John Coughenour

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John Coughenour
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Court Information:
United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #2
Appointed by:   Pres. Ronald Reagan
Active:   9/28/1981-7/27/2006
Chief:   1997-2004
Senior:   7/27/2006-Present
Preceded by:   Morell Sharp
Succeeded by:   Richard Jones
Personal History
Born:   1941
Hometown:   Pittsburgh, KS
Undergraduate:   Kansas State College of Pittsburgh, 1963
Law School:   University of Iowa College of Law, 1966

John Coughenour is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. He joined the court in 1981 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan.[1]


Coughenor graduated from the Kansas State College of Pittsburgh with his bachelor's degree in 1963 and later earned his J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1966.[1]

Professional career

Coughenour spent his legal career as a private practice attorney licensed in the State of Washington from 1966 to 1981. He also served as an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington from 1970 to 1973.[1]

Judicial career

Western District of Washington

Coughenour was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on August 11, 1981, to a seat vacated by Judge Morell Sharp, as Sharp died while in judicial service. Coughenor was confirmed by the Senate on September 25, 1981, and received commission on September 28, 1981. Coughenor assumed senior status on July 27, 2006.[1]

Notable cases

Judge OKs elephant move (2015)

Chai and Bamboo are Asian elephants living in captivity. They currently reside at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Woodland Park wants to "loan" the elephants to the Oklahoma City Zoo under the Association of Zoos and Aquarium barter program. When the Seattle-based Elephant Justice Project learned of the intended move, it filed for an injunction in both state and federal court, arguing that the elephants are endangered species and to move them requires a permit under the Endangered Species Act. Woodland Park responded that a permit was not necessary because the Endangered Species Act applies to commercial activity, and the loan of the elephants is not commercial.

Ultimately, Judge John Coughenour of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington agreed the elephants could be moved without a permit. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated no permit was needed. He said, however, that neither zoo was an appropriate place for the elephants; they could not provide the space or proper climate the elephants would have in the wild. Further, Chai and Bamboo would not be in a worse condition because of the move.

The company hired by Woodland Park to move Chai and Bamboo via flatbed truck from Seattle to Oklahoma City has moved nearly 90 elephants across the country with only one instance of death to an elephant. Judge Coughenour concluded he could not say with certainty that either elephant would be injured or die in the transit and, therefore, injunction was still not proper.

In the companion state case, that judge also denied the request for an injunction. When a notice of appeal was filed, however, the judge informed Woodland Park they could not yet remove the elephants to Oklahoma until that appeal is heard.


Red light camera fines (2011)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Washington (MICHAEL TODD et al. v. CITY OF AUBURN et al., No. C09-1232JCC)

Judge Coughenor dismissed a lawsuit on March 4, 2010, stemming from cities in Washington illegally using red light cameras. A group of Washington state citizens filed a class action lawsuit in June 2009 claiming that cities, including Seattle, overcharged on fines and entered into illegal contracts with the supplier of the cameras. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs filed an appeal to the San Francisco based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[2] On March 31, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision.[3]

Washington political parties to repay legal fees (2010)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
On January 6, 2010, Judge Coughenor ordered the Washington State Republican and Libertarian parties to repay $70,000 in legal fees that they were awarded from a case involving their primary election system. The lawsuit involved Washington State Initiative 872, which created a top two primary system, which the Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian parties argued was unconstitutional. The lower courts upheld the parties' claims; the Supreme Court of the United States, however, reversed the decision, prompting the parties to repay the legal fees.[4]

See also

External links


Political offices
Preceded by:
Morell Sharp
Western District of Washington
Seat #2
Succeeded by:
Richard Jones