Did you hear the one about...
In the middle:
And a few that we couldn't find anything funny to say about:

Judge Jorgensen and the case of the spammer "sting operation"
In 2003, after getting spammed by a Washington spammer, I tape-recorded a phone call with them in which they talked about their spam operations. Then I sued them in Small Claims court, where the case was heard by Judge Karlie Jorgensen. The defendant said he had no idea who sent me the email and even that he "didn't have the capability" to send it. I then showed Judge Jorgensen the tape of the conversation which included the defendant saying "I would blast out 5 million for $500" and "It's a United-States-based company but they pump everything through China and then it comes back to the United States". Judge Jorgensen ruled that it was "not sufficient proof" that the defendant was guilty of spamming. The long version.

Judge Kato and allowing plaintiffs to sue spammers out-of-state
In 2002, Judge Eileen Kato prohibited a plaintiff named Joel Hodgell from suing an out-of-state spammer in Small Claims Court, making him sue the spammer in District Court instead (where you can get nailed for attorney's fees if you lose), and then she ordered Hodgell to pay nearly $7,000 in attorney's fees to the spammer when she dismissed Hodgell's case on a technicality. But then when I sued an out-of-state spammer in Judge Kato's courtroom in 2005, she allowed it and awarded me a $1,500 judgment against the spammer. ???

Judge Garrow and phone solicitations from non-profits
In 2001, Judge Janet Garrow ruled that I could collect $500 from a non-profit organization that called my phone number playing a pre-recorded message telling people not to vote for Maria Cantwell. Then in 2003, when I sued another non-profit for calling me and playing a pre-recorded message, she ruled this time that the law did not apply to non-profits. Since the cases were identical, I think the second ruling was probably in retaliation for comments I had made to the Seattle Times about my experiences in Small Claims court (such as, well, judges contradicting their own rulings).

Judge Jacke and suing spammers in Small Claims court
In 2001, Judge Linda Jacke dismissed several of my Small Claims cases against spammers, saying you could only sue in Small Claims if you had actually lost money. No other judge agreed with that position, until one pro tem judge (i.e. filling in temporarily for one day) made the same ruling, and I got that ruling overturned on appeal. After that, Judge Jacke officially stated that she would withdraw herself from any of my cases against spammers where I had not actually lost money (i.e. other judges would hear those cases instead). Why would a judge do that unless they were worried about being overturned on appeal?

Appeal of my Taxpayers for R-51 case:
I received a notice in the mail that my appeal would be heard by Judge Michael J. Fox and I had until July 11, 2003 to file a brief arguing my case. So I was up until 3 AM on July 1st working on the brief, but then on July 2nd I got a notice in the mail that the judge had dismissed the case. When I called his clerk to ask how that could have happened 9 days before the deadline for filing my brief, she said he closed the case early so he could go on vacation.

Judge Lasalata and suing out-of-state spammers
In September 2003 Judge Lasalata ruled that I could sue spammers out of state as long as they were served with the lawsuit papers at least 90 days before the court date. Then in April 2004 he was presiding over another Small Claims hearing and dismissed all my spam cases at the beginning because they were against out-of-state spammers. No explanation given. Also likes to yell a lot.

What happens if you let the courthouse pick the court dates for you
I filed for a hearing to reconsider Judge Lasalata's rulings, and the court mailed me a letter saying the hearing was scheduled for April 23, 2004. So I asked the court to re-schedule the hearing since I was going to be in Nevada on that date, but Judge Nault denied the request. I guess they figure that if I'm allowed to sue spammers who are out of state, it's only fair if they keep a hearing scheduled when they know I'll be out of state?


JudgeJokes.com is a collection of some of my experiences trying to sue spammers in Small Claims Court under Washington State's anti-spam law. Washington has the best anti-spam law in the U.S., but after filing a few court cases it became clear that the biggest impediment to using it was judges not taking people seriously who represented themselves in court, i.e. who appeared in court pro se (Latin for "punching bag").

I didn't crisscross the state looking for the worst examples I could find; actually, almost every judge I've appeared before is listed here, so this is a typical cross-section of what someone might expect in Small Claims court. Not all judges, of course, are rude or unprofessional; having brought a few dozen Small Claims cases by now, I'd say only about half of them are. But that's still too many.

Judges are not "rated" here based on whether or not they rule in favor of spam plaintiffs. Of the four judges at left who got the best write-ups, all of them ruled against me in a majority of my cases (although one of them reversed himself later), and two other judges who ruled in my favor in almost all of my spam cases that they heard, Peter Nault and Norm Leopold, still got less-than-flattering pages about them.

The biggest problem for plaintiffs is getting contradictory decisions from judges. I don't blame the judges for contradicting each other on legal issues, since that's part of the game, especially if the laws that themselves are ambiguous. But sometimes the same judge will issue contradictory rulings on different days, without giving any explanation or even acknowledging that they're changing their own position, on questions such as whether you can sue a spammer twice if they've spammed you twice, or whether you can sue an out-of-state spammer, or whether you can sue a spammer if you haven't actually lost any money. Sometimes the judge may seem to be changing their position out of revenge; other times where revenge couldn't possibly be a factor, they might just be changing their mind at random.

I hope that future spam-fighters will not be discouraged from bringing lawsuits against spammers, but I have created this page to let people know what to expect.

- Bennett Haselton