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Judgeship races start to take shape

Mon., April 21, 2008

With less than two months left before the state’s official filing week in June, the race for Spokane County judgeships has begun.

Spokane County District Court Judge Annette S. Plese has announced she’ll run for the Spokane County Superior Court position being vacated by retiring Judge Robert D. Austin.

She’ll have competition. Prominent Spokane trial attorney Mark Vovos recently told The Spokesman-Review that he’s also decided to run for Austin’s seat.

“After 40 years this is an opportunity to serve and to give back to the community,” said Vovos, 66.

Also, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor David L. Stevens has announced that he’ll challenge Superior Court Judge Linda G. Tompkins. Stevens, who ran unsuccessfully for a District Court judgeship in 2006, says the Superior Court bench needs more judges who’ve been prosecutors.

Tompkins confirmed that she’ll be running to retain the seat she’s held since 1997 and is forming her campaign team.

Annette S. Plese

Plese, a 1991 graduate of Gonzaga Law School, was a judicial assistant for the late Superior Court Judge Marcus M. Kelley while attending law school. She majored in criminal justice as a Gonzaga undergraduate.

Plese joined the Spokane County Prosecutor’s office in 1992 and became leader for the burglary and property team. She began working in Spokane County District and Municipal courts as an appointed court commissioner in 1998.

Plese was honored with the Myra Bradwell Award by the Gonzaga University Women’s Law Caucus in 1998 for furthering women’s issues as a result of her work in the court’s domestic violence unit.

In 2002, upon the retirement of District Court Judge John Madden, Plese filed for the vacant seat. She was appointed in August 2002 and ran for election that November.

She currently handles half the District Court’s Domestic Violence Court docket.

Plese said she believes one of her strongest attributes is her ability to seek “innovative solutions to domestic violence” – including a range of options besides incarceration.

Her campaign treasurer is Nan Spear. Plese’s campaign kickoff was April 11.

Mark Vovos

Vovos, a 1968 graduate of Gonzaga Law School, has practiced civil law and criminal defense law in Spokane.

He’s been involved in many of Spokane’s highest-profile cases. He successfully defended Orville Moe, the former co-owner and operator of Spokane Raceway Park, last fall on federal bribery charges. He also represented some of the victims of Dean Mellberg’s 1994 shooting spree at Fairchild Air Force Base, which killed four and wounded 21. The affected families got a $17 million settlement from the federal government in 2001.

Vovos was a partner with late Spokane attorney Jim Gillespie, a Democrat and civil libertarian who was appointed by President Carter to serve as U.S. attorney in Spokane from 1977 to 1981. Although he leans Democratic, “I’m not really a party guy,” Vovos said.

Vovos is a fellow of the American Board of Trial Lawyers and a recipient of the American Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ William O. Douglas Award honoring extraordinary courage and dedication. He has taught for years at Gonzaga Law School and been a volunteer coach for youth football for 20 years.

Vovos said Spokane lawyer Max Etter is working on his campaign.

David L. Stevens

Stevens, 45, joined the Navy after high school and graduated from University of Washington Law School in 1999.

He has worked as a prosecutor for the city of Spokane, Whitman County and Spokane County. He is in the county prosecutor’s property unit, where he specializes in prosecuting career criminals.

In 2004, he ran as a Republican against Democrat Alex Wood, who won the 3rd District legislative race.

Stevens ran again in 2006 in a crowded five-way race for a District Court judgeship occupied by Harvey Dunham, the unelected incumbent and a friend of former Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris. The county commissioners drew fire for Dunham’s 2005 appointment because he wasn’t on the list of recommended lawyers from a panel the commissioners set up to review applicants. Stevens was one of the five lawyers the panel recommended.

Another prosecutor, Debra Hayes, won the 2006 District Court election.

Stevens’ campaign treasurer is Paul Fruci Sr., of Fruci & Associates.

Judge Linda G. Tompkins

Tompkins, 56, was appointed to the Superior Court bench in October 1997 by former Gov. Gary Locke. She was re-elected in 1998, 2000 and 2004.

She graduated from the University of Idaho in 1974 and Gonzaga Law School in 1983 and served as a law clerk to Judge Philip J. Thompson, of the Washington Court of Appeals in Spokane, from 1984 to 1987.

Before becoming a judge, she was a partner in the Spokane law firm of Lukins & Annis and served as a chairwoman of the Washington State Transportation Commission, the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and Central Valley School Board.

On the Superior Court, Tompkins has served as presiding judge, chief family law judge and in the civil and criminal trial departments. She is currently the Adult Felony Drug Court judge and also presides over general trials.

She is a member of the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and has served as chairwoman of the Washington State Access to Justice Board Education Committee and the Washington State Superior Court Judges Association Civil Law and Rules Committee. Tompkins is also a faculty member for the Washington State Judicial College.

The candidates are filing their initial campaign documents with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.


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