Since 2009, six judges have stepped down from the job, taking with them decades of experience. The latest jurist expected to retire is Judge Larry McKeeman. After more than 20 years on the bench, McKeeman plans to step down at the end of the year.
Two local lawyers, Jack Follis and Millie Judge, are vying for the vacant seat.
Follis, a veteran civil trial attorney with Everett's Anderson Hunter Law Firm, is a political newcomer, who believes his years of courtroom experience gives him the advantage over his opponent.
Judge is plugged into local politics, having run for county executive and now serving as an elected fire commissioner for Fire District 1. Judge serves as the county's hearing examiner. She says her experience being a decision-maker and running a courtroom qualifies her to take a seat on the bench.
The race is expected to be settled in the Aug. 7 primary. Judicial positions are nonpartisan so candidates aren't vying to be a political party's choice in the general election.
The other seated Superior Court judges also are up for re-election for a four-year term. All are running unopposed.
The job pays $148,832 a year.
Follis, 51, grew up in New York and graduated law school at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. He's lived in Snohomish County for 22 years.
In 1990, Follis joined the Everett law firm Anderson Hunter, where he specializes in civil litigation. Follis says he has been the lead attorney in dozens of jury trials. He's also argued cases in front of the state Court of Appeals. He's represented both sides, defendants and plaintiffs, giving him unique experience that will serve him well on the bench, Follis said.
"I'm a lawyer in the court where I want to preside," he said.
Follis also has served as a court-appointed arbitrator for 15 years. Judges have appointed him nearly 200 times to oversee legal disputes outside the courtroom. As part of that job, he swears in witnesses, takes testimony and issues decisions in civil matters, such as employment contracts.
"I think it's the closest experience to being a Superior Court judge," Follis said.
Follis said as an attorney he had enjoyed helping people through the stress of being involved in a lawsuit. He understands that people want to feel that they've been heard and treated fairly.
"As a judge you have to be substantively fair and also appear fair," Follis said.
Follis points out that he hasn't been involved in partisan politics and has never run for office until now.
"I don't see myself as a politician in the future," he said.
He said he wants to continue to serve Snohomish County, and believes he can by bringing his extensive legal experience to the Superior Court bench.
Among his endorsements Follis lists judges, lawyers and community leaders. Among his supporters are five seated Superior Court judges, along with retired judges, Ronald Castleberry, Richard Thorpe and Robert Bibb.
Follis also recently beat out his opponent in the Snohomish County Bar Association's judicial poll, earning the most top-choice rankings among local attorneys.
Judge, 49, grew up in Bellevue and graduated law school at Pepperdine University in California. She moved back to Washington to serve as the law clerk for state Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Dore. She's lived in Snohomish County for 17 years.
Judge has worked as a civil deputy prosecutor for Thurston County and an assistant city attorney while employed with Ogden Murphy Wallace. In 1995, she was hired as a civil deputy prosecutor for Snohomish County. She represented county departments, including Planning and Development Services and Public Works. She also oversaw numerous civil commitments for people living with mental illness. Judge was promoted to assistant chief civil deputy, overseeing the land use and environmental law unit. She led the county to a $70 million settlement in the Brightwater sewage plant litigation against King County.
In 2007, Judge opened a private law practice and environmental consulting firm. She also worked as the county's pro-tem hearing examiner. She was appointed to the position full-time in 2010.
As the hearing examiner, Judge presides over land-use applications and administrative law appeals, such as disagreements over code enforcement or animal control decisions.
Judge says people often come to the hearings without lawyers, and it's up to her to walk them through the legal process.
"I have real experience running a courtroom," Judge said.
Her body of work speaks to how she makes decisions.
"I'm fair and I listen to people who come before me," she said. "I've proven that I follow the law even if it's controversial."
Judge says she believes a Superior Court judge needs to be impartial and approach the law with a certain amount of humility.
"I've learned there's a time and place when someone needs a second chance and there's a time and place when they need to be held accountable," Judge said.
Judge is endorsed by Snohomish County Democrats, Sheriff John Lovick and Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe. She also has received a "well-qualified" rating from various lawyer groups, including Washington Women Lawyers.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge
Residence: Mill Creek
Experience: Senior trial attorney with Anderson Hunter Law Firm in Everett since 1990; court-appointed arbitrator for 15 years
Experience: Snohomish County Hearing Examiner, full-time since 2010 and pro-tem since 2007; Snohomish County civil deputy prosecutor for 11 years
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