Six attorneys aim for Clallam County Superior Court post

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Six Clallam County attorneys want to be judges.

They have applied to fill the Clallam County Superior Court judgeship that will be vacated Dec. 31 by S. Brooke Taylor, who is retiring.

The office will be up for election on the November 2014 general election ballot to fill out Taylor’s unexpired two-year term.

Nick Brown, Gov. Jay Inslee’s general counsel, confirmed that Inslee next month will appoint Taylor’s successor from the following attorneys:

■ John Hayden and Loren Oakley, both of Port Angeles and both of whom are criminal defense attorneys for the nonprofit Clallam Public Defender.

■ Cathy Marshall of Sequim, section chief for the state Attorney General’s Office regional services division in Port Angeles, which represents state agencies and Peninsula College.

■ Chris Melly of Port Angeles, the Clallam County land-use hearings examiner and a 2012 candidate for the Superior Court position now held by Judge Erik Rohrer.

■ John Troberg of Sequim, a Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney.

■ David Neupert of Port Angeles, a lawyer with Platt Irwin Law Firm of Port Angeles. Taylor was a former partner in the firm.

Brown, who is in charge of the application process, interviewed four of the applicants, whom he would not identify, last week and will interview the remaining two this week.

A Clallam County Bar Association poll, to which 38 of 97 members responded, ranked them from 1 to 5 in 10 factors, with 5 being the top score.

The factors included experience, integrity, objectivity-impartiality, temperament and administrative ability.

Melly tops in poll

Melly topped the list with an average of 4.06, followed by Neupert, 3.57; Marshall, 3.53; Troberg, 3.39; Hayden, 3.23; and Oakley, 3.00.

“I’m obviously pleased,” Melly said. “I am very happy. It’s nice to be recognized by your peers for the characteristics you have.”

Melly also topped the bar poll two years ago when he ran for the Superior Court vacancy created by Ken Williams’ retirement in an election that Erik Rohrer won.

Bar association President Derek Medina of Port Angeles said all six applicants were well-received by poll respondents.

“I think we are OK with whoever comes out with this,” he said.

“That’s the sense I get from the bar membership.”

Applicants also filled out a 16-page, 54-query “Uniform Judicial Evaluation Questionnaire” from the governor’s office.

Brown said he has spoken in person or on the phone to Taylor, Rohrer and county Superior Court Judge George L. Wood; county Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly; a representative from Clallam Public Defender; and “a bunch of other attorneys I am familiar with up there.”

“We’re looking for someone with a good work ethic and a demonstrated ability to work with others,” he said.

“In the smaller counties, there is a real need for people to support their other judges.”

Sought-after experience

Other sought-after attributes are trial experience and experience with both civil and criminal cases.

“The perfect candidate does not exist, so we are looking for the best combination of backgrounds,” Brown said.

It will be the seventh judicial appointment that Inslee, a Democrat and a former civil-litigation lawyer, has made since he took office in January.

“It is a nonpolitical appointment,” Brown said.

“People might be skeptical of that, but I can tell you in doing all the other previous appointments that the governor is not one to ask what their political background is.”

Brown will recommend one or two finalists who will be interviewed by Inslee before he makes his decision.

Superior Court judges earn $151,809, which will increase to $156,363 Sept. 1, 2014.

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

Last modified: October 19. 2013 5:32PM
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