Spokane County commissioners have broadened the search for a new District Court judge.
Commissioner Phil Harris said Wednesday the county is placing newspaper ads next week telling area lawyers about the opening.
Most attorneys already know about the vacancy. What’s notable is the intent by county commissioners to go through a formal review of applicants.
Most people expected commissioners to simply make the appointment sometime after Jan. 2.
“It’s within their prerogative to make an appointment any way they want to,” said presiding District Court Judge Daniel Maggs.
The commissioners plan to take applications for two weeks, then review names, said Jim Lindow, the county’s chief administrative officer.
The goal is to pick Judge Sam Cozza’s replacement by Jan. 13. Cozza was elected to the Superior Court bench, filling the vacancy created by Judge Thomas Merryman’s retirement.
So far, fewer than a dozen attorneys have applied for the District Court seat.
Because of the ad, and because the salary next year is $94,197, interest is expected to be high.
“I’m sure we’ll see more interest now,” said District Court Administrator Henry Bruno, who predicts 20 candidates for the job.
“When the salary was in the $80,000-range several years back, we didn’t get the interest we’ll likely see here,” he said.
The nine District Court judges are likely the busiest in the county. They handle nearly all domestic violence cases, plus small claims and thousands of traffic cases every year.
Before the decision to recruit names, District Court judges had two worries. If commissioners made the appointment quickly and without review, the choice could be seen as a political payoff. If commissioners take too long before making a choice, the delay will cause added work for the remaining judges and court commissioners.
Two commissioners - Vance Peterson and Virginia Rockwood - are among those expected to apply for the job. Commissioners handle some trials and most of the court’s routine legal matters.
State law requires whoever is picked for the District Court seat to run for election, and a four-year term, in November 1997.