County Supreme Court seats all up for grabs

While this is a big election year, with choices made for president, senator, governor, congressman and two county commissioners, there also is the potential for a wholesale change in the Kitsap County Superior Court, as all seven members of the bench are running for re-election.

Those seeking new terms are Anna M. Laurie, Leonard W. Costello, Leila Mills, M. Karlynn Haberley, Russell W. Hartman, Theodore Spearman and Jay B. Roof.

There are only two qualifications for potential opponents — membership in the Washington State Bar and announcing the intention to run by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 30.

Should opposition emerge, the Kitsap Bar Association, in conjunction with the League of Women Voters, plans schedule a judicial forum featuring all judges in a setting where citizens can ask pertinent questions.

If there is no opposition, voters have the choice of choosing a specific judge or abstaining, even if the latter choice isn’t necessarily interpreted as a vote of no confidence.

In either case, those who want to determine whether a particular judge is vote-worthy have a number of options. They can visit the courtroom to see the judge in action, since most proceedings are open to the public, or they can attend any public functions which the judges attend to get a reading on how they conduct themselves.

“When you see a judge in public you get a feeling about how they act as real people,” said Superior Court director of administration Frank Maiocco.

Added Judge Spearman, “When you see judges in action, you get a sense of how they handle the responsibilities of the job.”

Ron Anderson, vice president of the Kitsap Bar Association, said the best way to research a judge’s reputation is by polling lawyers who are presumably plugged into the court system. You also can ask other members of the community about the specific judge to see how his or her decisions have affected the neighborhood.

Kitsap County is still small enough that you can meet or call a judge to ask them any relevant question, with the answer serving as a way to determine your vote.

Such a question won’t reflect ideological matters, as judges aren’t allowed to express personal opinions about topics of which they may rule, such as abortion or gun control.

While not every judge deserves re-election, the office can be a measure of the person.

“You can feel pretty safe with an incumbent judge,” said Anderson. “If they weren’t qualified for the position, they wouldn’t be there.”

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