Good news, voters. Most of the judicial candidates on the Sept. 17 ballot would be a credit to the bench. But there are exceptions.
The Spokane County Superior Court race is a tough one, because all three candidates are well-qualified. Terence Ryan has 24 years of legal experience. He’s worked as a prosecutor and a defense attorney and would offer the court an in-depth perspective from both sides. Sam Cozza, now a Spokane County District Court judge, has proven to be an intelligent, hard-working judge with leadership abilities.
The board’s endorsement, however, goes to Royce Moe. He has been a Spokane County Superior Court commissioner since 1988 and has seen firsthand the major problems of domestic violence and juvenile crime. He co-founded Spokane County’s Domestic Violence Consortium and has been active in efforts to streamline the juvenile justice system. This has translated into swifter disposition of cases and a successful school program for juvenile offenders on home-monitoring. In a recent bar poll, Moe’s peers gave him top marks. We do too.
Barbara Durham, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, faces two opponents: Criminal defense attorneys Mark Mestel of Seattle and Kathryn Ross of Mukilteo. Neither are compelling enough to give up the leadership, experience and role-modeling Durham brings to the court.
Durham has worked to improve court efficiency and give voters more information about judicial candidates. Durham’s been in the forefront of domestic violence prevention and has shown a no-nonsense view toward crime. She’s earned another term.
In the other contested race, incumbent Charles Johnson is trying hard to retain a position he won six years ago by a fluke. He didn’t campaign and he didn’t spend money. While we don’t care for Johnson’s liberal ideology, he has an impressive list of endorsements this time, including several judges, three law school deans and the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association.
His opposition falls short. Douglas Smith, an eccentric Snohomish County lawyer, has run unsuccessfully for several offices and was given a “not qualified” rating by the Seattle-King County Bar Association. Barnett Kalikow, a former Okanogan County prosecuting attorney, has an interesting background filled with non-legal jobs that would add a real-life touch to the bench. But he suffers from some resume inflation; for instance, he made one travel story published in the New York Time sound like a free-lance career for the newspaper. Our endorsement goes to Johnson.
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