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Benton County judge facing DUI is back at work

Judge Terry M. Tanner has returned to work on the Benton County District Court bench, but is not handling any DUI cases. Tanner was arrested March 6 for driving under the influence, and appeared the following day before Superior Court Judge Joe Burrowes, left. Tanner, right, and his lawyer Scott Johnson were in the jail courtroom.
Judge Terry M. Tanner has returned to work on the Benton County District Court bench, but is not handling any DUI cases. Tanner was arrested March 6 for driving under the influence, and appeared the following day before Superior Court Judge Joe Burrowes, left. Tanner, right, and his lawyer Scott Johnson were in the jail courtroom. Tri-City Herald

A Benton County District Court judge is back on the bench but no longer handling DUIs until his own case is resolved.

Judge Terry M. Tanner returned to work Thursday, one day after he was charged with driving under the influence.

Tanner, who handles all city of Kennewick cases, immediately resumed his normal docket duties. However, all DUI cases scheduled to be heard during each docket are being given to other judges.

For example, on Thursday afternoon, another judge went into Tanner’s courtroom to hear four DUI cases scheduled for that day, said District Court Administrator Jacki Lahtinen.

“It isn’t impacting us,” said Lahtinen.

The changes came after the District Court judges met Thursday morning.

Tanner, 55, was arrested shortly before midnight Tuesday after witnesses reported seeing a driver sleeping behind the wheel of his crashed Cadillac ATS.

tanner mug
Judge Terry M. Tanner Supplied photo

Tanner was found by Benton County sheriff’s deputies about 300 feet away from the sedan at Clodfelter Road and Cantera Street. He lives nearby in Badger Canyon.

Tanner, who allegedly admitted to driving the Cadillac after drinking at Buffalo Wild Wings in Kennewick, was held in jail for 11 hours before he was released on his personal recognizance.

Scott Johnson, Tanner’s lawyer, told the Herald that he checked in with the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Johnson said commission Executive Director Reiko Callner indicated that it was proper procedure for Tanner not to handle DUIs while dealing with his own case.

Tanner must recuse himself from any cases involving the same sheriff’s deputies who responded to his arrest, Johnson explained. He also won’t be hearing cases where the suspect is represented by his attorney’s law firm, Johnson & Orr Law Firm.

“He wanted to get back to work,” Johnson said of Tanner. “I think that his heart is as a public servant … and he wants to continue serving the community, regardless of what happened earlier in the week.”

I think that his heart is as a public servant ... and he wants to continue serving the community, regardless of what happened earlier in the week.

Scott Johnson, Judge Tanner’s lawyer

When asked if the judge is seeking treatment or counseling, Johnson told the Herald: “He’s taking appropriate steps to follow up on what happened, but I’m not going to get specific.”

Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant has been appointed as a special prosecutor on this case to remove any potential conflict with the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office.

An out-of-county judge will be called in for future hearings on Tanner’s gross misdemeanor charge.

Tanner is up for re-election for his judicial position this year, with candidate filing in May.

District Court judges make $161,092 a year. Their salary is paid by Benton County taxpayers.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer

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