State assistant attorney general named new family court commissioner

Brandon Mack

Brandon Mack

PORT ANGELES — The names of those filling judicial benches at Clallam County Superior Court continue to change as Brandon Mack, a Port Angeles-based state assistant attorney general, was appointed the new family court commissioner.

Mack will replace Brent Basden. He was named this month by Gov. Jay Inslee to fill the two-year unexpired term of elected Superior Court Judge Christopher Melly, who is resigning Dec. 31.

Basden, Melly, and Superior Court Judges Brian Coughenour and Erik Rohrer, who is resigning by Jan. 14, selected Mack to fill Basden’s spot on Dec. 21, Coughenour said Thursday.

Court Administrator Lacey Fors announced the appointment Monday.

Coughenour said there were eight or nine other applicants for the vacancy, some of whom also applied to fill Melly’s and Rohrer’s positions.

Rohrer is quitting with two years left on his term to become the new part-time West End District Court 2 judge, a position he won in the Nov. 6 general election.

Inslee will choose from among 11 applicants to fill the vacancy position by Jan. 14, including six woman — one of whom could become Clallam County’s first female Superior Court judge in the court’s 118-year history, according to county Auditor’s Office records.

Given that Mack and Basden are men, lawyers “are curious to see what Jay Inslee does,” Ariel Speser, Clallam County Bar Association president, said Wednesday.

“Obviously, it should go to the best candidate.”

Coughenour said Mack “put together the best application” for the family court position.

As a lawyer with the state Attorney General’s Office, Mack, a Grand Junction, Colo. native, has represented the state Department of Children, Youth and Families in Clallam and Jefferson counties since 2014.

Mack’s office handles legal issues surrounding education, labor and industries, licensing and administrative law and social and health services.

“He has quite a bit of experience in the dependency area, having worked for the AG’s office,” Coughenour said.

“He’s been working in family law, doing pro bono cases.”

Mack, who will earn $155,314 a year, grew up in Portland, Maine, and graduated from Seattle University School of Law in 2009.

He said Wednesday he had been considering a career in social work when he decided to attend law school.

“I’ve always been really attracted to kind of the human side of the legal profession,” Mack said.

“When you’re working in family court, you really are working with families and helping decide where kids should go, how to be serving kids, how to be serving families.

“Obviously, Clallam County is dealing with poverty, substance abuse, domestic issues, it all ends up in the family court courtroom.

“I just enjoy the chance to work with people and hope to make a positive impact in people’s lives.

“This may be the best place to do it.”

Mack is married to Erica Nixon Mack, a physical therapist.

They have two daughters, ages 10 and 12.

He will take office after Jan. 14, when Rohrer is sworn is as District Court 2 judge.

Rohrer, the presiding judge, on Thursday would not release the names of the other applicants for the position, citing the state Public Records Act, which exempts from disclosure the names of applicants for public employment.

The names of applicants for Rohrer’s position were released by Inslee’s office.

They include county Clallam County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin and Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys Steven Johnson and April King, and Clallam Public Defender Director Harry Gasnick and Clallam Public Defender lawyers John and Suzanne Hayden.

They also include Administrative Law Judge Lisa Dublin, lawyers Cathy Marshall of the state Attorney General’s Office and Steve Robins of the Northwest Justice Project, and Port Angeles attorneys Lauren Erickson and Carol Mortensen.

”I see a difference between the governor appointing someone to an elected judicial position and the Superior Court hiring a commissioner,” Rohrer said Thursday in an email.

“Applicants for the commissioner job are applying for public employment, not submitting their names to the governor for appointment to a judicial position where they appear to have consented to the release of their personal information.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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