Local news

Another candidate joins race for bench

Attorney Steve Eugster has been encouraging other attorneys to challenge all 12 Spokane Superior Court judges, each of whom is up for re-election in September.

One of those attorneys is Superior Court Commissioner Joseph Valente, who has decided to run against the same judge Eugster is challenging, Sam Cozza. Valente formally filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission announcing he would seek Cozza’s seat.

Eugster said he is glad Valente is in the race.

As for Valente, he said he got involved because Eugster isn’t a “viable” candidate to replace Cozza.

“His personality is too volatile and activist in nature to fit a judicial role,” Valente said Thursday. He credited Eugster with having a “brilliant mind,” but said he often tends to lose focus.

“He tends to get one idea which leads to two, three, four, five and six. By then, the first idea gets lost in the mix,” Valente said.

Eugster said he’s running against Cozza because he believes the judge hasn’t handled the operation of the county’s law library effectively. Cozza is the head of the library’s board of trustees. Eugster has sued the county, hoping the library will be moved from the Paulsen Building in downtown Spokane to the county courthouse.

Cozza has said that free rent at the Paulsen Building saves taxpayer dollars. Further, Cozza said that in an Internet age, the law library is becoming “kind of a dinosaur.”

Cozza has served on the Superior Court bench since being elected in 1996. He spent the previous six years as a District Court judge. He earned his undergraduate degree from Gonzaga but received his law degree from the University of Washington.

Eugster earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Denver and his law degree from the University of Washington. Eugster has been practicing law in Spokane since 1977 and served on the Spokane City Council from 1999 to 2003.

Valente earned his undergraduate degree from Boston University and his law degree from Fordham University in New York. He has been a Superior Court commissioner for 20 years.

Regardless of what people think of him, Eugster said his primary concern is making sure Spokane County has the best attorneys running for judge.

“The story is not about me,” Eugster said. “My goal is to get the public to pay attention to higher quality on the Superior Court bench.”

Eugster said he’d have no problem if Valente defeated him in the September primary before the November election.

“I think that’s great that Joe has decided to run against Cozza,” Eugster said. “Joe would make a good judge. He’s thoughtful and intelligent.”

That’s not a sentiment Eugster shares for at least eight of 12 current judges who he believes need to be challenged for their respective seats.

“I don’t want to name names, but I have been stumping attorneys hoping to get other people into the races,” he said.

The current Superior Court bench includes Robert Austin, Neal Rielly, Tari Eitzen, Kathleen O’Connor, Michael Price, Cozza, Maryann Moreno, Paul Bastine, Jerome Leveque, Linda Tompkins, Gregory Sypolt and Ellen Clark.


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