Bellingham City Attorneys Removed from Muni Court Case by Judge

City attorney James Erb removed from legal case against Judge Lev for conflict of interest by Superior Court judge.

City attorney James Erb removed from legal case against Judge Lev for conflict of interest by Superior Court judge.

• Topics: Bellingham, Law & Justice,
10:04pm —

Municipal Judge Debra Lev won a resounding victory in court this afternoon against Bellingham city attorneys. Her legal team brought the City back to court today in Skagit Superior Court. Two weeks ago, Skagit Superior Court judge, Elizabeth Yost Neidzwski, ruled Bellingham's mayor and city attorneys were violating state law by investigating the Municipal Court's internal affairs. She told the city to stop.  Mayor Fleetwood and the city attorneys ignored the judge's order.  They continued the investigation, finished their confidential report, and leaked it to the Bellingham Herald within two hours of receiving it. All in an apparent effort to smear Judge Lev. 

Judge Lev brought them back to court for conflict of interest as city attorneys Alan Mariner and James Erb are by law her legal advisors and they have now turned to investigating her.  The Superior Court Judge fully agreed and barred James Erb, Chief City Attorney Alan Mariner and the entire legal department of the City of Bellingham from any further involvement.  A stunning defeat for Mayor Seth Fleetwood's crusade against Judge Lev.  

The Skagit County judge found the city attorneys had committed “unethical behavior” in their dogged pursuit of Judge Lev. For this, one or more of them could possibly be removed from office or barred from practicing law by future actions of the state bar or state courts.  

Perspective.  For taxpayers in Bellingham, these city attorneys are wasting money as fast as they can. This may have started out as a plan to have Deb Lev removed as a judge and to allow James Erb, the city attorney, to be appointed to the position of municipal judge.  This is speculation, but there seems to be no rational motive for this by the mayor and his attorneys. Yes, Mayor Fleetwood is behind this witch hunt.  He is an attorney and should be held accountable as this fiasco continues to develop. 

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Drue Robinson

Jul 01, 2021

This is not the first time I’m disappointed in Mayor Seth Fleetwood. He has let the citizens of Bellingham down in so many ways. 


Dianne Foster

Jul 02, 2021


Have to say I’m with the mayor on this one.    I worked for a very abusive,  bullying head nurse at a Seattle hospital many years ago;  the entire staff protested,  but they wouldn’t fire the nurse-manager,  to whom they were beholden.    She would mosey out onto the floor and insult nurses in front of patients.    Sounds just like Lev and company here.     The hospital hired a group of psychologists to have meetings between her and the other RN’s,  (kumbaya didn’t work,  as she was a powermonger);    ultimately the only thing that worked was all staff resigning.    I may have my disagreements with this mayor over his lack of stopping teardowns of historic homes in my neighborhood,   but I’m with him.     Lev may have the legal high ground,  but Fleetwood and the union have the moral one.


Angelo Tsoukalas

Jul 02, 2021

Wow! Pretty wild stuff in this scenic little  town. Conflict of interest is no good. What’s the old joke about government - “It’s like a septic tank, the big chunks always manage to float to the top!” LoL!


Jon Humphrey

Jul 03, 2021

Having worked on the public broadband issues for years, and done many public record requests, I can tell you that the COB is not transperant. On top of that James has been gunning for a judge position for years and apparently Seth will help him get it any way he can. The COB does not believe in the rule of law. I have had many issues getting accurate public records from the COB and schools as well. As Angelo says, “It’s like a septic tank, the big chunks always manage to float to the top!”

Also, why are they spending time of this when we still have a homelessness crisis, broadband access crisis, food security crisis, housing crisis, poverty crisis and more? Shouldn’t our mayor and staff be helping convert abandoned buildings for use by the homeless, etc.? Just look at broadband, the COB sat on an entire existing public fiber-optic network througout a pandemic. I literally saw teachers cry over how their students chouldn’t participate via Zoom because of inadequate broadband connections. We offered to hook the gear up for them, but the COB sat on it instead or worse. The overpriced wireless solutions they bought were virtually worthless and the low-income connections they subsidized were even worse. Yet the entire time they had an existing fiber network they could have let the public use! Guess James and Seth’s beef with another member of the upper echelon must have been more important to them. 



Karen Steen

Jul 03, 2021

Thanks for this good news, John. And thank goodness for the Superior Court. I maintain Mayor Fleetwood has from the outset of his tenure aligned with political and cultural agendas rather than serve the welfare of Bellingham citizens. May the court system prevail and direct remediation and consequences that serve the well-being of our city.


Ray Kamada

Jul 06, 2021

Well, call me a fence sitter, but I sense that there’s a lot more to this story than we’ve gotten thus far. 

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