PORT ANGELES — Two candidates for Clallam County Superior Court judge went at it at a general election forum Tuesday.
Incumbent Lauren Erickson derided her challenger, Lisa Dublin, for never setting foot in a Clallam County courtroom and warned that Dublin is offering a level of courtroom management experience that is unnecessary for the county’s Superior Court during a Port Angeles Business Association meeting.
Dublin, the Tacoma division chief administrative law judge with the State Office of Administrative Hearings, said it’s time county voters had a choice rather than have their judges appointed, and she asserted her organizational skills would improve the operations of the Clallam County court. The two are vying for a four-year position that offers a $199,675 annual salary that increased July 1.
Erickson was appointed to the position in January 2019 by Gov. Jay Inslee to finish out the term of Erik Rohrer, who quit the position after he was elected to the Forks-area District Court 2 judge position. Erickson was elected unopposed in November 2019 to fill out Rohrer’s term.
Superior Court judges adjudicate felonies, in which adults found guilty serve more than a year in prison. They also handle cases involving title or possession of real property, divorces and annulments, and legality of taxes and fines.
While working in the Office of Administrative Hearings, Dublin said she managed the work, trained, assigned cases to and conducted performance reviews of judges, including Erickson, who was an administrative law judge pro tem before she was appointed a Superior Court judge.
Dublin, who began working as a judge for the office in 2010, said she and her husband, Shawn, who were married in Clallam County in 2010, moved to Clallam County in November 2019. She has a daughter in college.
A 1997 Willamette Law School graduate, Dublin practiced employment law for 13 years and has served as a King County District Court and Issaquah Municipal Court judge pro tem.
Erickson, a Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney for 12 years and former Port Angeles City Council member, has been a county district court and superior court judge pro tem and hearing examiner for the cities of Port Angeles, Sequim and Bellevue, and for Clallam and Snohomish counties.
She was a deputy prosecuting attorney in 50 jury trials, and, while in private practice, she represented indigent parents and children in the child welfare system for 10 years.
Dublin said that despite Erickson’s experience, Erickson received a “qualified” rating from Washington Women Lawyers compared to Dublin’s “well-qualified” rating and four other similar ratings.
“Judges make daily decisions on public safety and constitutional rights,” she said.
“It’s time to raise the bar.
“I will raise the bar by bringing my professional experience to Clallam County Superior Court.”
Dublin noted the last five Superior Court judges — Chris Melly, Brian Coughenour, Brent Basden, Simon Barnhart and Erickson — were initially appointed to their positions when their predecessors quit before their terms expired. Basden is running unopposed Nov. 3.
“It has a chilling effect on qualified candidates running against those incumbents,” said Dublin, an applicant for the position for which Inslee chose Erickson.
“I’m very excited to give the county a choice.”
Erickson, the first female Clallam County Superior Court judge, said she received a higher rating from the Clallam County Bar Association than Dublin and was already at the administrative hearings office when Dublin started there.
“I find it astonishing that she comes here and says how she’s going to raise the bar,” Erickson added.
“I think what you people need to understand is that administrative law judges are not constitutional law judges.”
They are not members of the judiciary and cannot say they are judges in their campaign literature, she added.
“There is a reason no Clallam County lawyer is running against me. Lisa is offering you a bureaucratic mess from Olympia.”
Erickson said she had the endorsements of Sheriff Bill Benedict and former Superior Court Judges George Wood and Brooke Taylor.
Dublin said a mental health court might cut the higher jail costs that are generated by inmates with mental health problems.
Erickson said it was “interesting” that “all of a sudden” Dublin wanted to establish a mental health court when law and justice officials have been trying to establish one, but it’s been difficult.
“One of the reasons we don’t have one in Clallam County is because we don’t have the services,” she said.
Dublin said she was up to the challenge.
“I have so much project management experience that I’ve accomplished in my own court that I can bring to Clallam County court and actually get the job done,” Dublin said.
Erickson dismissed Dublin’s assertions.
“I can assure you no Clallam County Superior Court judge is going to need training on how to do a mental health court,” Erickson said.
“She just wants to move here so now she’s coming up with all these things.
“I find it obnoxious that she’s coming here pretending that she trained me,” she added.
“Sorry, I’ll back off.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].