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Wednesday, June 26, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Retain Judges Tompkins and Sypolt

In the Spokane County Superior Court races, only two of the 12 sitting judges are facing challenges.

Position 10: Challenger Ward Andrews is a Gonzaga Law School graduate who has worked as a trial attorney in civil litigation for more than 25 years. He says he would add that expertise to the court.

Andrews says Superior Court needs more judges, but he believes it also could be run more efficiently. He point to delays in handling civil cases. Andrews notes that Judge Linda Tompkins has been the subject of a number of affidavits from attorneys who want to change judges. He didn’t say why this would be the case. He hasn’t been in her court for many years.

Judge Tompkins, also a Gonzaga Law School graduate, has been on the court for 19 years. She enthusiastically embraces smart-justice initiatives, such as therapeutic courts that handle cases involving people in need of drug treatment or mental health care. She notes the county “can’t keep building jails.” She’s also concerned with the inequities in the bail system, saying too many people remain locked up because they simply can’t afford bail.

Tompkins was rated “well-qualified” in a Spokane County Association Bar poll. A total of 302 attorneys weighed in. Andrews chose not to participate.

Judge Tompkins has the edge in experience and gets our endorsement.

Position 11: Challenger Tim Fennessy is also a civil litigator who wants to bring that expertise to the court. He says it’s frustrating to run for a court position because of the practice of judges retiring early and their replacements being appointed. It’s a fair point. Eight of the current judges were appointed first, which gave them an advantage when running for election.

Fennessy is a Gonzaga Law School graduate who has practiced law in Spokane for more than 30 years. He is a proponent of smart-justice reforms, and notes the Washington State Bar Association issued proposals for civil litigation reforms that have been disregarded. He would like to take the lead on both issues. In the county bar poll, Fennessy was rated “well-qualified.”

Unfortunately, he is taking on a highly regarded judge in Greg Sypolt. The bar poll assesses five characteristics – legal ability, temperament, integrity, experience and suitability – and Judge Sypolt was rated higher across the board.

Sypolt is a Gonzaga Law School graduate who was appointed to Superior Court in 1997. Before that, he spent two decades in the Spokane County Public Defender’s Office. He’s been presiding judge and a judge in family law and juvenile court.

He’s currently chief criminal judge, where he presides over the difficult pretrial docket. He says he was gratified to see the county awarded a grant to study ways to lower the jail population, and has supported the expansion of pretrial services.

Sypolt is a leader on diversity issues in the legal profession and in the community, and was rated “exceptionally well-qualified” by Washington Women Lawyers. In 2012, he was the recipient of Gonzaga’s “Distinguished Judicial Service Award.”

He’s earned another term.

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