Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Why not to run against a Pierce County judge

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Nov. 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
November 3, 2009 5:19 pm

Another take on why Pierce County lawyers don’t run against sitting judges. In keeping with the general theme of not wanting to antagonize said judges, this attorney has asked me not to use his name:

Hi Pat,

I’ve been meaning to give you feedback about the blog concerning why good local lawyers don’t more often file against incumbent judges. “Etiquette” doesn’t begin to explain it.

From this lawyer’s perspective, here are some among a myriad of reasons:

The withering scrutiny the candidate will face. You’d better not have ever expressed the belief that marriage presupposes a man and a woman, or hired household help who lacked a green card, or told a joke that somebody, somewhere, might find offensive, or overlooked paying your income tax . . . although the latter would not disqualify you from becoming Secretary of the Treasury. :)

The demands of the financial disclosure laws. Who among us wants to expose every detail of our financial affairs to public view? If you’re in a law firm, many of the firm’s records will also be disclosed.

The expense (and hassle) of campaigning. Even a local judicial race costs tens of thousands of dollars, much of which will come out of your own pocket. Plus, if you’re a really successful lawyer, chances are you’ll take a pay cut if you win.

The intimidation factor, i.e., the expectation that, if you lose, not only will your opponent, the incumbent judge, be pissed off at you, so also will his colleagues on the bench. This consideration looms large more often than one might think.

Diminished returns, by which I mean that being a judge just doesn’t carry the prestige and cachet of bygone days. A judge used to have unique stature in the community; it was a position well worth seeking. Nowadays, however, through a combination of factors, judges as a class are seen as not much better than us mere mortals. Not entirely a bad thing, but true nonetheless.

Finally, you can be an accomplished lawyer, but if your opponent is someone like, say, Richard Sanders, the News Tribune might endorse your opponent anyway.

*
The News Tribune now uses Facebook commenting on selected blogs. See editor's column for more details. Commenters are expected to abide by terms of service for Facebook as well as commenting rules for thenewstribune.com. Report violators to webmaster@thenewstribune.com.