Clark County prosecutor appointed as judge

Gov. Inslee chooses Veljacic to serve on Superior Court bench

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 
photoBernard Veljacic, deputy prosecutor, is one of five applicants for appointment to Clark County Superior Court. Bernard Veljacic, deputy prosecutor, is one of five applicants for appointment to Clark County Superior Court.

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A deputy civil prosecutor has been appointed to succeed Judge Rich Melnick in Position 3 on the Clark County Superior Court bench.

Gov. Jay Inslee selected Bernard F. Veljacic, 42, of Vancouver out of a pool of five applicants.

“Bernard’s diverse experiences and strong leadership qualities will help bring unique perspectives to the Clark County Superior Court,” Inslee said in a statement Monday. “He combines public service with deep compassion, and I know he’ll serve the people of Clark County well.”

Specifically, Inslee cited Veljacic’s experience working as both a criminal prosecutor and a civil attorney as among the reasons for his choice. He commended Veljacic for his service to the community as co-founder and former director of the Union Gospel Mission Legal Services Clinic (now Open Door Legal Services) in Seattle and as a current member of the state’s Clemency and Parole Board. He founded the legal services clinic in 1999, less than a year after graduating with a law degree from Seattle University.

The clinic serves homeless men and women in family law, immigration and debt cases.

Veljacic also has also served on the Clark County Diversity Advisory Committee and been a member of the Washington State Bar Association’s Character and Fitness Board, which makes decisions on whether bar applicants would be ethical and capable lawyers. He joined the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in 2001.

“It’s an honor to receive the appointment from Governor Inslee,” Veljacic said Monday. “I’m looking forward to getting to work for the people of Clark County.”

“I think everyone who comes before the court deserves a fair shake, and I intend to give people a fair shake and follow the law,” he said.

Veljacic said that he doesn’t yet know when he’ll take his seat on the bench. He said he plans to meet with members of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office today to discuss the transition.

In a Clark County Bar Association survey in April, about 27.7 percent of 188 respondents said they would choose Veljacic as the county’s next Superior Court judge; that was second to criminal defense attorney Bob Vukanovich, whom 38.8 percent of respondents said they preferred.

Veljacic succeeds Melnick, who was recently appointed to serve as a judge on the Division II Court of Appeals. The state’s Superior Court judges serve four-year terms and earn $151,809 per year, plus benefits. As an appointee, Veljacic will need to seek election in November to the last two years of Melnick’s four-year term.

Clark County has 10 Superior Court judge positions. Superior courts are the highest trial courts in Washington, hearing felony cases and larger civil matters.