Retired judge returns to bench in Battle Ground

Roger Bennett will preside over municipal court

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: September 5, 2012, 5:27 PM

 

He helped prosecute the most infamous criminal in Clark County’s history, child-killer Westley Allan Dodd.

He presided over 700 trials during his more than 20 years as a Clark County Superior Court judge, some of them murder cases and high-profile civil lawsuits.

Now, Roger Bennett, who retired from the Superior Court bench last year, will be Battle Ground’s municipal court judge, hearing misdemeanor cases and traffic tickets.

Bennett was sworn in Tuesday night at the Battle Ground City Council meeting. He begins work today.

It’s not the typical career path for a judge. In fact, the former municipal court judge, Gregory Gonzales — who was appointed earlier this year to the Superior Court bench — performed Bennett’s swearing-in ceremony.

But Bennett said the position allows him to remain with his Vancouver law firm — Dimitrov, Senescu & Bennett, where he handles arbitration and mediation cases — while still returning to the bench, a longtime passion.

“I thought it would fit perfectly with my practice. It’s just part-time,” he said.

Battle Ground’s court convenes once a week, with a night court every other week. Bennett said he will also be responsible for issuing search warrants in misdemeanor criminal cases.

Bennett said he’s excited to once again handle criminal cases. The biggest difference between Superior Court and municipal court, he said: “It’s a faster pace. They deal with a lot of cases in a limited amount of time.”

Bennett, 62, has been an attorney since 1976. He served 14 years as a Clark County deputy prosecuting attorney, including time as chief deputy prosecutor. He became a Superior Court judge in 1990 and retired in September 2011.

Municipal court judge is a contract position that pays $4,200 a month. The city began searching for candidates in May, shortly after the departure of Gonzales. Bennett was chosen among 10 candidates.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.