Clallam County bar poll on judicial candidates in progress now

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County lawyers are passing judgment, through a Clallam County Bar Association poll, on three Aug. 7 primary election candidates for the Port Angeles-area District Court 1 judge position being vacated by Rick Porter.

Ballots for the primary will be mailed to voters today and must be postmarked by Aug. 7 or are due by 8 p.m. Aug. 7 in county drop boxes or the Auditor’s Office at the county courthouse.

The Bar Association last week mailed two-page Bar Poll questionnaires to 79 dues-paying attorneys asking them to rate the judgment and objectivity, demeanor and temperament, and competence, expertise and legal ability of candidates Suzanne Hayden, Pam Lindquist and Dave Neupert, said Bar Association President Ariel Speser.

The respondents will grade each candidate in each category with one point for unqualified, two points for qualified, three points for well qualified and four points for exceptionally well qualified.

The total score for each category is the candidates’ overall performance for that category.

The candidate with the most points will be the lawyers’ top selection.

There were 47,317 voters in the District Court 1 voting area as of Monday.

The top two vote-getters in the primary will go on to the Nov. 6 general election.

Speser said the survey results will be available soon.

The questionnaires have been used in past bar polls, Speser said.

“I’m not looking at [the survey] with any particular expectation or anticipation,” Neupert said Monday.

“I think it’s good to just wait and see what it says and then decide what it means.

“From my perspective, it’s more appropriate to see what happens and then talk about the results.”

Lindquist, a private practice attorney, would not comment on the poll.

“I can’t tell the future,” she said.

Hayden, a juvenile court lawyer employed by Clallam Public Defender, said she’s taken the poll “very seriously” when she’s filled it out in the past.

“I think the poll is just fine,” she said.

“I would love to have my peers think that I’m good.”

Speser said last week that the candidates participated in an hourlong luncheon forum July 6 at Kokopelli Grill in Port Angeles.

It was open to all Bar Association lawyers and attended by 30 people.

Speser said the candidates took questions including how they would best describe their judicial philosophy and how it differs from the status quo, what changes they would make in the court’s day-to-day administration, why they want to be a judge and what qualifies them for the position.

The poll can be enlightening to voters, Speser said.

“If you are not a lawyer and practice with lawyers regularly, it might be hard for the community to know how lawyers are and how other lawyers see each other, and how other lawyers connect with each other in the court.

“The broader community may not have interaction with the lawyers and the justice system,” she said.

“It’s a good way for lawyers in the community to represent the qualities of lawyering and what qualities they believe would make for a good judicial candidate for the community.

“It really means a lot to those who practice in the courts that we have good judges.”

The Bar Association’s dues fund an annual scholarship program that rotates among Port Angeles, Sequim and West End high schools, Speser said.

“Our scholarship program is something we really value,” she said in an email.

The District Court position will pay $164,313 beginning Sept. 1.

Misdemeanor cases are adjudicated in district courts by judges who can impose fines of up to $5,000 and jail sentences of up to one year.

Civil cases and traffic infractions are also heard in district courts.

Porter has served four, four-year terms as judge.

He has endorsed Neupert for the position.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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