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Superior, appeals court judgeships on line in vote

Three candidates vying to replace retiring Superior Court judge

Spokane County has three contested judicial races this year – two in Superior Court and one at the Washington Court of Appeals.

The most competitive race will decide who’ll be next to wear a black robe in the courtroom being vacated by longtime Spokane County Superior Court Judge Robert D. Austin, who’ll retire in December.

Three people are vying for that nonpartisan, Department 1 job: Spokane County District Judge Annette Plese, trial attorney Mark Vovos and attorney Greg Weber. The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 19 primary go on to the general election ballot.

Plese, 43, a 1991 graduate of Gonzaga Law School, majored in criminal justice as a Gonzaga undergraduate.

She joined the Spokane County prosecutor’s office in 1992, leading the burglary and property team. As an appointed court commissioner in 1998, she began working in Spokane County District and Spokane Municipal courts.

When District Court Judge John Madden retired in 2002, Plese was appointed to fill the judgeship and ran for election that November. She handles half the District Court’s domestic violence court docket.

Vovos, 66, a 1968 graduate of Gonzaga Law School, is one of Spokane’s most prominent trial attorneys, known for his courtroom skills.

He represented some of the victims of Dean Mellberg’s murderous 1994 rampage at Fairchild Air Force Base, helping obtain a $17 million settlement from the federal government in 2001 for the affected families.

Vovos also successfully defended Orville Moe, the former co-owner and operator of Spokane Raceway Park, on federal bribery charges.

Vovos is a fellow of the American Board of Trial Lawyers. He has taught for years at Gonzaga Law School and has served as a volunteer coach for youth football for 20 years.

Weber, 41, is a Spokane native and Washington State University graduate. He graduated from Gonzaga Law School in 1996 with high honors, where he was the recipient of the Willard Roe Memorial Scholarship for academic excellence.

He served as deputy prosecutor in Okanogan and Pierce counties after law school and joined the Washington state attorney general’s office in 2001, where he prosecuted criminal felony and misdemeanor offenses.

Weber became the deputy director of the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in 2003.

Since 2006, he’s been in general private practice. He has also started serving as a pro tempore judge in Spokane County District Court.

Incumbent Superior Court judge faces deputy county prosecutor

Incumbent Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins has a challenger – Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens – for Department 10 on the court, a job she’s held since 1997.

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

Tompkins graduated from the University of Idaho in 1974 and Gonzaga Law School in 1983. She 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, Tompkins was a partner in the Spokane law firm of Lukins & Annis. She also served as chairwoman of the Washington State Transportation Commission and president of the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Tompkins has served as presiding judge, chief family law judge and in the court’s civil and criminal trial departments. This year, she’s the adult felony drug court judge and presides over general trials.

She is also a faculty member for the Washington State Judicial College and a member of the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission.

Her challenger, Stevens, says the bench needs more judges who’ve been prosecutors.

Stevens, 45, ran unsuccessfully for a District Court judgeship in 2006.

Stevens served in the Navy and graduated from the University of Washington Law School in 1999. He’s worked as a prosecutor for the city of Spokane, Whitman County and Spokane County. He specializes in prosecuting career criminals in the Spokane County prosecutor’s property unit.

He ran for the state Legislature as a Republican in 2004 against Democrat Alex Wood, who won the 3rd District legislative race.

Stevens ran again in 2006 in a five-way race for a District Court judgeship held by Harvey Dunham, the appointed sitting judge. Dunham was defeated; another prosecutor, Debra Hayes, won that election.

Former judge challenges new Court of Appeals judge

At the Court of Appeals in Spokane, Harvey Dunham, the former district court judge, is challenging the court’s newest judge, Kevin M. Korsmo.

Korsmo, 51, was appointed to the Division III bench in January by Gov. Chris Gregoire to serve the final year of an expiring six-year term when his predecessor, Debra Stephens, left the appeals court to join the Washington Supreme Court bench.

Korsmo is a former Spokane County deputy prosecutor and an expert in appellate law who supervised more than 2,000 appeals. He graduated from the University of Washington Law School and has practiced law for 25 years.

Korsmo has argued 50 cases before the Washington Supreme Court. He also coaches chess at Gonzaga Prep.

Dunham, 57, is a 1972 graduate of Washington State University. He served in the Army and got his law degree from Texas Tech Law School in 1979. He worked for a Dallas law firm and for two state agencies in Austin before returning to his hometown of Spokane in 1990, where he established a solo practice.

Dunham served as a pro-tem District Court judge starting in the mid-1990s and got a full-time appointment to the District Court in 2005. That appointment was controversial because Dunham wasn’t on the list of recommended lawyers from a panel the county commissioners set up to review applicants.

Dunham was defeated in 2006 when he ran to retain his judgeship, and has returned to his private practice.

Contact Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or karend@spokesman review.com.

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