Gregory Gonzales, Battle Ground’s municipal court judge, received a personal call Monday from the governor, informing him that he would be Clark County’s next Superior Court judge. The news was “without a doubt, a dream come true,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales will succeed Judge Edwin Poyfair, who is retiring at the end of this month. His appointment was announced in a news release from the office of Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Gonzales, 56, has been a municipal court judge, a part-time position, since 2005 in addition to pursuing a general practice of law. He began his legal career at the law firm Weber Gunn. That firm is in the process of dissolving, and this year, Gonzales opened his own Vancouver firm, where he has handled personal injury cases, misdemeanor criminal defense and general litigation.
A native of Southern California, Gonzales received his law degree from Lewis & Clark College in Portland and moved to Clark County to began his law career.
He said he served as a pro tem judge in the 1990s in District Court and began to have a passion for it. “I enjoy being on the bench. I truly have fun in the right way,” Gonzales said. “That’s where the passion and energy comes from.”
From his years as a municipal court judge, Gonzales said, he’s learned the importance of fairness and equity.
The favorite according to a Clark County Bar Association poll last month, he was chosen from among four other applicants. They are Camara Banfield, a senior deputy prosecutor; Darryl Walker, a civil deputy prosecutor;and Bob Yoseph and Josephine Townsend, both private practice lawyers.
“Greg is well-regarded by his colleagues for his work and his integrity on the bench as a municipal court judge,” Gregoire said in the release. “He will bring civil and criminal law experience gained from many years in private practice to his new position on the Superior Court.”
It wasn’t immediately known when Gonzales will be sworn in, or what type of cases he will hear. Poyfair has presided mainly over family law cases, though Superior Court judges do occasionally shift assignments.
Gonzales will have to run in this year’s election to keep the post. Townsend has filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission, announcing that she also plans to run for the seat.
Of the 10 judges on the Clark County Superior Court bench, three — Rich Melnick, Scott Collier and Dan Stahnke — were appointed by Gregoire before they stood for election.
Superior Court judges preside over criminal cases, civil cases involving more than $75,000, divorces, probate cases, juvenile cases and other matters.
They currently earn $148,836 a year.
A judge since 1992, Poyfair, 68, said in January that he would retire and move to Arizona.