PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Bar Association attorneys, completing a survey of primary election judicial candidates, rated Peninsula Housing Authority attorney Dave Neupert as their top overall choice for the District Court 1 judge position being vacated by Rick Porter.
Neupert, a pro-tem District Court 1 judge and court commissioner, was followed closely by candidate Suzanne Hayden, a juvenile law attorney for Clallam Public defender in juvenile court. Pam Lindquist, a Port Angeles lawyer and 2010 District Court 1 judge candidate, was a distant third.
The results of the bar poll, compiled last week, were confirmed in a notification to candidates and bar members Thursday, association President Ariel Speser said.
Neupert, Hayden and Lindquist are in the Aug. 7 primary election for the four-year, Port Angeles-West End-area position.
The top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 6 general election.
Forty-seven lawyers responded to the survey out of the 84 dues-paying practicing and nonpracticing attorneys in the bar association.
Clallam County had 176 licensed attorneys as of August 2017, according to the Washington State Bar Association.
Neupert earned the best “overall-performance” rating of 2.89 points, followed by Hayden’s 2.68 and Lindquist’s 1.59.
Speser said the response was “relatively small” compared to the number of attorneys in Clallam County.
But she said the results still tell voters the degree to which lawyers believe the candidates, all lawyers, “measure up” as potential district court judges.
Voters often ask attorneys about the candidates, and this is a good way to answer them, Speser said.
“It’s a way for the bar to offer a report from the bar at large.
“They do have insight into what characteristics we as lawyers feel are important qualifications.
“I can’t stress enough that I hope voters do additional research if they want to know more about these candidates, because it’s one snapshot.”
Candidates receive one-four points in each of three categories.
One point was for unqualified, two for qualified, three for well qualified and four for exceptionally well qualified.
Lindquist, Hayden and Neupert were graded in categories of judgment and objectivity, demeanor and temperament, and competence, experience and legal ability.
Their overall performance was the average total points each candidate received in all three categories.
Here were the scores:
Judgment and objectivity: Neupert, 2.74; Hayden, 2.57; Lindquist, 1.57.
Demeanor and temperament: Neupert, 3.02; Hayden, 2.59; Lindquist, 1.72.
Competence, experience and legal ability: Neupert, 2.89; Hayden, 2.59; Lindquist, 1.55.
“That’s fine,” Neupert said of the results in a brief interview Thursday.
Neupert said he believed that lawyers who rated him as the top candidate “appreciate” that he is the only candidate with judicial experience and that “I don’t have any conflicts hearing public defender cases.”
Neupert had criticized 2016 bar survey results for a county Superior Court judgeship as unrepresentative when he was bested by current Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour.
In that survey, 60 of the association’s 76 lawyers responded from among the county’s 140 attorneys, more of a percentage overall than the latest survey.
“It’s hard to know what weight to give [the poll] since it wasn’t even half the active attorneys in the county,” he told Peninsula Daily News on Oct. 23, 2016.
Hayden’s husband, John, is a Clallam Public Defender attorney and a private-practice lawyer.
He said Wednesday that he does not represent District Court defendants for Clallam Public Defender and would not represent private-practice clients when his wife is on the bench.
Suzanne Hayden said she consulted a Seattle University law professor who said there is no conflict of interest if, as a judge, Clallam Public Defender lawyers other than her husband argue cases before her.
Hayden said Neupert had an advantage in the poll because lawyers are more familiar with him as a pro-tem judge.
“My peers are not able to rate me in those categories based on my present conduct in the court in which I practice, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the reality of it,” she said.
“Dave and I realize this is going down to the wire.”
Lindquist, who finished third among three District Court 1 judicial candidates in a 2010 bar association survey and did not advance to the 2010 general election, did not return calls for comment about the 2018 survey results.
Speser said bar association attorneys also will be surveyed in upcoming polls on their choices in the general election in contested races for county prosecuting attorney and west Port Angeles-West End District Court 2 judge.
Lawyer John Black is running against current Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer for the District Court 2 position.
Incumbent Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols is running for re-election against former county Treasurer and nonpracticing attorney Selinda Barkhuis.
Those surveys, as was the questionnaire released Thursday, will be preceded by question-and-answer luncheon forums with bar association members.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].