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Originally published October 19, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Page modified October 21, 2014 at 11:39 AM

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Editorial: The Times recommends in King County judge races: Janet Garrow, Ketu Shah, Phillip Tavel

Choose Garrow, Shah and Tavel for King County judge.

Seattle Times Editorial

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@Person @user1073419 Wrong, wrong, wrong. The KCBA has an elaborate evaluation and endorsement process, staffed by... MORE


THE unseemly involvement of a political action committee in several local judicial elections has highlighted the importance of an uncompromised judiciary.

Voters can maintain judicial independence by re-electing incumbent King County Judges Janet Garrow and Ketu Shah in Northeast District Positions Nos. 1 and 2 respectively, and by electing challenger Phillip Tavel to join them as West District Position No. 2 judge.

Garrow, a 16-year bench veteran who maintains high courtroom standards, is thoughtful about the judiciary. That’s evident in her desire to upgrade the court’s statewide case-management system.

Despite a reputation for being tough, she’s considered “exceptionally well qualified” by the King County Bar Association and is well thought of by her peers and administrative court workers.

Challenger Dawn Bettinger has worked as a prosecutor, public defender and judge pro tem since 2001. However, Bettinger seems more sympathetic to “mistakes that [defendants] made in the cocktail hour” than with the people those mistakes might harm.

Shah, a former prosecutor who was appointed to the bench in 2013, should guard against the appearance that past professional relationships cloud his judgment. Still, his high survey rating from the county bar and studious demeanor are appealing for someone so new to the bench.

His opponent, Sarah Hayne, aspires to the judiciary after 19 years away from the law focusing on her family. Hayne is alarmed by Shah’s ties to the local prosecutor’s office, but nonsensically discounts her husband’s role in creating a political action committee that endorsed her in its efforts to replace judges it deems unfair to defense attorneys.

Still, her passion for jurisprudence and previous experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney and pro tem judge suggest that she could make a better candidate after a more extended return to the law.

Tavel, a former physicist, educator and video-game developer, would provide valuable scientific expertise to the judiciary. And his decade as a public defender and judge pro tem defy the King County Bar Association’s assertion that he is “not qualified.”

Mark Chow, the 23-year incumbent Tavel hopes to unseat, received a passing “well qualified” endorsement from the bar, but has been among its lowest-rated judges in member surveys for some time. He’s also been admonished twice by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct for offensive behavior.

Voters deserve better from a jurist with Chow’s tenure.

Although judges carry a grueling workload, they should be mindful that their position holds them to a high standard.

With that in mind, voters should retain Garrow as Northeast District Position No. 1 judge, Shah as Northeast District Position No. 2 judge, and send Tavel to the bench as West District Position No. 2 judge.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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