King County District Court Judge Susan Mahoney, pictured right, serves at the South Division Court in Burien, where Phillip Levine’s 1979 bronze sculpture “Dancer” stands guard.

A King County District Court Judge who serves at the South Division Court in Burien has been accused of using racist language in a recent story by KNKX radio.

The KNKX report alleges that Judge Susan Mahoney used the N-word during a recent meeting with employees. Shortly after the incident, she resigned as presiding judge and was replaced by Judge Matthew York.

Mahoney still serves as Judge at the Burien courthouse, but is being asked by many to resign altogether.

But according to KNKX, Mahoney says it’s all been taken out of context:

“The Feb. 9th Zoom meeting that precipitated her resignation as chief presiding judge concerned the use of derogatory terms, such as ‘Nazi,’ among employees in the workplace “where the intent had been to bully, demean, harass, and intimidate others,” Mahoney said in a statement.

“It was my position that hate speech can never be tolerated and that the use of such words as slurs or derogatory terms are not protected free speech,” Mahoney continued. “To illustrate my point, I repeated an example of harmful hate speech previously given to me by one of the meeting participants, and said ‘like the N-word.’”

Mahoney said she only used the full word after she detected confusion about what exactly she meant by ‘the N-word.’”

“At the time, I had not internalized that the word could still have hurtful impact when used not as an epithet but in an explanatory context,” Mahoney said. “I have never used that word in casual conversation and the word does not fall easily and comfortably from my lips. Statements and speculations to the contrary are lies.”

“Although the Court cannot comment, at this time, on the specific details of the incident, the KCDC judges take this matter very seriously,” KCDC said in a statement sent to The B-Town Blog on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

“To maintain public trust and confidence in our justice system, King County District Court (KCDC) emphatically reaffirms its commitment to equality and to ending systemic racism and bias, both explicit and implicit, wherever it is found,” KCDC added.

“The Judiciary has zero tolerance for racism, racist words, or discrimination of any kind,” said King County District Court Chief Presiding Judge York. “King County District Court is responsible for providing equal access to justice for all, and our mission is to treat all persons with fairness and respect. Everyone who appears in our Court must feel that they are safe and will be treated equally. Only then can we build trust with historically marginalized communities.”

“While we move forward under the principles of due process, the Washington State Judicial Code of Conduct indicates the use of epithets or slurs is a manifestation of bias (see “Comment” Under Rule 2.3),” York added. “Only the Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC) or the voters can discipline a judge.”

“I want to assure court users, court staff and the public that the Court has taken the necessary steps to resolve this matter appropriately,” York said. “Judge Mahoney will not have any supervisory role with staff and will not appear in court until this matter is settled.”

Information on the Court’s actions to combat racism are available in a letter from Chief Presiding Judge Mathew York regarding King County District Court’s Commitment to Ending Systemic Racism and Bias.

About King County District Court
King County District Court is one of the busiest courts in Washington State, with 139,785 cases filed in 2021. The District Court holds court and provides public access at 10 facilities throughout King County:  Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, Issaquah, King County Courthouse (Seattle), King County Jail (Seattle jail calendars only), Redmond, Maleng Regional Justice Center (Kent), Shoreline and Vashon Island (one day per month):

Read KNKX’s full story here.

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