With one legislative action and one election, the face of the Seattle Municipal Court has gone through its most dramatic change in decades. The facelift began when the Seattle City Counsel decided to trim one of the eight judicial positions on the Seattle Municipal Court due to budgetary cuts. It ended when four new judges were elected on November 2, 2010.
The race that garnered the most media attention featured incumbent Presiding Judge Edsonya Charles facing a challenge from assistant city attorney, Ed McKenna. Judge Charles ran primarily on a platform decrying that her opponent was running with the support of DUI lawyers. The truth is that Mckenna had the bi-partisan support of prosecutors and defense attorneys alike and he was elected by an overwhelming margin.
The only other contested race featured long term incumbent Judge Michael Hurtado against challenger Karen Donohue. This race wasn’t close either and in January newly elected Judge Donohue will be sworn in. On a personal note, Judge Hurtado was appointed to the Seattle Municipal bench the same year I became a lawyer. He presided over my first trial. Though no one would ever consider him a DUI defense attorney’s best friend, I always found him to be fair, consistent and compassionate. That being said, Judge Donohue will be a welcome addition to the bench.
The two remaining races were uncontested and saw Steve Rosen and Willie Gregory advance. As a result, Seattle Municipal Court has its four newest members joining the three unchallenged returnees in Judges Judith Hightower, C. Kimi Kondo, and Fred Bonner to give the Court it’s first significant new look in years.
And with a new presiding judge and four new faces on the bench, the daily operating procedure will likely be impacted significantly.