Clallam bar association rates Coughenour higher than his opponent, Neupert

Of the bar association’s 76 lawyers, 60 responded with ratings of 1-4 for the two Clallam County Superior Court judge candidates in each of four categories.

Brian Coughenour

Brian Coughenour

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Bar Association lawyers rated Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour higher than his Nov. 8 general election opponent, Dave Neupert, in a poll conducted to evaluate the two candidates for the four-year nonpartisan position.

Coughenour, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to the position in May 2015, and Neupert, a Port Angeles attorney who retired from Platt Irwin Law Firm in December, were rated in four categories: judgment and objectivity; demeanor and temperament; competence, experience and legal ability; and overall performance, Bar Association President Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said Tuesday in a statement.

Coughenour filled the position vacated by George L. Wood, who retired before the end of his term.

Schromen-Wawrin did not return calls for comment on the poll.

Of the bar association’s 76 lawyers, 60 responded with ratings of 1-4 for each candidate in each category.

A score of 1 was unqualified, 2 was qualified, 3 was well-qualified and 4 was exceptionally well-qualified.

Coughenour’s average total was higher than Neupert in each of the four categories.

The ratings included 22 respondents who said Coughenour is exceptionally well-qualified in competence, experience and legal ability compared to the three respondents who rated Neupert as exceptionally well-qualified in the category.

Coughenour also received 20 exceptionally well-qualified ratings, compared to Neupert’s three, for judgment and objectivity, identical to the totals each received for overall performance.

On demeanor and temperament, Coughenour received 17 exceptionally well-qualified scores to Neupert’s 10.

Coughenour also had a higher average rating for the four categories: 2.99 to Neupert’s 2.37.

“What I really like about this is that at least one-third of the attorneys in Clallam County voted me as exceptionally well-qualified, and Dave had very few attorneys who rated him exceptionally well-qualified,” Coughenour said.

Neupert said the poll was not representative of the 140 total number of attorneys in Clallam County because 60 participated in the poll.

“It’s hard to know what weight to give [the poll] since it wasn’t even half the active attorneys in the county,” Neupert said.

Neupert said he recently was rated exceptionally qualified by the state Veterans Bar Association, whose evaluation he said he sought.

Neupert said he also was rated exceptionally well-qualified by three other legal groups in 2015 when he sought Inslee’s appointment in 2015 to the seat now held by Coughenour.

Those groups were the state Joint Asian Judicial Evaluation Committee, affiliated with the Korean American Bar Association of Washington; the Cardozo Society of Washington, a bar association affiliated with the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle; and QLaw Association, a state bar association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legal professionals and their friends, according to the group’s website.

Had Neupert bested Coughenour in the Clallam bar association poll, “I would still hope that more people would participate when they have the opportunity,” he said.

“We elect our judges in the state,” Neupert said, adding that neither politicians nor lawyers “make that decision for us.”

Coughenour said those who participated in the poll “are the practicing lawyers in Clallam County” and questioned if the 140 lawyers cited by Neupert included nonpracticing, retired attorneys.

“The attorneys are the people who know the court system,” Coughenour said. “Most people don’t.

“If you get your car fixed and you get a mechanic, you ask the mechanics who the best mechanic is, so why not ask all the lawyers in the system who would be the best judge?”

Coughenour, who was not evaluated by the four groups who assessed Neupert, also received the Clallam bar association’s top rating in 2015 among six applicants for Wood’s position, which included Neupert.

Ballots for the election were mailed to more than 50,000 voters Wednesday and are due Nov. 8.

The Superior Court judge position is the only countywide local position on the ballot for Clallam County voters.

The winner will earn $165,870 and take office Nov. 30, after the election is certified. The winner will complete Wood’s unexpired term, which ends Dec. 31, and then serve a four-year term.


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

Dave Neupert

Dave Neupert