Field of judge candidates grows to seven

Two more attorneys apply for chance to replace Diane Woolard

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 
photoVancouver attorney Chris Ramsay is one of seven applicants seeking to succeed Judge Diane Woolard on the Clark County Superior Court bench.

If you go

What: Clark County Superior Court judge candidate forum.

When: Noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Clark County Public Service Center, Sixth Floor, 1300 Franklin St.

Read more about the other five judge candidates:

Hopefuls emerge for Clark County bench job

Two more candidates have joined the pack seeking to succeed retiring Judge Diane Woolard on the Clark County Superior Court bench.

Vancouver attorney Christopher Ramsay, 51, and Grant County attorney Paulette Burgess, 43, have joined five other candidates who applied for the position by Friday's deadline.

The rest of the lineup includes Clark County Superior Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg; Bernard Veljacic, Clark County civil deputy prosecutor; Suzan Clark, president of the Clark County Bar Association; and two other private attorneys, Michael Simon and Robert Vukanovich.

Health problems have forced Woolard, 68, to retire, effective March 31. She has been on paid medical leave for the past three months because of complications related to her epilepsy.

Gov. Jay Inslee will appoint her successor in the coming weeks. It will be the first time the new governor has selected a judge for the county. The new judge will have to stand for election in November to retain office.

The state's Superior Court judges serve four-year terms and earn $148,832 per year, plus benefits; they'll receive a pay bump to $151,809 per year, effective Sept. 1.

The Clark County Bar Association plans to poll members on which local candidate they prefer and make a recommendation to the governor, who then follows up with additional vetting. The bar association will hold a candidates forum from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, on the sixth floor of the Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.

The event is open to the public.

Here is some of what the two new candidates say they have to offer:

Prosecutor to defender

Ramsay said he has always wanted to be a judge, and he tailored his career to that end. He now has a rounded experience as both prosecutor and public defender.

"I've spent my entire career involved in criminal law in one way or another, so I feel I have a really good feel for both sides as a defense attorney and a prosecutor," Ramsay said. "I've got many criminal trials under my belt, including many sensitive cases."

Ramsay joined the Denver City Attorney's Office after graduating from the University of Idaho College of Law in 1988. He worked as a prosecutor until 2003, when he moved to his wife's hometown of Vancouver.

He joined a private criminal defense firm, Morse Bratt Andrews & Foster, and then opened his own practice November 2006.

In 2004 and 2005, he volunteered by representing homeless people with legal difficulties.

He's been an adjunct law professor at Metropolitan College in Denver and Washington State University Vancouver.

He also has been an evaluator for Clark County Mock Trial, in which high school students learn the law by re-enacting a trial in front of a county judge.

Former journalist

Burgess is seeking appointment to any of three Superior Court vacancies in Clark County, Benton and Franklin counties' joint courthouse and King County.

Burgess' résumé includes corporate law, journalism, teaching and criminal defense. She now represents indigent criminal defendants in Grant County courts, as well as private clients.

After 15 years off and on in law, she said she's "ready for a new challenge."

"My experience in corporate counseling and as a journalist has trained me to look at the facts and be open-minded about other viewpoints," Burgess said.

Following her graduation in 1996 from Washburn University School of Law, she launched her legal career as an in-house lawyer at Financial Institution Consulting Corp. in Memphis, Tenn., where she drafted contracts and trust agreements for banking clients.

During the same period, she worked as a guardian ad litem in Memphis, providing independent reviews and recommendations related to family law matters.

After moving to Spokane, she worked as an adjunct instructor at Spokane Community College and then began a three-year stint as a journalist at Spokane's Bozzi Media and Local Planet Newsweekly, the latter of which she owned.

In 2004, she returned to law as corporate counsel for Purcell Systems Inc. in Spokane Valley.

She began her private law practice in 2007.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.