On Friday afternoon in the courtroom once presided over by his uncle, Ralph Foley, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price was deciding whether to reinstate a man’s driver’s license after he refused a breath analysis.
Thanking the attorneys for their arguments, Price denied the appeal.
Both congratulated the 10-year veteran of the court on the announcement he was among the finalists to replace outgoing Washington state Supreme Court Justice James M. Johnson.
“It’s just a list,” Price said, grinning.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said Friday it expects to make a decision soon about who will be appointed to replace Johnson, who announced his early retirement last month due to health concerns. Price, a longtime family lawyer and two-term chief criminal judge in Spokane County, sent his application to Olympia shortly thereafter.
If selected, Price would be one of two justices on the court from Eastern Washington, joining Justice Debra Stephens. More importantly, Price said, he would be a second trial judge voice on the nine-member panel, joining former King County Superior Court Judge and sitting Justice Steven González.
“It’s important that those justices that are making those decisions that mean so much to us in the state have walked in the shoes of a trial judge,” Price said, citing decisions that have overturned convictions based on procedural errors that didn’t actually affect the outcome of cases.
The decisions of the high court, Price said, set the table for all courtroom proceedings throughout the state.
Tony Hazel, president-elect of the Spokane County Bar Association and a deputy county prosecutor, said there’s widespread support in his organization for Price, a finalist for the organization’s Outstanding Judge Award this year. Multiple professional associations, including the Washington State Joint Asian Judicial Evaluation Committee and Washington Women Lawyers, have sent endorsements to Inslee identifying Price as “exceptionally well qualified” for a justice position.
Price said even though he doesn’t have the experience of an appellate judge, he points to mediator experience as evidence of his ability to find common ground in disputes. He also said his years of witnessing how decisions in Olympia affect trial courtrooms and policy throughout the state would cause him to approach his decisions with care.
One thing that won’t change if Price is given the nod is his allegiance to the area, he said. With a new grandson, Will, and the family’s dachshund, Frank, in Spokane to stay, Price said he would commute to Olympia if selected.
“My wife is not going to let me take Frank to Olympia,” Price said, laughing. “No chance.”