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Judge candidates talk about the issues; next forum Saturday
By Margie Doyle
The Islands Sounder
Islanders had the opportunity to hear Superior Court candidates Randy Gaylord and John Linde talk about the issues Wednesday in the first in a series of candidate forums planned on the islands.
The next forum is scheduled Saturday, 2:30-4:30 p.m., in Mullis Community Senior Center, 589 Nash St., Friday Harbor. Candidates running for the following positions have been invited: U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District; state Senate, 40th District; County Council, San Juan South; County Council, Orcas West; and San Juan County Superior Court judge.
Shaw Islanders, Inc., hosts a candidates forum Aug. 9, 11:30 a.m., in the Shaw Island Community Building. Invited are candidates running for 40th District state Legislature, all County Council positions, and San Juan County Superior Court judge.
Wednesday's forum was organized by Orcas West County Council candidate Mindy Kayl and facilitated by Lisa Byers, executive director of OPAL Community Land Trust.
Byers listed the duties of the Superior Court judge as hearing felony criminal cases, civil matters, divorces, juvenile cases and appeals from lower courts of limited jurisdiction. Superior Court judges serve four-year terms; the race will be decided in the Aug. 19 primary election.
Linde was appointed to the Superior Court by Gov. Christine Gregoire late last year, after serving as the county's District Court judge and in private law practice. He and his wife, Carol, live on San Juan Island. Gaylord has been elected San Juan County prosecutor four times. He and his wife Marny live on Orcas Island.
John Erly asked the candidates for their views on sentences in drunken-driving cases. Gaylord explained that Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, is a felony on the fifth offense or in the case of serious injury or death. Gaylord said that felony drunken-driving charges "need to be punished according to the schedule."
Linde declined to comment, saying that, as a judge, he is prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct from discussing penalties and sentencing in criminal cases.
Bob Distler asked Linde to define his personal values; Linde replied that his family, wife, children, school and athletics are of prime importance to him. He compared his 10 years as a Little League umpire with his performance on the bench — being impartial and committed to the law.
"I care about the law and about every person that comes before me," he said. "I'm just like you – a guy who loves to live in the San Juan Islands and loves the people here."
That prompted questions about differences in the candidates' experience. Linde stated his experience presiding over 100 jury trials and the endorsements he's received from other judges, including 30 Superior Court judges around the state.
Gaylord said he and Linde had received the highest rating of "Exceptionally well-qualified" from the State Bar Association. "So you have to look at things beyond qualifications," he said. He cited his drive and work ethic, his experience teaching law to other lawyers, his time-management abilities and his leadership qualities.
Ed LeCocq asked Gaylord about the County Council's authorization of a lawsuit against the individual who'd filed a referendum against the county's stormwater funding ordinance.
Gaylord replied that state law required the council to file the suit against the author of the referendum, and that the referendum and initiative process were both new elements of the County Charter established in 2006.
When asked if he would support holding Superior Court sessions on Lopez or Orcas island, as Gaylord has advocated, Linde said "the short answer is no." He said state law requires that the Superior Court shall be held at the county seat, which is Friday Harbor.
Gaylord said he would use his leadership to change that policy, appealing to state officials and the Legislature. He emphasized the importance of "educating the community about the court so that they have confidence in the court system."
Gaylord stated that in his campaign, he has gone door-to-door six days a week to connect with voters to share their concerns. He said his work and decisions have been "fair and impartial, and have stood the test of time."
Linde said that because the Code of Judicial Conduct "precludes candidates from talking about (court) decisions," he feels it is "disingenuous" to campaign door-to-door. The job of a judge, he said, is to "apply laws made by legislative representatives to the facts of the case."