The Times recommends: For King County Superior Court — Parisien, North, Berns, O'Donnell and Ramseyer
The Seattle Times editorial board endorses Sue Parisien, Doug North, Elizabeth Berns, Sean O'Donnell and Judy Ramseyer for King County Superior Court
Seattle Times Editorial
FOR King County Superior Court there are three contests to fill judicial vacancies and two challenges to incumbents. Our choice among these is mostly about where they are from, what they have done and what their peers think of them. In choosing our favorites, we have aimed for a mix of backgrounds.
In Position 42, Judge Christopher Washington is rated lowest among 52 judges in this year's survey of the King County Bar Association. The low marks were mostly from prosecutors. One of several cases that inflamed them was in 2008, when two teenagers beat up Seattle Police Officer Jason McKissack, one of them kicking him in the head, leaving him with a brain injury. Washington sentenced the kicker, age 17, to 30 days served, though prosecutors asked for a longer sentence.
The prosecutors have a point. Washington has drawn three qualified challengers, Sue Parisien, Marianne Jones and David Ruzumna. Our choice is Parisien, an attorney here for Zurich Insurance Group. Parisien litigated civil cases for 12 years for state attorneys general Chris Gregoire and Rob McKenna. She is tough-minded and will not be an easy judge.
For Position 30, Judge Doug North is challenged by Kimberly Allen, a city councilwoman in Redmond. She argues that North allowed rape victims to be verbally abused in the trials of Sankarandi Skanda and Salvador Cruz, defendants who acted as their own lawyers. In the Cruz case, a witness fled to the courthouse roof and threatened to jump off. North says he controlled the defendants as much as he could, and if he had done any more the convictions would have been reversed on appeal. (Cruz was convicted and sentenced by North to 53 years; Skanda killed himself before the trial was over.)
The problem was not with North, but with the law. North has been unable to work for several months because of illness, but he expects to recover. We wish him the best and offer our endorsement.
For Position 25, prosecutor Roger Davidheiser, court commissioner Eric Schmidt and civil litigator Elizabeth Berns are running to replace Judge Jim Doerty. Our choice is Berns, despite a goofy rating by the King County Bar Association that she is "not qualified." Berns has two decades of private practice experience, and a calm, clear and direct manner. She has three years' experience as a judge pro tem in District Court and as a commissioner pro tem in Superior Court. She has the support of Judge Doerty and two justices of the Washington Supreme Court.
For Position 29, to replace Judge Sharon Armstrong, the bar association rated public defender Hong Tran "not qualified," she protested, and the association agreed to do it over. They rated her opponent, senior deputy prosecutor Sean O'Donnell, "well qualified." Both appear to be qualified.
Our choice is O'Donnell, who was one of the five prosecutors in the Gary Ridgway case. Besides being a thoughtful, experienced prosecutor, he is a trainer for the National Association of Attorneys General, an adjunct faculty member at the Seattle University School of Law and heads the Washington State Bar Association's legislative committee.
For Position 46, to replace Judge Suzanne Barnett, attorney Judy Ramseyer faces senior deputy prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff. Of these two strong candidates, we favor Ramseyer for her mix of experience. She was law clerk to renowned federal judge Bill Dwyer. Upon earning her law degree, she practiced at the Seattle law firms Heller Ehrman and K&L Gates. She has experience in at-risk youth, family law, commercial law, civil rights and class actions.
Ramseyer was guardian ad litem of Benjamin J. Harris, who had confessed to a murder he didn't do and was let go after coming within 12 days of execution. She has decades of courtroom experience and has the bearing of a Superior Court judge.