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County Council committee removes changes for appointing judges

Post by Steve Maynard / The News Tribune on Oct. 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
October 22, 2012 7:28 pm

A Pierce County Council committee today removed proposed changes to the District Court judicial appointment process that would have given a strong say to Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Facing an uproar from District Court judges and other prominent attorneys, the council’s Rules and Operations Committee voted 3-0 today to strike down proposed revisions. They would have eliminated all outside input from the legal community, replacing it was a panel of five county employees – including the prosecutor.

The council committee forwarded the revised ordinance to the full council for approval Nov. 6. The seven-member council could make further revisions then.

“I’m elated,” presiding District Court Judge Pat O’Malley said after the vote this morning. But he urged caution that the controversy won’t be fully resolved until the council makes a final decision.

The public and the legal community have made it clear “that they want an impartial, transparent process,” O’Malley said. “So do I.”

O’Malley and several other members spoke out against the changes, which would have removed three representatives from the Pierce County Bar Association from an ad-hoc committee. Several speakers opposed the changes today because minority members of the legal community would not be represented.

Council chairwoman Joyce McDonald, who introduced the measure, said she is in favor of the old process. McDonald, R-Puyallup, said the proposed new committee had not been formed when she introduced the measure.

“Today we’ve had the opportunity to undo any damage that you might think has been done,” McDonald told the crowd that filled the council chambers.

Council vice chairman Rick Talbert, D-Tacoma, proposed eliminating the changes. The process would remain as the existing system adopted in 2003 unless the full council makes any revisions Nov. 6.

The council is due to appoint a District Court judge soon to fill the seat to be vacated by Judge Jack Nevin, who’s moving to Superior Court in January.

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