PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have identified an attorney with West End roots to replace retiring Forks-area District Court Judge Erik Rohrer.
After a closed executive session Monday, commissioners voted 3-0 to refer Charles “Bruce” Hanify to the Human Resources department for continued research on his qualifications and background.
Hanify, a 1975 Forks High School graduate and Longview-area criminal defense attorney, was one of four candidates the commissioners interviewed for the District Court 2 judge’s position on Nov. 23.
He emerged as the commissioners’ preferred choice after the board reconvened in an open session Monday.
“I’m very thrilled,” said Hanify, 63, when reached by cell phone Tuesday.
“Forks is still my town. In a way, I never left Forks.”
Commissioner Bill Peach, who represents the West End, made the motion to pursue Hanify’s appointment through further analysis by Human Resources.
Peach said Hanify understood the values of the West End.
“I’ll share that I was very impressed with his comments that he considers the legal issues and he considers the social issues in his decision making,” Peach said after the 70-minute executive session.
“His support for activities that look at the underlying cause in the reason a person is before him, and as an example, supporting Oxford House as a way for people to get a second chance, I’m really impressed.”
Rohrer announced in September he plans to retire as District Court 2 judge effective Feb. 1 with nearly two years left on his term.
Commissioners interviewed attorneys William Payne, Lisa Dublin, Negar “Natalie” Ghayoumi and Hanify for the position.
“We couldn’t go wrong with any of these four candidates,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said before the vote Monday.
Hanify worked 15 years as a deputy prosecuting attorney, mostly in Yakima County, before moving to Cowlitz County to work in criminal defense in 2007.
Clallam County District Court 2 judge is a three-days-per-week position that pays about $98,000 per year. It requires residency in the district, which runs from Lake Crescent to the Pacific Ocean.
District Court 2 handles misdemeanor criminal cases and small claims civil matters that arise on the West End.
Port Angeles-based District Court 1 serves the same function for the rest of the county.
Hanify said he is eager to move back to the Forks area with his family. He has visited the Hoh Rainforest, Bogachiel River and other West End attractions several times per year throughout his career.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s home, and I’m very pleased to serve Forks in that capacity,” Hanify said.
During his interview with commissioners, Hanify said he would try to address the underlying causes of criminal behavior.
“There’s so much that needs to be done,” Hanify said in a Tuesday interview.
“The drug use has actually gotten worse, and mental health needs have increased. Housing is more difficult for people.
“It’s way more complicated to work in the criminal justice system now than it was 30 years ago, I can tell you that,” he added.
Commissioner Randy Johnson said he was impressed with Hanify’s “pragmatic solutions.”
“I think we as a county are very fortunate to have had some wonderful applicants for this position, very well-qualified applicants,” Johnson added.
Ozias agreed, saying that each of the candidates had solid experience.
“For me, what really stands out for Mr. Hanify boiled down to his definition of success,” Ozias said.
“He would define success some number of years down the road as returning the amount of love and caring to the residents of the West End community that were bestowed upon him and his family years ago when they first moved there.
“I like hearing words like love and caring come out the mouth of any judge, or potential judge,” Ozias added.
Hanify was born in Port Angeles and moved to Forks as a teen.
“I showed up in Forks in 1972 with long hair, and my dad was a park ranger,” he said.
“It started out very rocky, and I ended up being the senior class president and one of the two commencement speakers.”
Hanify said he relied on scholarships from the Forks area to pay for his first two years of college.
“It was a great experience, and I’ve never forgotten what the town of Forks did for me,” Hanify said.
“I’m just extremely proud and thrilled, and I’m going to do the best job I can do.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].