Bury Maleng’s Legacy with Him

PublisherSocial Justice

King County’s Maleng Regional Justice Center (located in Kent) should be a symbol of our justice system, representing fairness, equality, and the pursuit of truth. However, it’s time to reassess the name adorning this institution. The building is named for Norm Maleng, seven-term King County Prosecutor and two-time-failed Republican candidate for governor. Racism and discrimination tarnish Maleng’s legacy. Because the truth about Norm Maleng is so damning, his name must be immediately removed.

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent

Originally, King County was named after William R. King, a slave trafficker who made his fortune trafficking negro slaves. Due to William King’s racist legacy, King County changed its name on April 19. 2005, to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Maleng may not have owned slaves, but he like many right wing GOPers, were and are racist.

Norm Maleng’s tenure as King County Prosecutor is clouded by his bigoted decisions and interference in sentencing black and brown people. Many older Seattle attorneys know that Maleng used his kingship behind the scenes to pursue the harshest judges and sentences to nonwhite offenders while giving lenient sentences to white folks. Maleng used his position to shield police officers from criminal and excessive force investigations. He joined forces with the SPD Police Guild, supporting qualified immunity to hide and protect bad cops. His actions undermine the principles of fairness and equality that any prosecutor should uphold.

Maleng’s bigotry did not stop at race, Maleng was also opposed to gay rights. Maleng was the chief civil deputy prosecutor when King County received its first marriage license request from a same-sex couple in 1971. Maleng was contacted by the county auditor and told the auditor to deny the application. During his failed campaigns for Governor, Maleng supported firing Jim Gaylord, a gay teacher (Gaylord v. Tacoma School Dist. 10 (1977)) because he was gay, and according to Maleng, gay teachers can’t be trusted around children. Maleng’s opposition to gay educators demonstrates his homophobia and a pattern of prejudice, still in step with the far-right today. Further, in 1978, Maleng’s friend and member of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, SPD Sgt. David Estes, who shared the same bigoted cultural views as Maleng, drafted Initiative 13. Initiative 13 would have removed housing and employment protections for Seattle’s gays, which Maleng wanted overturned. 

Seattle Gay News (SGN) Article about one of the first raids at the Monastery

I was personally targeted by Maleng and faced unfair treatment because I am a gay black man, between 1978 and 1985, I owned and operated the Monastery. I became a target of Maleng and SPD’s Sgt. Estes because The Monastery was a place where people of all races and sexualities and religions gathered in community. The Seattle police department raided the Monastery on multiple occasions, using trumped-up charges of obstruction of justice, noise complaints and underage drinking to imprison me. I had to go to trial following one raid, where I was found not guilty in 1978. 

On another occasion, I was arrested for a failure to purchase a $5 banquet permit, a misdemeanor and a law that was never enforced. While my attorneys dealt with an appeal related to this arrest, I went to California to build a nightclub.

The California Superior Court held that a $5 misdemeanor liquor charge, was not a sufficient reason to face extradition to Washington State until the appellate case was completely settled. However, Maleng was determined to imprison me and shut down the Monastery, so he went to great lengths to overcome their ruling. Conspiring with Republican Governors John Spellman of WA and George Deukmejian of CA, Maleng used a governor’s warrant to have me forcibly returned to Washington State. The warrant Maleng used against me traces its origins to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. Maleng had me, the grandson of Obadiah Bass, a Negro slave, forcefully returned to Washington State in 1985. 

After 7 years of trying to shut down the Monastery because he and his allies touted the Monastery as a place of ill repute, Norm Maleng finally achieved his goal of imprisoning me. A mere misdemeanor charge for not having a $5 banquet permit led to serving a ten-month consecutive sentence imposed by Judge Roberts, one of Maleng’s “good ole’ boys”.    All prisoners qualify for reduced sentences for “good time” served, but Maleng had Judge Roberts cancel my good time served, to artificially prolong my sentence. In the process, Maleng cleverly circumvented the Writ of Habeas Corpus I filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, trampling constitutional law and my rights in his conspiracy.

Considering Norm Maleng’s racist legacy, his name should no longer disgrace the Regional Justice Center. I am certain that I am not the only victim of Maleng’s unequal and discriminatory prosecution. His actions are a stark example of the deep-rooted racism and misuse of authority that pervaded his office while he pursued his bigoted agenda towards people he didn’t like, because of their culture, sexuality, or religion.

Instead, I propose naming the King Co. Justice Center after Gary Locke, a statesman who embodies the principles of justice, fairness, and diversity we seek in all leaders. As the first and only Chinese American Governor in U.S. history, Locke’s legacy leaves a lasting impact on Washington State and the nation.  Ambassador Locke, former King County Executive and two-term Governor of Washington State, has earned international respect, serving as U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Ambassador to China under President Obama. His commitment to the community is evident throughout his years of service, including his recent tenure as President of Bellevue College.

Locke deserves recognition for his shining example of principled leadership. Renaming the Locke Regional Justice Center would symbolize King County’s continued commitment to diversity and inclusion. It would send a powerful message of respect and recognition to the Asian American community and other underrepresented folks. It would demonstrate a firm stance against racism, no matter how long ago it occurred. Honoring Locke’s achievements would inspire future generations, regardless of their background and skin color, to become leaders and believe in their potential to contribute positively to this collapsing planet.

Now is the time to remove the name of Norm Maleng from the King County Regional Justice Center and the tower of Harborview Hospital complex. Maleng’s legacy of racism, discrimination, and opposition to minority rights undermines the principles of the citizens of Washington State. By saluting Gary Locke, we honor an exceptional leader and advocate for an equitable and just society.

George Freeman
Presiding Chaplain, Universal Life Church Monastery

We are all children of the same universe.

From the Rectory