COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - By day, he's a Kootenai County Magistrate Judge. On his off time, he's a role player in the world of fantasy games. But one group in Idaho says this judge's ruling of the gaming world is getting in the way of his rulings from the bench.
If you've seen the yellow "Demon Lord" signs around Kootenai County, you may have been wondering what they're about. The group "Citizens for the Removal of Judge Clark Peterson" says the judge isn't fit to preside in Kootenai County.
Equipped with signs and judge robes, the group protested outside the Kootenai County Courthouse Wednesday morning.
"Someone needs to stand up and say no judge is better than Judge Peterson," said campaign organizer Tina Stevens.
Stevens says this all started three years ago with a Spokesman Review article, exposing Peterson as an avid gamer, who was also going through a divorce and financial problems.
"What was concerning was there were almost 3,000 blogs online by the judge, 370 of which were posted from the court house," she said, referencing the article.
His gaming blog cited by the Spokesman appears to no longer be in use.
Stevens was a litigant in Judge Peterson's courtroom, and says she has seen first hand how his personal life got in the way of his duties as a judge.
"It seemed like he hadn't been reading the briefs and paying attention to the case anyway," she said about her case, "and I found out later he had been blogging online just before he came in."
She and other protesters cited multiple of the judge's rulings they did not agree with, and explained they believe his personal problems and gaming activities affected his decision making.
A few people came out in support of Judge Peterson.
"I think it's unfair to characterize him as somehow not qualified in a professional sense because of his hobbies," said Chris Skinner, who knows Judge Peterson.
Skinner says the group has no foundation for their claims.
"He's always been very fair, very analytical in his thinking, and he's a very good judge," Skinner said.
But Stevens says the judge's personal and financial issues, and his gaming lifestyle cannot be overlooked this election.
"When does he have time to adequately do his job and is he really going to be in the mind set to make sound decisions?" Stevens said.
Judge Peterson sent out the following statement shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday:
"Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the recent campaign against my retention.
"I strongly support every citizen's right to free and political speech. Judges generally refrain from responding to such matters and our ethical rules limit how we can respond. Unfortunately, since it appears old allegations are being raised against me again, they deserve some comment.
"These matters are old allegations that have been long resolved. I was divorced in 2012. My divorce and its related financial matters have long been resolved several years ago. Those matters were not a distraction then and certainly are not one now. Our marital residence was surrendered as part of that process; I do not occupy it and do not intend to redeem it. Also, years ago prior to being a judge, I had a publishing company that produced game materials. After being appointed judge, I transferred my interest in that company. I maintained an interest in my old hobby and, while on breaks, did on occasion post on related message boards. I did not ever, as has been suggested, participate in online gaming during work hours. As I expressed some years ago, I regret if anyone viewed my postings regarding one of my hobbies as not being up to the standards of the Idaho Judiciary. I changed my practices immediately. I have already addressed these matters.
"The comments that have been made do not reflect the manner in which I serve our community. So I thought I might take a moment to share some of those things. I maintain many hobbies and activities as a judge. In addition to being a dedicated and loving father of my daughter, I am a lector at my church, I officiate high school basketball, and I volunteer my time judging local high school mock trial competitions. I have been a guest lecturer at local schools regarding law and our system of government. I served on the advisory council for my daughter's school and for several years was President of that board. During my lunch hour, time permitting, I keep fit by working out at our local Crossfit gym.
"In 2012 I was awarded the IACDL Statewide Award for Judicial Excellence. I have been selected by the National Judicial College to serve as adjunct faculty, training other judges from around our country in the rules of evidence.
"Since these old allegations were first raised, I continue to perform many voluntary duties and have in fact assumed additional voluntary duties as a judge. I preside over the Kootenai County Domestic Violence Court, having taken over for retired Judge Friedlander. The Domestic Violence Court holds offenders accountable, helps achieve victim safety and thereby creates safer, more stable homes for children. Our Domestic Violence Court has excellent ratings from its participants and stakeholders. I continue to voluntarily serve as the "point judge" for child protection matters. Additionally, I swear in new CASA advocates. Further, I frequently speak at and swear in our North Idaho law enforcement POST academy graduates. Every weekend (with rare exception) for over six years I personally review all the weekend arrests by law enforcement to ensure there is probable cause for such arrests.
"Underneath the black robe, I am a dedicated and hardworking conservative Idaho citizen who is proud and honored to serve my community in that role. While some are picketing my retention outside the courthouse, I will be inside the courthouse presiding over the people of Idaho's cases."
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