PORT ANGELES — The first contested Clallam County race in the Nov. 6 general election emerged Wednesday after a Port Angeles lawyer and former radio station news director announced that he will seek the Port Angeles-area District Court 1 judgeship.
Dave Neupert, 62, a private practice attorney at Platt Irwin Law Firm from 1995 to 2015, is running for the position being vacated by four-term Judge Rick Porter.
Suzanne Hayden of Clallam Public Defender announced Tuesday that she, too, is seeking the position, to which Porter is not seeking re-election.
Neupert said Wednesday he had planned to announce his candidacy this week. Candidate filing week is May 14-18.
Since leaving Platt Irwin, which he said he left “to do other things,” Neupert has continued to serve as a pro-tem judge for Porter, became a certified arbitrator in 2017 and now represents the Peninsula Housing Authority.
Neupert also is a court commissioner, completed instruction on district court procedures jurisdiction at the state judicial college in 2017, is a member of the state District and Municipal Court Judges’ Association and is certified to practice in the Lower Elwha Klallam and Quileute tribal courts.
He said he represented clients in mostly civil cases while in private practice and presented cases in Clallam County district and superior courts.
Porter, who began a 60-day stint in the Air Force reserve as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in February, selected Neupert as his pro-tem judge replacement for the duration, calling him “simply the best choice for me to pick” while he is gone.
“The skills I have work really well in district court,” said Neupert, a Seattle native.
“You’re mostly dealing with folks directly.”
Neupert, who was news director at radio station KONP in Port Angeles after he graduated with a journalism degree from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, received a law degree from the University of Puget Sound.
He has practiced criminal and civil law in Clallam County since 1991, including four years as head of the public defender agency covering Clallam County.
Neupert said he would review the effectiveness of Porter’s pay-or-appear program, which Porter’s past electoral opponents have criticized, before he makes a decision, but noted that state legislation is waiting for Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature that could effectively eliminate the program.
Porter instituted the program after he took office in 2002, requiring that misdemeanor offenders agree to pay a fine instead of serving jail time or do community service.
Not paying the fine can land the person in the Clallam County jail before appearing in front of a judge.
Neupert said the program has its pluses.
“One of the benefits I see to the program is it gives folks the opportunity to do community service work,” he said.
Neupert has sought prior appointment and election as a judge in Clallam County Superior Court.
He was one of six lawyers who applied for the position after Judge George L. Wood quit in 2015 before the end of his term.
Port Angeles lawyer Brian Coughenour was selected from among six applicants, including Neupert, who ran unsuccessfully against Coughenhour for the position in 2016.
In his election announcement Wednesday, Neupert said as a pro-tem judge he has presided over jury trials, driving-under-the-influence cases, mental health court “and all other calendars.”
The geographic area covered by District Court 1 stretches west from Blyn to west of Joyce.
The position will pay $164,313 as of Sept. 1.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.