Judge pays off $600,000-plus bill for cutting park's trees

Federal Judge Jerome Farris has paid the city of Seattle more than $600,000 for cutting trees in Colman Park.

According to City Attorney Tom Carr and Ken Bounds, the head Seattle Parks and Recreation, Farris paid $500,000, plus interest, he had owed for damage done to 120 trees cut down in the park in 2002.

Farris said he had asked his gardener to cut down some trees on his Lake Washington view property along a fence bordering the park, in the Mount Baker neighborhood, but, he said, the gardener misunderstood his directions.

Farris, a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, told a jury in December that his gardener mistakenly clear-cut nearly an acre of the park. The gardener, Duc Huynh, said Farris had ordered him to cut down the trees.

The jury ordered Farris to pay the $500,000 restoration bill, which he finished doing this week.

According to the city officials, Farris originally made three payments, totaling $200,000, which were used to plant replacements for the lost trees.

On Monday, after the sale of the judge's Mount Baker home closed, the city received a check for the remaining $300,000, plus 12 percent interest, bringing the total payment to more than $618,000.

"The city's ultimate goal was to ensure that Judge Farris paid a significant penalty for the damage to Colman Park and to deter others from cutting down city trees to improve their views," said Carr. "This payment demonstrates that the city takes such acts seriously and will seek penalties from anyone who damages our precious city parks."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com