Two county commissioners picked a loyal Republican attorney Tuesday to fill a judge’s vacancy in Spokane County District Court.
Republican Commissioners Phil Harris and Kate McCaslin chose attorney Greg Tripp to fill the slot created when District Court Judge Sam Cozza was elected to a Superior Court seat.
Commissioner John Roskelley, a Democrat, voted for Vance Peterson, a District Court commissioner.
Tripp, 48, has been an attorney since 1973. He has been an active county Republican and served on McCaslin’s last election steering committee.
“Knowing Kate helped get me through the door. But my background, my community activities and my service to the bar helped get the job,” Tripp said after the appointment was announced.
County commissioners have the right to fill District Court judge vacancies. Tripp will face election for the $94,000-a-year job in November 1998.
“Every time commissioners make one of these selections, it’s a political appointment,” said Harris.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t take the best qualified person. Any of these six (finalists) would have been a great judge.”
Tripp will join the busy District Court on April 1.
Compared to Superior Court, the nine District Court judges handle far more cases each year. The work runs the gamut from domestic violence and drunken driving cases to small claims disputes.
More than a dozen attorneys applied for the job. Commissioners narrowed the group to six: Tripp, Peterson, Deputy Prosecutor Annette Plese and attorneys Adrian Voermans, Harold Clarke III and John Lamp.
Roskelley said he voted for Peterson, who’s been a District Court commissioner since 1991, handling many of the same duties as judges there.
“But all of the six (finalists) were fine candidates,” Roskelley said.
Tripp is a graduate of Willamette University Law School in Salem, Ore. He entered private practice after serving two years as a deputy prosecutor in Clark County.
He’s been engaged in a cross-section of community activities, having served on the Spokane Symphony Board of Directors and as chairman of the committee trying to form a Pacific Science Center in Riverfront Park.
He has also been a county delegate to the Republican state convention. He’s currently chairman of a city board that oversees operation of city-owned entertainment facilities. His wife, JoAnn, teaches math at Shadle Park High School. They have two children.
Tripp said he decided in recent years that being a judge was the next step in his career. He submitted his name to commissioners in 1995, when a prior vacancy occurred.
Out of about 20 candidates rated then by area attorneys, Tripp scored “sixth or seventh” highest, he said. Commissioners didn’t ask the county bar association to rate candidates this time.
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