'Chris, this is Jay — welcome to the bench': How governor told Melly he's the next Clallam Superior Court judge
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Christopher Melly sits on a hallway bench in the Clallam County Courthouse. He’ll be elevated to the Superior Court bench in January. —Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Chris Melly received the phone call at about 1:15 p.m. Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee was on the other end of the line.

He had an announcement for the Clallam County hearings examiner and former county chief deputy prosecuting attorney, the later a position Melly held for 17 years.

“He said, 'Chris, this is Jay. Welcome to the bench,'” Melly recalled Friday.

“I was very happy, of course.

“I can't say a whole lot went through my head other than, 'Jeez-o-pete, I'm going to be judge.

“'That's fantastic.'”

The bench is Clallam County Superior Court, and the Port Angeles resident will occupy a third of it.

Inslee appointed Melly to the Position 3 seat being vacated Dec. 31 by retiring Judge S. Brooke Taylor.

Melly, 62, will take office Jan. 2 and has said he will run for the remaining two years of the term in 2014.

His yearly salary will be $151,809.

Melly will join Position 2 Judge George L. Wood and Position 1 Judge Erik Rohrer, who soundly defeated Melly in 2012 for a seat Rohrer now holds.

Melly and Rohrer virtually tied that year in a Clallam County Bar Association poll. They will now will be colleagues.

Rohrer was not in his office Friday and was unavailable for comment.

“He gave me a pretty good drubbing,” Melly said of last year's election.

“I like Erik. He's got great sense of humor. He's a smart, friendly guy.

“He's had a year of experience on the bench, and I'm hoping he'll serve as a mentor to me.”

Lawyers Cathy Marshall and John Troberg of Sequim and John Hayden, Loren Oakley and Dave Neupert of Port Angeles also submitted applications for the position.

Melly topped the bar association poll this time around.

Neupert, of Platt Irwin Law Firm, was the other finalist.

He said he was not disappointed at not being selected.

“Far from it,” Neupert said Friday.

“I consider it a privilege and an honor to be one of the top two candidates for the appointment.”

Melly and his wife of 39 years, Mary Lou, the Educare Center director at Peninsula College, have lived in Port Angeles since 1983.

They have two adult children, Jacob and Geoffrey.

Melly, a New Jersey native and Rutgers graduate, said being a judge was not on his radar until District Court Judge Rick Porter appointed him court commissioner in 2005.

“I really enjoyed it,” Melly said.

“I felt I connected well with the people.”

Melly said once he is sworn in, he will sit in on as many court calendars as he can and will begin taking on cases.

He will attend a judicial college put on by the state Administrative Office of the Courts from Jan. 26-31.

“I assume Judges Rohrer and Wood will shepherd things my way to the extent they think is appropriate,” he said.

Inslee interviewed both Neupert and Melly on Wednesday.

In his call to Melly on Thursday, the governor imparted a lengthy Martin Luther King Jr. quote, though Melly could not recall the particulars.

“He was interested in social justice, and that's what courts dispense — justice,” Melly said.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 07. 2013 7:16PM
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