Clallam County to form committee for judge replacement

Appointment expected by end of January

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County will form a committee to help find a replacement for retiring District Court II Judge Erik Rohrer.

The three commissioners Monday directed staff to draft a resolution appointing members to an ad hoc panel that will screen applicants and recommend finalists for the West End judicial seat.

Commissioners will consider approving the resolution Oct. 20. They will interview applicants in public meetings this winter and appoint a judge to fill Rohrer’s unexpired term before the end of January.

Rohrer has announced he will resign effective Feb. 1. His current term expires at the end of 2022.

“This is a big deal, particularly given this appointment is going to be for the remainder of Judge Rohrer’s elected term,” said Commissioner Mark Ozias, board chairman, in a five-hour work session Monday.

A similar committee was used to identify finalists the last time Rohrer vacated the District Court II bench in 2012.

“They screened the top three individuals and presented those top three to the board to interview,” County Administrator Rich Sill told commissioners Monday.

“There’s a possibility to have more than three candidates that you might interview.”

Rohrer left Forks-based District Court II after running successfully for a Superior Court seat in 2012. He resigned from Superior Court in 2018 to return to District Court II, a part-time position.

District Court II handles misdemeanor criminal cases and small claims civil matters that arise on the West End of the county between Lake Crescent and the Pacific Ocean.

Port Angeles-based District Court I serves the same function for the rest of the county.

Sill recommended that the screening committee include a Sheriff’s Office representative, a current or former District Court judge, Forks Mayor Tim Fletcher, District Court II Administrator Glenna Pitt and Deputy Human Resources Director Tom Reyes.

“I think it’s a really good approach, and I like the engagement,” said Commissioner Bill Peach, who represents the West End.

“I recommend that we proceed as we did the last time in 2012.”

Elizabeth Stanley, civil deputy prosecuting attorney, said the appointed judge will be up for election in November 2022 and serve until January 2023.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said he had concerns about the timing of the appointment.

“Things happen and sometimes candidates don’t work out,” Johnson said, “and you’ve got Christmas holidays also stuck right in there.”

“I’ve got to be honest, I’m already concerned,” Johnson added. “We want to do as good a job as we possibly can.”

Stanley said the county and state bar associations would be notified about the job opening.

“This discussion, I think, is very much serving as a heads up to a lot of interested individuals that this is coming,” Stanley said.

“People are very much tracking this.”

Rohrer, 62, announced Sept. 28 he planned to retire. He defeated attorney John Black by 28 votes out of 2,834 cast in the 2018 race for District Court II judge.

Since 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed successors to Clallam County Superior Court Judges Brooke Taylor, George L. Wood, Brian Coughenhour, Christopher Melly and Rohrer.

No appointees have lost elections to Superior Court since at least 2014.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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