Election Guide: Kitsap County Superior Court Judge

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge

The contest to replace retiring Superior Court Judge Leonard Costello, the court’s longest-serving member, has prompted a discussion about the election of judges and how those decisions should be made. Additionally, it has raised the question of the role of lawyers in judicial elections, and what their support means in a judicial race.

Dalton, 54, is a Kingston defense attorney who is best known for her advocacy of those accused of DWI. She also represented several medicinal marijuana patients, who lost a recent challenge in Kitsap County Superior Court.

She also serves as a pro-tem judge.

Danielson, 55, of Port Orchard, ran unsuccessfully against Judge Anna Laurie in 2004. He lives in Port Orchard and practices family and civil law around the state.

He has never served as a judge.

Danielson, a sole practitioner with a patchwork of experience, was the first to declare. Port Orchard attorney Greg Wall then entered the race, soon gaining support from local attorneys and Kitsap Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge.

Dalton then entered the contest, and battled Wall for the endorsement of the local Bar Association.

Danielson, however, did not seek the Bar’s blessing.

Danielson, who declared his candidacy before Costello announced his retirement, said from the outset that he would not accept campaign contributions from other attorneys. To do so is to compromise objectivity and represent a conflict of interest when they appear before him. Dalton and Wall double-teamed in their scorn of this policy.

Dalton said that judge candidates are honor bound to not read their contributor lists, and Wall said that Danielson was making no sacrifice because no lawyer would contribute to his campaign to begin with.

Dislike of Danielson turned into fear, at least for one local attorney. An anonymous smear directed at Danielson to local media and other attorneys was proven to be specious, giving Danielson enough of a boost to move ahead of Wall in the top two primary. This has angered the "establishment" lawyers, who have rallied behind Dalton.

The key difference, they say, is that Dalton has served as a (pro-em) judge and Danielson has not.

““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.” “Wearing a black robe is not a license to be demeaning to appellants or litigants. “I want every litigant to know that when they speak in my courtroom they will have my absolutely undivided attention.””

“People don’’t understand how the decisions made by the Superior Court impact their daily lives,” Danielson said. ““While many of these decisions go unnoticed, they are not unfelt.” The reason that we elect judges is that mere tenure does not make someone a good judge. “You cannot just drape a black robe on someone and expect them to behave in a moral and ethical manner. “

“One of the things that need to be improved is the interaction of the judiciary with the citizens,” he said. “ Judges need to be accessible to the people and not be in an ivory tower.””

Dalton is publicly endorsed by all sitting members of the Superior Court, except for Laurie and Russell Hartman.

She is also supported by the Kitsap County Central Labor Council and the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Guild.

Danielson is endorsed by Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders and Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola.

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