Cowlitz County District Court Judge Jamie Imboden has been charged with driving under the influence, and he has agreed to not hear any DUI cases until his own case is resolved.
Though he declined to talk about details of the case while charges are pending, Imboden said Monday he disagrees with the allegations and account in a Kelso police officer’s report of the April 17 incident.
“I look forward to having my day in court, presenting my witnesses, and being vindicated,” he said. “I believe in and trust the legal process and anticipate a just result.”
According to a traffic citation, a Kelso officer stopped Imboden, 48, at about five minutes before midnight on a Friday night. The officer was dispatched to a report of a black convertible headed eastbound over the Allen Street bridge. A 911 caller reported the convertible was driving erratically at high speed, ran a red light and nearly hit other vehicles.
Imboden denied having anything to drink when he was pulled over in the 2400 block of Allen Street. He told the officer that the car’s owner, a former legal client who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, had been drinking instead, according to the citation. (Imboden has been on the bench for less than 18 months.)
The officer reported that Imboden’s movements were slow and uncoordinated, his eyes were bloodshot and watery, and the car smelled of intoxicants.
Imboden consented to a field sobriety test, during which the officer smelled intoxicants on his breath. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI. He declined to give a voluntary breath sample at the police station and was cited and released to his wife, according to the citation.
Imboden himself reported the case to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct the following Monday morning, Cowlitz District Court Presiding Judge John Hays said Monday. That commission investigates allegations of judicial misconduct, and has the ability to admonish or censure judges as well as recommend their suspension or removal to the State Supreme Court.
The judicial conduct commission did not impose any restrictions on Imboden, but while his case is being heard, Imboden has agreed to not hear any motions, trials or pleas in any DUI cases, Hays said. He will also not preside over any Kelso Municipal Court cases other setting aside warrants.
Nearly all DUI cases are heard at the district and municipal court levels.
“The restrictions that we set up were not required,” Hays said. “(We) thought they would be the most appropriate to keep public confidence in the system.”
The charge does not otherwise impede Imboden’s legal authority to serve as a judge, Hays said. It would not necessarily do so even if he was convicted, but “we’d have to address that when it happened, if it happened,” Hays said.
Imboden was elected to the District Court bench in 2018 and sworn in January 2019.
To avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest, Kelso’s assistant city attorney and Imboden’s attorney filed a joint motion the week after his arrest to send the case from the Kelso Municipal Court to Clark County District Court.
Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Michael Evans signed that motion, so the case will be heard entirely in Clark County, Hays said Monday.
“My primary desire here is that we preserve the integrity of our municipal and District Court clerk’s position,” Hays said, “so anyone that comes before us feels that they’re being treated fairly on the prosecution and defense side, and no one believe or thinks that we’re attempting to have any influence on this case one way or another.”
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.