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Judge candidates make their case to Kitsap Bar
Two candidates for the open seat on the Kitsap Superior Court told the regular meeting of the Kitsap County Bar Association on Friday that they had the qualifications to replace Leonard Costello, who is retiring.
Attorneys Jeanette Dalton of Kingston and Greg Wall of Port Orchard answered a series of questions about their experience and judicial philosophy. A third candidate, Bruce Danielson of Port Orchard, declined to address the group.
These are two marvelous candidates, said Port Orchard attorney Darlene Piper. We would do well with either one of them.
Added Bar Association President Alyse Collins, This is a real race. They are so different, but are both well-qualified and suited for the job.
It is the only contested race on the Kitsap County Superior Court. The top two candidates in the Aug. 19 primary will advance to the Nov. 4 general election, unless one candidate receives 51 percent of the vote. In that case, there will be no general election contest.
All the candidates would rather get the 51 percent, since it would give them more time to dispose of their pending cases.
I have always attempted to make sure that my clients get a fair shake in the courtroom, Dalton said. Now, I have the opportunity to bring that same care to the judgeship. I have faced my share of good judges and can bring those qualities to the bench.
The real reason I am interested in this job is that I have not given enough to the community, Wall said. As a judge, I can use the skills that I have learned in order to make this a better place and to improve the lives of others.
Both candidates stressed the importance of courtesy and respect in the courtroom.
Wearing a black robe is not a license to be demeaning to appellants or litigants, Dalton said. I want every litigant to know that when they speak in my courtroom they will have my absolutely undivided attention.
I will listen to people, be patient and make a decision, Wall said. And it is annoying when judges take matters under advisement for long periods. Some judges take months. It is important to make decisions quickly and for a judge to be prepared.
Both candidates supported installing new technology in the courthouse, with Dalton getting specific.
I would like to see a Bar Association room, where lawyers would have access to a printer and other equipment, she said. Courtrooms should have places where you can bring in your laptop and log on to the network. And we need rooms where we can meet with our clients. A lot of times I have been meeting with a stressed client in a large room and someone who knows me comes up and says hello. We need to be able to have more privacy.
Fridays meeting was a prelude to the Bar Association recommendations, where members are given a questionnaire that rates each candidate in several different categories.
These anonymous ballots are then tallied and analyzed with each candidate then receiving a rating of either not qualified, qualified or highly qualified.
Danielson objected to this process. Prior to the meeting, he explained his absence in writing, saying, I have not intentionally sought the endorsement of local attorneys. I want to avoid, at minimum, any appearance of impropriety. This is a close-knit community and should I win this election, I would not like to have my integrity and impartiality put into question over attorney endorsements.
Also, he wrote, I believe it would be my ethical duty, as judge, to inform the parties in a case before me of endorsements and/or financial support from any attorney appearing before me. I believe the publics confidence concerning the impartiality of our judicial system is of the utmost importance.
Dalton disagreed with Danielson, saying, This forum is not about the Bar Association endorsement. We are here to talk about our qualifications. I believe that many times when people are trying to decide about who to vote for they will call their own attorneys for recommendations. I am doing this so you, my colleagues, will be aware of my qualifications.
I am not here seeking an endorsement, Wall said. This is the same as speaking to any public group, like the chamber of commerce, to campaign for votes. Every time you walk into a courtroom there is a list of names on the door of potential conflicts. So we are already aware of these problems.
Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said he thought both candidates would make good judges, but has thrown his support to Wall.
We cant go wrong with these two candidates, he said. But I am supporting Mr. Wall. Its a close call, but he has the whole package.
Hauge said he has known both candidates for many years, and that experience and commitment are the most important traits in a judge.
This is a service position, Hauge said. It is not a job where you cover yourself with personal glory.