Double-duty for Judge Hancock; no push for Superior Court appointment, but four express interest in the job

From left, Judge Alan Hancock congratulates his friend, John Linde, after Linde
From left, Judge Alan Hancock congratulates his friend, John Linde, after Linde's swearing-in as San Juan County Superior Court judge in January 2008. Linde, 62, died Dec. 3 while vacationing in Hawaii. Hancock has been filling in here as judge, an experience that he calls an emotional one.
— image credit: File photo / Richard Walker

Whidbey News Times

Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock has the challenging task of filling in as interim judge in another county while continuing his judicial duties in Coupeville.

What makes it even more emotionally difficult is that Hancock is temporarily replacing one of his dearest friends. San Juan Superior Court Judge John Linde, 62, died Dec. 3 while snorkeling in Hawaii.

“I knew him well,” Hancock said. “He was a long-time friend and colleague and I’m having a hard time dealing with his untimely death.”

The state Supreme Court appointed Hancock to perform judicial duties in San Juan Superior Court until Gov. Christine Gregoire appoints a successor. The position will be on the ballot next fall.

Hancock said Chief Justice Gerry Alexander called and asked him if he was willing to serve on an interim basis in San Juan; Hancock agreed.

Hancock is the obvious choice. He served as a Superior Court judge in both Island and San Juan counties from 1989 to 2008. Then the state Legislature divided the district, giving San Juan County its own judicial district.

Hancock said he first met Linde more than 30 years ago during a murder trial in San Juan County. Hancock was a deputy prosecutor and Linde was the defense attorney.

“We immediately developed a mutual respect and admiration,” Hancock said.

The two men and their two families have remained close ever since.

“He was a colleague and friend,” Hancock said. “He was like a brother to me. I just really miss him a lot.”

Hancock said he plans to spend a day each week in San Juan County, though trials could change that. He has the authority to appoint pro-tem judges to fill in.

Beginning next month, the workload in Island County will increase for Hancock and fellow Judge Vickie Churchill. County budget cuts forced them to layoff the court commissioner, which means the judges will have to pick up a full day of work behind the bench.

Hancock pointed out that the “Judicial Needs Estimates” report by the state Administrative Office for the Courts says that Island County has a need for 2.57 judges in Superior Court. With the cuts, they are down to just two.

Four possible candidates
Gov. Gregoire’s office has not announced when she will begin interviewing candidates for appointment to the San Juan County Superior Court.

Four have said they are or may be candidates:

— San Juan County District Court Judge Stewart Andrew said today he expects to make a decision "within the next few days" on whether he will apply for the Superior Court judgeship.

Andrew, a District Court judge since 1999, has served as a Superior Court judge pro tem.

— Prosecuting Attorney Randall K. Gaylord, a candidate for appointment in 2007 and election in 2008, has an application on file with the governor’s office.

— Friday Harbor Town Attorney Don Eaton, who has served as a Superior Court commissioner, said Thursday he may submit an application.

— Attorney John Wickham, who has served as judge pro tem in San Juan County District Court and Superior Court commissioner for family and juvenile court in Thurston County, announced Friday he will seek appointment to the position.

— Richard Walker of The Journal of the San Juan Islands contributed to this report.

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