The pending retirement of Judge Eric Z. Lucas, who was elected to the bench 16 years ago, drew the candidacy of two attorneys with experience in Snohomish County courts for the Superior Court’s Position 8.
Cassandra Lopez Shaw has worked as a trial attorney representing defendants, private firms and organizations in criminal, civil and family law matters in Snohomish County and throughout the state at state and federal court levels. She is a graduate of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Robert Grant has worked as a deputy prosecutor for Snohomish County for 10 years and for several years as a pro tem judge for Edmonds and Everett municipal courts. For the last five years he has prosecuted criminal cases involving murder, assaults, rapes and sexual assault and other crimes against children. Grant started his experience with the county court system as a law clerk for now-retired Judge Kenneth Cowsert. Grant graduated from the New England School of Law.
A recent poll of members of the Snohomish County Bar Association rated the two candidates for the bench. For Grant, 73 attorneys rated him as “excellent,” with 23 “good” ratings, 15 “average” and 19 “unknown.” For Lopez Shaw, 29 attorneys rated her as “excellent,” nine as “good” 14 as “average,” 72 as “unsatisfactory” and 17 “unknown.” Lopez Shaw has been rated as exceptionally well qualified by the Loren Miller Bar Association and Washington State Veterans Bar Association and well qualified by the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington.
During a joint interview in late September with the editorial board, each candidate said they would draw from their experiences in court and in the court system as a judge.
For Grant, it was an internship as a case manager at an involuntary treatment center in Skagit County that prompted him to switch his focus in law school from environmental law to criminal justice. His work as a prosecutor helped to give victims and the vulnerable a voice, he said.
Lopez Shaw counted her work in more than 200 trials in court systems in 15 counties throughout the state as providing her a look at differences among courts, judges and juries and required her to adapt her skills to each situation.
Judges, too, have been an influence for each in how they would preside in court.
Lopez Shaw noted Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel, who impressed her with his thoughtful consideration of motions and objections during hearings, sometimes even allowing “dead space” before a response. “He really sits and conjures and thinks, and for my client to see that and have that time,” she said, “makes my client think they’re really getting a fair trial.”
Grant related his experience prosecuting a case before Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss, during sentencing for a 17-year-old youth who recklessly shot and killed a 17-year-old Edmonds girl in 2018. Prosecuted as an adult, Weiss took into account the defendant’s age and background and while condemning it as “an act of stupidity and youthfulness,” sentenced him to nearly 10 years in prison, initially in a juvenile setting where he could get necessary services and rehabilitation. Weiss acknowledged in court the decision would not be popular with the victim’s family and others.
“It was a packed courtroom and there were some obvious frustrations with how he ruled,” Grant said. “But judges have to do the right thing, which is often the hard thing.”
The retirement of Judge Lucas, who is a past president of the Snohomish County NAACP, means the departure of a respected Black jurist from the county bench.
Lopez Shaw, who came to the U.S. from Mexico with her family when she was a child, said it will be important to maintain the bench’s diversity, not just among the jurists, she said, but in each judge’s background and experience. Her resume as a defense attorney, rather than as a prosecutor, also is needed on the bench, she said.
Grant agreed to the importance of that diversity, but pointed to his representation of victims and others as contributing to his varied experiences. While both candidates have numerous high-profile endorsements, it’s important to note that Lucas has endorsed Grant.
Both qualified and well-spoken candidates, Grant and Lopez Shaw demonstrate a desire to serve justice and their communities. But Grant’s experience as a prosecutor and as a pro tem judge has prepared him well to succeed Lucas.