Superior Court Judge Miguel M. Duran speaks with a prosecution attorney during a trial in April, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald file photo)

Superior Court Judge Miguel M. Duran speaks with a prosecution attorney during a trial in April, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald file photo)

Editorial: Retain Duran, Moriarty on county’s Superior Court

Appointed in 2022, both judges have proved their skill and fairness in hearing a range of cases.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Snohomish County voters have their opportunity to rule on two Superior Court judicial races, for Positions 16 and 17 in the Nov. 7 election. The county’s 17 Superior Court judges hear felony criminal cases, civil cases, divorce, juvenile and other family law cases and appeals from the county’s lower courts. The judicial positions are nonpartisan.

Position 16: The incumbent, Judge Miguel M. Duran, was appointed in June 2022 by the governor, requiring an election this year. The position will again by up for election in 2024 for a full four-year term.

Duran, who earned his law degree from New York University, has previously served as judge pro tem for the Everett Municipal Court and as a civil arbiter for the Superior Court. He has worked as an attorney in civil and criminal cases for nearly 20 years and was appointed by the state Supreme Court to a committee to revise and clarify jury instructions for civil and criminal trials.

Brett Rogers is challenging Duran. Rogers, who earned his law degree from Seattle University, has represented clients in court and has more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, mostly with the Seattle Police Department. Rogers ran unsuccessfully for Snohomish County prosecutor in 2022. Rogers did not respond to requests to participate in an interview with the editorial board.

Duran, who lives in Mountlake Terrace, said he believes he was appointed to the newly created seat because — based on comments made to the selection committee by prosecutors and attorneys in civil and criminal cases — he had treated court opponents fairly and with a balanced perspective.

In his time on the court, Duran said he has presided over a full range of cases, and has taken advantage of other opportunities in the community, including as a co-hosting judge for the YMCA’s program of mock trials for middle and high school students, including a keynote address to students during the state mock trial competition. He has also been appointed to the board of Snohomish County Legal Services.

Duran said the court’s caseload is being handled on a timely schedule, since the addition of two additional judges for a total of 17, but he has appreciation for the current workload of prosecutors, public defenders and support staff, such as interpreters, in his court. Duran, who speaks Spanish, said he particularly appreciates the complexity of the work of interpreters.

“We have had translators or interpreters who do rise to the standard that you need for a courtroom setting, but you know, we’re still constantly evaluating how we can bring in more regular services because the need is substantial,” he said, noting the court’s demands for mental health services and its recovery court.

Duran, recognizing the crisis the county faces with fentanyl and other opioids, said he is encouraged by the level of resources and support provided to the court’s recovery program, but there is need elsewhere, particularly in providing timely treatment.

“Can we use more resources? Absolutely,” he said. “And I think frankly, that everyone is awake to that need at this point.”

Duran — in a court where Presiding Judge George Appel assigns cases as each judge is available, regardless of tenure — has handled the workload and complexity for the range of cases for which the court is responsible.

While judicial appointments can be seen by some as political, Duran has heard support from all sectors of the legal system and since his appointment has proved himself deserving of that support.

Voters should confirm Duran’s appointment and elect him to finish the term.

Position 17: Judge Patrick Moriarty, like Duran, was appointed to the post by the governor in June 2022, but was already serving with the Superior Court as a court commissioner, work he began in 2018. Court commissioners oversee family law, probate and similar proceedings.

Mary Anderson is challenging Moriarty for the seat, which will return to voters’ ballots in 2024.

Anderson, raised in Everett, earned her law degree from Seattle University. She has worked for more than a decade as a criminal and civil attorney and has argued cases in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals and two cases before the state Supreme Court, winning a unanimous opinion in one case. She has served as a judge pro tem for civil and criminal cases in the county’s district courts since 2022, with reappointment this January, hearing some 1,700 cases. Previously a Realtor, Anderson also worked in real estate law, which included the Supreme Court case regarding a wrongful foreclosure.

Her community service includes work with the Northwest National Consumer Law Center, Snohomish County Legal Services, YMCA’s mock trials, and the state bar association’s Leadership Institute and its executive litigation committee.

A Woodinville resident, Moriarty earned his law degree from Western New England University, and except for 18 months with the Seattle city attorney’s office, has spent his 27-year legal career in Snohomish County, working as a public defender and in private practice, handling criminal defense, juvenile cases, dependency, drug court, personal injury and other issues. Prior to his appointment as a court commissioner, Moriarty for many years served as a judge pro tem in Snohomish County courts.

His community service includes time as a judge for students’ mock trial competitions and working with youth in the county’s Reclaiming Futures Change Team.

One issue that Anderson has pursued in her challenge for the seat regards the ability for attorneys to make oral arguments in court upon request, rather than allowing judges to determine when oral arguments — rather than written briefs — are necessary.

Oral arguments, Moriarty said, are routine in criminal cases, but written briefs can be a better use of a court’s time for civil cases, when a judge is ruling on a discovery dispute or similar issue. Attorneys can request an oral argument, he said, but it should be left to a judge’s discretion. Anderson, however, believes not allowing for oral arguments is a violation of the state constitution.

Anderson is pressing the case on oral arguments as an example of the increased transparency she said she intends to bring to the court to increase the visibility of the courtroom in the community. As a judge, she said, “I’m going to do a legal analysis to allow people to see where I’m coming from. I want people to understand what’s inside my head.”

Regarding his priorities, Moriarty said he would back increased resources and programs to address fentanyl and other substance use disorders; increased affordable legal service, especially those who can’t afford good legal counsel but don’t qualify for free legal services or a public defenders; and expand availability to remote access to court hearings, which was launched during the pandemic and continues but could be expanded by providing access at libraries, as an example.

During her legal career, Anderson has built an impressive record as an attorney and may continue to do the same as a jurist. As well, her commitment in the court’s transparency and the public’s understanding of its work deserve attention. Anderson’s support from Snohomish County Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan officials speaks to her reputation as someone who would serve impartially.

Moriarty also offers an impressive resume as an attorney with a range of knowledge, long experience as a pro tem judge and now backed by five years as a court commissioner and Superior Court judge. He, as well, can point to support from officials from both parties, but also has the endorsements of all of his fellow judges on the Superior Court and other local jurists and attorneys.

Moriarty, like Duran, given the opportunity of appointment to a judicial post, has proved his fitness as a well-regarded and trusted jurist and should be confirmed to that post by voters.

Nov. 7 Election

Ballots for Snohomish County voters are scheduled to be mailed on Oct. 19, and must be returned to ballot drop boxes or mailed by 8 p.m. Nov. 7. The county voters guides were mailed Oct. 18, but are now available online at tinyurl.com/SnoCoVoterGuide23. A voters guide for the two judicial races is available at tinyurl.com/SnoCoJudges23. More information on the election, ballot drop box locations and registering to vote is available at tinyurl.com/SnoCoVote23.

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