Schaller, who was celebrating her likely victory Tuesday night at River’s Edge in Tumwater, said she looks forward to becoming a Thurston County Superior Court judge. The Position 2 judgeship became vacant when Judge Paula Casey retired earlier this year.
“They look like good numbers to me,” Schaller said of the early results showing her with a nearly two-to-one lead over Johnson. “I’m very thankful to the voters of Thurston County for electing me as Thurston County Superior Court judge. I’m ready to join the other judges as we move toward a new era with so many of our judges having left over the past four years.”
Schaller currently works in Thurston County as a court commissioner hearing juvenile and family law cases. She was appointed to the position by the Thurston County Superior Court bench.
During the campaign, several of Schaller’s opponents, including Johnson, took issue with the fact that she lives in Pierce County.
Johnson, who has represented the Department of Labor and Industries for the A.G.’s office for the past 18 years, also was among several parties who filed petitions in court challenging whether Schaller is an eligible candidate due to her residency.
Schaller touted her long history as a Thurston County resident during the campaign.
Johnson, along with losing primary candidate Assistant Attorney General Marie Clarke, and local attorney Vicki Lee Parker, have all cited a state law that requires candidates for elected office in Washington to live in the county in which they wish to serve.
But in August, a Kitsap County Superior Court judge found that Schaller was an eligible candidate, ruling that the state constitution establishes the qualifications for judges in Superior Court and the state Supreme Court. Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen’s written order found that “the Legislature, absent authority, cannot create any new qualifications for constitutional offices.”
The constitution states only that Superior Court judges and state Supreme Court judges need to be admitted to practice law in Washington.
Johnson, Clarke, and Parker appealed to the Washington Supreme Court.
The Washington Supreme Court agreed to review the lower court’s decision, and in October, heard oral arguments. However, the Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling. It is unclear, what, if anything, the Supreme Court will do if it determines Schaller was an ineligible candidate after the elections are over.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Johnson said the voters have spoken.
“Tonight Commissioner Schaller was elected by the people,” Johnson said. “The courts will decide whether she’ll be allowed to serve. How complicated that process will be remains to be seen.”
Johnson added that it “was an amazing experience to be a candidate.”
POSITION 4 THURSTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE’S RACE
In the race for the vacant Position 4 Thurston County Superior Court judgeship, attorney Erik Price was leading Thurston County Court Commissioner Indu Thomas.
Price, who was celebrating with family and a small group of friends Tuesday night, said he looks forward to being sworn in as judge after current Position 4 Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee retires.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Price said. “We’re feeling pretty good and we’re happy for our supporters and volunteers.”
Price, a shareholder with the Olympia law firm Lane Powell, finished first in a poll over the summer asking members of the Thurston County Bar Association who they would prefer to see elected judge.
In his law practice, Price said he represented clients in a wide range of civil litigation, including government and regulatory issues, health care and complex litigation involving trade secrets and class action lawsuits. Price had said his experience with complicated civil cases would give him an advantage in presiding over those types of cases.
During the campaign, Price won the endorsement of McPhee, the retiring judge he sought to replace.
Thomas, a who serves as a judicial officer in Thurston County Family and Juvenile court, hears criminal cases involving juveniles and civil cases involving family disputes and child-custody cases. Thomas said Tuesday night that she is disappointed with the election results, but she will happily and proudly continue to serve the community in her capacity as Thurston County Court Commissioner.
“It was a great race, a clean race, and the county couldn’t lose,” she said of Price’s likely victory.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445