Judge attacked at his home by unknown assailant

OLYMPIA — A Thurston County District Court judge answered the door of his Olympia home Monday night and was met by a man who threw liquid into his face, causing skin irritation that was treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Presiding Judge Michael “Brett” Buckley suffered only minor injuries in the 9:25 p.m. attack in the South Capitol neighborhood and was released from the hospital Tuesday. Police were trying to identify the attacker but had precious little in the way of leads, spokeswoman Laura Wohl said.

No motive has been determined, Wohl said.

Police are analyzing the liquid, which was thrown from a glass container; the process could take several days, she said.

Buckley got a good look at his attacker, who left without a word after the attack, Wohl said. Buckley did not recognize the man, who is described as 20 to 30 years old with a dark complexion, black hair and medium build, standing about 6 feet. He had a short beard and was wearing a maroon knit cap, a dark sweater and light khaki pants.

Shaken attorneys and court personnel in District and Superior Court said Tuesday that most take it for granted that some defendants, or their families, might have negative feelings about their cases. But it is shocking and scary, they said, to consider that someone might feel compelled to attack.

“Judge Buckley is one of the nicest people that work in this building,” crime-victim advocate Stanley Phillips said during an afternoon meeting for all court employees to discuss safety precautions. “If you see something suspicious around the courthouse, you need to report that immediately,” he told fellow employees.

During a news conference outside the District and Superior Court complex on Lakeridge Drive, Wohl and one of Buckley’s colleagues, District Judge Sam Meyer, said they knew of no threats against the judge or any contentious cases that might have led to the attack. Wohl said only that police hope Buckley’s description of his attacker might help.

Meyer didn’t know when Buckley might return to work but added, “knowing Judge Buckley, I expect him to be back quite soon.” Meyer also read a written statement from Buckley, who was described by friends and neighbors Tuesday as kind and considerate.

“My family and I greatly appreciate the thoughts and prayers of those who have contacted the court and my family,” reads Buckley’s statement. It continues, “I’ve given as much information to the police as I can, and I have faith that they will conduct a thorough investigation.”

Outside Buckley’s home Tuesday, a cleanup crew including a man in a hazardous-materials suit worked inside the front door, which was stained from Monday’s attack. Neighbors expressed shock that their quiet neighborhood would be the scene of a brazen assault.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” neighbor Barbara Packard said of the attack. “He’s a great guy. Everybody likes him. Wonderful family.”

Sheriff John Snaza has ordered that corrections deputies in charge of courthouse security be vigilant and visible in public areas, Lt. Greg Elwin said Tuesday.

Olympia Police Lt. Jim Costa said detectives will look at criminal defendants who came before Buckley who may have threatened him, or acted strangely.

“We’ve got to go backwards and figure out who in this judge’s past has had an issue with him,” he said.

Police don’t know whether the suspect left the scene in a vehicle or on foot, Wohl said.