The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

Col. Co. Commissioners address rights protections in response to Judge Gallina arrest

If Gallina posts bail, he could preside over next week's Columbia County Superior Court docket


April 11, 2019

Courtesy Photo

Col. Co. Superior Court Judge Scott Gallina

DAYTON-In an April 11 emergency meeting, Columbia Commissioners unanimously approved Resolution 2019-22 which addresses the protection of Columbia County employees and elected officials. The resolution was drafted in response to the April 10 arrest of Columbia County Superior Court Judge Scott D. Gallina at the Asotin County Courthouse.

Columbia County Prosecutor Dale Slack, who presented the resolution, briefed the commissioners on the case saying that Gallina had been arrested at the Asotin County Courthouse by the State Patrol and a criminal investigation is ongoing.

"I don't think we're going to know all details of everything any time soon. The State Attorney General's Office has been asked to handle the prosecution on whatever the State Patrol finds. So far, they have decided that they are going to file charges of rape in the second degree, assault in the second degree and indecent liberties. Those are all very serious crimes against persons, so this is a big deal," Slack said.

Slack said that a bond hearing had been held that morning and a judge from Spokane had found that there was probable cause for those three charges, though Slack did not know if the charges had yet been filed at that time.

"I should start out by stating something that is not immediately obvious to everyone. Even when a judge is charged with a crime, he is still a judge. He is an elected official. That does not go away when someone is charged with a crime. If he bails out of jail, he can, under the law, immediately resume his duties as superior court judge until the Supreme Court and the Judicial Conduct Commission recommend that he not do that, which has not happened yet, to my knowledge," Slack said.

"Our next docket is next Wednesday so, legally and practically, it is entirely possible that the judge will come here and sit on the bench on that day."

Slack said that, from a risk standpoint, the county needs to protect the rights of all parties involved, which includes county employees and the judge. He recommended that employees not communicate with the judge unless they are in the presence of an elected county official or a department head.

One county employee raised concerns about the judge carrying a firearm.

"The judge does carry a gun and he does bring it into the courtroom with him. This is a stressor. Clearly there is another alleged side to him that we did not know. Is he going to get into court and snap?" she asked.

Slack said that the judge is certified to carry a weapon.

"This does present a problem. We can't strip a man of his rights until he's been convicted," said Commissioner Chuck Amerein.

Slack was unsure of the final conclusion on whether Gallina would be stripped of his firearms as part of the bond proceedings at the time of the meeting.

Deputy Joe Helm was called in to the meeting and assured the commissioners that the Sheriff's Office had already formulated a plan.

"I will probably be in court as well as an undersheriff . . . With all the media attention we're expecting to have all kinds of people here and have planned on increased security," Helm said.

Audience members commented that the media attention on the case is nationwide.

"They're hitting hard that Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him and it came out that he (Inslee) had made a bid for presidency, which would be why," said court clerk Jessica Atwood.

Due to lack of experience with such an unusual situation, Slack said his office is working with Pam Loginsky from the Washington Association of Prosecution Attorneys. In his role as county risk manager, Slack said he has also reached out to the risk pool which has appointed a pre-litigation attorney in case there is litigation in Columbia County.

Gallina was appointed as superior court judge in Columbia, Asotin and Garfield counties in 2014 by Gov. Jay Inslee after the retirement of Judge William D. Acey. He was then elected to a four-year term in 2016.

Gallina is being housed at the Walla Walla County Jail on $50,000 bail. His arraignment is set for May 6.

Read more details and a full update in the April 18 issue of The Times.


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