March 2, 2009 in City

Council rejects residency restriction for judges

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Municipal Court Judge Tracy Staab will be eligible to run in the November election.

The Spokane City Council on Monday rejected a proposal from City Councilman Bob Apple that would have required municipal judges to live within city limits.

Staab, a former federal public defender, is one of three attorneys selected by Mayor Mary Verner and confirmed by City Council to oversee the city’s new court, which began operations in January. Staab moved outside city limits in 2007.

Apple’s proposal would have forced Staab to move back inside the city by the time she files for election later this year.

Staab’s husband, Scott Staab, told the council that the family enjoyed living in the city, but moving outside the boundaries has given their daughter the opportunity to raise a horse. He noted that his wife left her previous job with the understanding that she would be eligible to run for election.

The city’s three judges must win their seats in the November election if they want to maintain their positions.

Apple noted that all other elected officials represnting Spokane must the must live within city borders.

“I cannot understand why we would not have city residents represent us there,” Apple said.

After the vote, Tracy Staab said she was “elated” that the council rejected the proposal.

“The voters have the right to choose and decide that having the most qualified person on the bench is more important than having an attorney who lives within the city limits,” Staab said.

Apple and Councilman Mike Allen supported the residency requirement. Council members Steve Corker, Al French, Nancy McLaughlin and Joe Shogan voted no. Councilman Richard Rush abstained, noting that Staab used to be his neighbor.

Opponents of the restriction pointed to state law, which allows municipal judges to live outside city limits.

“The voters will decide, which will make this thing moot,” Shogan said. “There’s no reason to pass an unlawful law.”

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