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Judging candidates for the bench

July 22, 2012

Superior Court Judge, Court 7

All four candidates in the one contested Kitsap County Superior Court judge race come armed with courtroom experience and a considerable list of community involvement. Both qualifications are crucial for any candidate to sit on the bench in the county's highest court, where criminal, civil and appellate cases are heard, and personal issues like adoptions, guardianships and domestic cases are common.

A third critical skill for a superior court judge, in this board's opinion, is the ability to clearly communicate. That includes the patience to listen and understand different perspectives; an ability to clearly make a point to an offender, victim or legal counsel; and the interest in doing so to further the access to justice and build confidence in the county's system.

Two candidates stood out to our board when judged on those three criteria: Jennifer Forbes and Bill Houser.

Forbes and Houser are not the top two in terms of years of experience, but both have backgrounds that include criminal prosecution and defense. Having been in both positions Houser is currently a public defender in Kitsap and prosecuted for years in Oregon; Forbes formerly worked as a county prosecutor and has done municipal and criminal defense in private practice gives each a perspective that either side of a case should value in a judge.

Forbes and Houser, like the other two candidates, Karen Klein and Rob MacDermid, also have spent years involved with community organizations and have each earned positive recommendations from peer groups. Houser's nod, in fact, came from county prosecutors who he regularly faces off against. That sign of respect is worth noting, as is Forbes's high rating from several legal organizations.

Both of our choices also demonstrate an understanding of individual needs, balanced with a concrete view of a judge's role in the courtroom.

Both are thoughtful in explaining their personal perspectives, which can evolve in the search for just application of the law, such as Forbes's acknowledgment of difficult subjects that range from juvenile sex offenders to the public records act, or how Houser can express respect for a jury's decision and a judge's role in risk management when sentencing or handing down decisions.

The opponents make interesting points, from Klein's campaign to integrate social media in the court's business or MacDermid's relatively stricter view that a judge's role in Superior Court starts and ends on the bench. But Forbes and Houser stand out as the two candidates our board would be most comfortable with as Superior Court Judge in Court 7.

State Supreme Court and Court of Appeals

Any of the three contested state Supreme Court races could be settled in the Aug. 7 primary, if a candidate earns 50 percent of the vote or more. Time limitations prevented our board from interviewing the candidates in those races positions 2, 8 and 9 will be on your ballot but a check of the website www.votingforjudges.org is worth the time of any voter interested in casting an informed vote.

Given the information there, and acknowledging our endorsement comes without the same level of interaction as for those we interview, we give a nod to Susan Owens, Steven Gonzalez and Bruce Hilyer. Each of the three particularly Gonzalez and Owens has a resume that far outpaces their opponents and have earned far higher recommendations from the legal community in each case as well, which gives us confidence in their abilities as well.

In the Court of Appeals, Div. 2, District 2, Position 2 race, three candidates stand out for consideration: Pam Loginsky, Thomas Bjorgen and Tom Weaver. Our board did not schedule a formal interview before the primary, but the three mentioned above are an easy choice to move ahead. Notable is Weaver, a Kitsap County native and appellate attorney in Bremerton.

But as always, we encourage voters to use the resources at hand to make the best decision.


 
 

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