Randy Brandt, currently a state administrative law judge, was unanimously appointed today by county commissioners to replace Judge Richard White, who retired July 1.
“I felt like he hit a home run in the interview process,” Commissioner Mark Richard said in his nomination of Brandt.
Richard cited Brandt’s “extensive experience,” “wealth of knowledge” and breadth of community service.
Commissioners Todd Mielke and Al French said private attorney Richard Leland also stood out in interviews. French said he hoped some day to see “a black robe on Mr. Leland, too.”
Brandt, 59, served as a District Court commissioner for six years before being laid off in December 2009 after Spokane decided to create its own municipal court instead of contracting with the county court.
Commissioners have limited authority to preside over certain kinds of cases and reduce judicial caseloads.
Mielke said Brandt’s experience will allow him to “pull his weight almost immediately” on a court that expects two of its seven sitting judges to take extended leaves soon for military and medical reasons.
Brandt is to join the court Nov. 16.
“We applaud your choice,” Judge Sara Derr told commissioners. “Mr. Brandt has worked with us in the past and always has been very collegial. We look forward to working with him again.”
Nineteen Spokane-area lawyers applied for the appointment, and county commissioners interviewed nine of them for the $141,710-a-year job.
Other finalists were Chris Bugbee, Brad Chinn, Donald Kellman, Mark Laiminger, Julie McKay, Michael Nelson and Robert Seines.
Chinn and Seines, like Brandt, were laid off as court commissioners. Lamainger and Nelson are deputy prosecutors while Bugbee, Kellman and McKay are in private practice.
All of those who were interviewed were more highly rated than Brandt by an 11-member Spokane County Bar Association evaluation committee.
Those interviewed included all except one of five candidates the committee found “exceptionally qualified” and three who were rated “well qualified.” Brandt was listed as “qualified.”
“I was crestfallen by that evaluation,” Brandt told county commissioners during his interview Friday.
He said he had trained some of the committee members as fill-in judges, and complained that three members who has appeared before him in court didn’t participate in his evaluation.
“If the whole panel can’t meet, they shouldn’t hold that session,” Brandt said.
That was about the only uncheerful remark of Brandt’s interview. He was quick to reinforce his points with humor as well as discourse.
When Mielke asked him to describe the ideal judge, Brandt immediately proposed a “white-haired gentleman from Spokane” – earning laughter as well as a chance to tout his maturity, experience and community roots.
Commissioners were looking for a couple of things that Brandt offered in spades.
One was willingness to embrace digital case management. Brandt consulted notes from a laptop computer as he described his technological experience.
Commissioners also wanted someone they believe can defend the judicial seat successfully in next year’s general election. Brandt presented a 40-year list of activities that put him in contact with the community.
He is a lay minister, a funeral director and a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. Also, Brandt said, he has owned a construction company and been a real estate broker.
Asked to explain how he would maintain discipline in court, Brandt drew on his funeral director experience.
“As a funeral director, if you want to move 100 people, you don’t say, ‘OK, everybody over here,’ ” Brandt said. “You look at one of them. It’s just a matter of experience.”
Richard said reference checks Monday and Tuesday supported Brandt’s answer when asked to write his own epitaph: “He cared.”