Six vying for spot on Superior Court bench

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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Six local attorneys are in the running to replace Clark County Superior Court Judge Roger Bennett, who is retiring Sept. 1.

The deadline for applications to Gov. Chris Gregoire was June 30.

While the governor’s office wouldn’t release the names of the candidates, the Clark County Bar Association issued a preference poll questionnaire to local attorneys that listed six candidates.

They are: Superior Court Commissioners Dan Stahnke and Carin Schienberg, defense attorneys Bob Yoseph and Lou Byrd, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield and private civil attorney David Gregerson.

Gregoire is expected to make a decision on Bennett’s replacement sometime in September, a governor’s office spokesman said. Bennett’s term doesn’t expire until 2012.

The last vacancy on the Superior Court bench was created by the retirement of Judge Robert Harris, who left office in December 2009.

Stahnke, Schienberg and Gregerson unsuccessfully applied to fill Harris’ vacated position. District Court Judge Rich Melnick was appointed to replace Harris, edging out finalist Stahnke.

Bennett, a Superior Court judge since 1990, announced May 10 that he was retiring to become a practicing attorney. He said he wanted to focus on criminal defense work, along with probate cases and mediation.

Before taking office, he was the county’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.

He is the second-longest-serving judge on the 10-member Superior Court bench behind Barbara Johnson, who took office in 1987.

Superior Court judges have jurisdiction over felony criminal cases, civil cases involving more than $75,000, divorces, probate cases and juvenile court.

They earn $148,836 a year.