance in court on the gross misdemeanor charge.
He was not back on the bench Thursday, and it is unclear when he will return.
Tanner has been in Position 1 with District Court since he first was appointed in 2009. His seat is up for election this year, with candidate filing in May.
District Court judges handle all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases, including DUI charges.
McBurney described Tanner as “a nice guy,” but said it is troubling when a judge is charged with the same crime that often comes before him in his job.
“In this case I have an issue where the alleged behavior of Judge Tanner impacts his role as a serving District Court judge and I think, yeah, someone has to step up and run against him,” he said.
McBurney, admitted to the state bar in 1993, primarily deals with bankruptcy matters along with criminal defense and family law. He had a public defense contract in Franklin County District Court from 2001-11.
McBurney ran for the Washington state Court of Appeals in 2016, the Richland City Council in 2011 and the Richland School Board in 2007.
He said he will wait until after Tanner’s next scheduled court hearing in April before announcing if he will seek election.