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Mon., July 28, 2008, midnight

Our view: District judge has earned a place in Superior Court

The race for the Spokane County Superior Court seat, Position 1, being vacated by retiring Judge Robert D. Austin, presents voters with two well-known candidates and a Spokane native who has returned home.

Greg Weber, 41, was born and raised in Spokane but has spent most of his legal career elsewhere. After getting an undergraduate degree at Washington State University and a law degree at Gonzaga University, Weber served as a prosecutor in Okanogan and Pierce counties, then joined the state Attorney General’s Office in 2001, where he eventually directed the Medicare fraud unit. He’s now in private practice and has recently become a pro tem judge in District Court.

Weber hasn’t garnered much support from the local legal community. The endorsements he touts are from outside the region. That’s a testament to the strength of his two competitors, who boast stronger qualifications and greater familiarity.

Mark Vovos, 66, has been a high-profile defense attorney for decades and is known as a skilled courtroom operator. He certainly has the intelligence and knowledge for the position. Over the course of 40 years, he has appeared at all levels of the court system, including the state Supreme Court. Plus, he’s handled a wide variety of cases, including the types that typify the Superior Court docket: marriage dissolution, and property and child custody disputes.

He teaches at Gonzaga Law School and was elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers. Some of his prominent cases include a successful defense of former Spokane Raceway owner Orville Moe against bribery charges and the Dean Mellberg shootings at Fairchild Air Force Base, where he represented some of the victims.

Annette Plese, 43, is a District Court judge, a position she’s held since 2002, when she was appointed to replace Judge John Madden. Before that she was a court commissioner and deputy prosecutor for Spokane County, where she led the burglary and property unit.

Plese’s reputation as a hard worker and fair-minded judge has helped her collect a lengthy list of endorsements, including nearly all current Superior Court judges. She also is the favorite candidate of law enforcement, grabbing the endorsements of the Spokane Police Guild, the Deputy Sheriffs Association and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. She is married to a retired deputy sheriff.

Based purely on scholarly knowledge of the law, the advantage would go to Vovos. But being a judge is also about making sound judgments about the facts of a case, being fair and running the courtroom in a professional manner. Counting her work as a court commissioner, Plese has had 10 years as a judge and 10 years to mess up. It’s telling that she has earned the plaudits of her peers instead.

Based on that, she is our choice.

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