Richard Pope's "Complicated" Life

King County's most dogged repeat candidate for office is taking a break, while the Bar Association investigates him.

Normally at this time of year--i.e., election season--attorney Richard Pope is handing out political flyers and sneaking onto our TV screens, running for something. He has previously sought the offices of county assessor, state judge, and port commissioner, among others, switching between parties as necessary to gain advantage. In 2000, he netted some acclaim, and an impressive 883,000 statewide votes, in a losing effort to unseat then–attorney general Christine Gregoire. But after his unsuccessful 2007 challenge to incumbent King County Council member Jane Hague (aka Miss Jane Springman at her DUI hearing), Pope wound up 0 for 11 over the last two decades, and had become known as a political gadfly. He's not seeking office this year, or perhaps ever again, he said the other day. He's got a more personal campaign to run: getting back his bar license and fighting a restraining order obtained by a former client and acquaintance. "It's a very complicated situation," says Pope, 47. A Bellevue woman Carmen Arruda sought a protection order against Pope last year, claiming he was harassing her, including calling her repeatedly and sending anonymous e-mails and faxes to her employer seeking to get her fired. In a police report, she accused him of groping her at a party and generally acting crazy. She was granted the order last August by a Bellevue District Court judge. Pope is currently appealing the order in King County Superior Court. He denies Arruda's claims. In court papers, Pope claims to have had a "dating relationship" with Arruda, something she, through her attorney, strenuously denies. That situation ought to pretty much take care of Pope's free time. But he's also trying to clear his name with the Washington State Bar Association. Pope has been suspended from practice since 2008 due to a complaint against him, and currently faces disciplinary action. In May, as part of its probe into Pope, the bar subpoenaed Seattle Weekly, seeking help in identifying a Daily Weekly commenter. In an August 2009 post on an aesthetically challenged, bunker-like sidewalk built by the city in front of a vacant Capitol Hill lot, a commenter who used the name Arruda opined that the money had not been wisely spent. Ten days later, a commenter, under the signature "Citizens Against Mortgage Fraud," posted an eight-paragraph attack on Arruda that included details about the harassment dispute and called Arruda's new boyfriend a career criminal. The unsubstantiated and potentially libelous remark was quickly taken down by a SW editor. The accusations were similar to those made in a fax Arruda claims Pope had earlier sent to her employer, a link the bar was apparently attempting to establish. Asked whether he had anything to do with "Citizens Against...," Pope told the Weekly "I have no comment on that." Pope also faces a competency hearing, according to bar spokesperson Judy Berrett. "If the hearing officer finds that Mr. Pope does not have the mental or physical capacity to practice law," she says, "the hearing officer must recommend that he be transferred to disability inactive status. Mr. Pope would remain on disability inactive status until he shows that the disability has been removed." If he's found not disabled, the disciplinary proceedings would resume. "I think the more interesting story to write about is the psychiatrist the bar association hired to say I supposedly have issues," says Pope. "That guy is totally crazy." Pope insists he's a victim in all this. He could give up and go quietly, he says, but his nature is to fight back. "You don't let this kind of thing happen, you don't let them do this to people. Walk away? I've got all this stuff on the Internet about me and I can't get it taken down. I can't walk away. If anyone should walk away, it's the people attacking me." [Editor's Note: This story has been altered since it was first published in order to clarify that the two individuals disagree as to how to describe their relationship.]

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