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Senior Kitsap judge to retire

The longest serving judge on the Kitsap County Superior Court bench has announced his retirement, and that he will not seek a fifth elected term.

“My wife is now retired and we’re looking toward spending some time together,” Judge Leonard Costello said on Monday. “I’ve been here 28 years and it’s time to move on.”

Prior to his election in 1992 Costello, 60, worked as a court commissioner and land-use hearing examiner. Before that he was in private practice for eight years.

He is a Kitsap County native, having graduated from West Bremerton High School.

Costello was elected to an open seat. In turn, he is retiring at the end of his term. This is contrary to the common practice of retiring in the middle of a term and allowing the governor to appoint a judge who then becomes an incumbent.

As Costello retires, the remaining seven members of the bench have indicated they will seek another term. These include, in order of seniority, M. Karlynn Haberly, Jay Roof, Leila Mills, Anna Laurie, Russell Hartman, Theodore Spearman and Sally Olson.

The election of Kitsap County Superior Court judges is non-partisan and corresponds with presidential election years.

“They are all solid, hard workers,” Costello said of his colleagues. “They are all knowledgeable regarding the law and procedures. There are no slackers on this bench.”

Costello said the members and the functions of the Superior Court are generally unknown to the public, aside from those who have been accused of a crime or gone through a divorce. He said any Superior Court judge needs to be “patient and open-minded,” among other qualities.

“A good judge will need to keep an open mind until all the facts are presented,” he said. “They need to be committed to the rule of the law and be able to make decisions. This may seem like an obvious thing, but it is not always easy to figure out the facts and apply the law.”

To local lawyers, Costello’s retirement has been an open secret for some time. One of them, Gregory J. Wall of Port Orchard, said that he planned to run for the seat, but kept quiet until Costello made his own announcement.

“I have been a trial lawyer for 30 years and would make a good judge,” Wall said this week.

Port Orchard Attorney Bruce Danielson announced his candidacy for the court last month, but declined to specify his opponent.

Danielson, who ran against Laurie in 2004, said Monday that he had not yet decided whom to challenge this year and it was not a foregone conclusion that he would seek the open seat.

“I have not yet decided who to run against,” Danielson said. “I will decide the week of filing.”

The recommendation of the local bar association is considered to be a factor in the election of judges. Danielson said he would not seek this endorsement, as it was akin to players voting on a referee.

Wall, on the other hand, said he expects support from the Bar Association.

All filings must be made during the first week of June. Candidates must submit financial information as soon as they declare.

If only one candidate files for a non-partisan election he or she is automatically elected and there is no general election. If two or more candidates file they will face off in the Aug. 19 primary.

If no candidate gains a majority (50 percent plus one) all candidates advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

After a salary boost scheduled for September Superior Court Judges will earn $148,000 a year.

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