Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to fill a Thurston County Superior Court vacancy soon, and court commissioner Christine Schaller is the favorite of local attorneys recently polled.
The Thurston County Bar Association released its preference survey Thursday. Schaller, one of two commissioners already on the Superior Court, led five candidates with 50 votes. The poll drew responses from 110 of 265 bar members.
The other attorneys considered: Cecelia Clynch, with 23 votes, Lisa Sutton with 17, Tracy Mitchell with 15 and Timothy Ford with five.
Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren said the governor’s general counsel, Narda Pierce, expects to interview the candidates very soon.
Shagren did not say how many candidates are being identified and declined to identify who is in the running.
Whoever is selected will need to stand for re-election in 2011 for the remainder of Hicks’ term, then again in 2012. That is when all eight Superior Court judges are up for new four-year terms, county elections spokeswoman Sandy Baxter said.
The five candidates in the bar poll submitted their names to the bar and governor. But Ford, who is the open-records ombudsman for the Attorney General’s Office, said he was disqualified for missing an Oct. 4 deadline. Ford ran for the state Court of Appeals in 2008 against Judge Robin Hunt and said Schaller is “well-respected.’’
Clynch was a Thurston County bar president earlier this decade. Sutton is listed as a lawyer in the torts division of the Attorney General’s Office. Mitchell is a commissioner in Lewis County Superior Court.
Hicks ended his 18-year judge career late last month. Bar president Kalo Wilcox said association bylaws require a poll when a vacancy occurs in situations other than an expired term.
Superior Court administrator Marti Maxwell said the court hopes to have a judge as soon as it’s feasible, but she does not expect a new judge to come in the door until the third week of November. That is because the appointee would need to give notice to his or her employer.
She said a prolonged delay would cause a case backlog, “but the judges are working very hard now to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/politicsblog