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Feb. 5, 2023

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Six apply to fill Superior Court Judge James Rulli’s position

Superior Court judge to retire May 1; Inslee will name successor

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

Five lawyers and a Clark County Superior Court commissioner have applied to fill the vacancy that will be left by Superior Court Judge James Rulli when he retires May 1.

Six attorneys have submitted their applications to the governor’s office: Assistant Attorney General Tsering Cornell; Jeffrey Keddie, a staff attorney at Northwest Justice Project; Senior Deputy Prosecutor Rachael Rogers of the appellate unit; Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Emily Sheldrick; Commissioner Jennifer Snider; and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu of the major crimes unit.

The Clark County Bar Association is conducting a preference poll of the candidates and will submit it for Gov. Jay Inslee to review. Those results will be released to the public today.

Inslee is expected to reach a decision on a successor in a few weeks.

“Our legal staff will be meeting with candidates and then make a recommendation to the governor,” said Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Inslee.

Here is more information about each of the candidates:

Tsering Cornell, 37, of Vancouver

For the past year, Cornell has worked for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office in Vancouver, where she represents the state in child welfare cases, locally, and is general counsel to the State School for the Deaf. Previously, she was appointed in 2016 by Secretary of State Kim Wyman as director of the Washington State Division of Corporations & Charities. There, she managed a staff of more than 70 people and implemented a new electronic filing system, replacing a decades-old paper-based system.

Cornell originally joined the attorney general’s office in 2013. She was recognized for outstanding achievement by Attorney General Bob Ferguson in 2015. Before that, she was an associate in the business group at Cooley LLP from January 2010 to December 2012.

She grew up in Washougal and Vancouver, and did Running Start through Clark College. An Evergreen High School graduate, Cornell taught 10th-grade world history through Teach for America in east Oakland, Calif., before going to law school.

Cornell obtained a bachelor’s degree in 2004 from Dartmouth College, master’s degree in education in 2006 from Alliant International University-San Francisco Bay and law degree in 2009 from the University of California Hastings College of Law, according to her LinkedIn profile.

“My parents are immigrants from Tibet, by way of refugee camps in India and Nepal. Their stories of oppression under an unchecked government instilled in me a deep appreciation for the system of checks and balances gifted to us by our founders. That appreciation drives my interest in joining the judiciary. But I don’t want to be a judge just anywhere — I want to be a judge here because of my gratitude to this community and desire to give back,” Cornell said in a written statement.

Jeffrey Keddie, 39, of Vancouver

A staff attorney at Northwest Justice Project in Longview, Keddie assists survivors of domestic violence with family legal matters. He also manages health and income maintenance cases through a partnership with Cowlitz Family Health Center. In addition, Keddie is an adjunct professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School, teaching a class on “Poverty and the Law.” For the past two years, he’s served as a part-time commissioner and pro tem judge in Cowlitz County superior and district courts, where he handles criminal and civil dockets.

Keddie obtained his bachelor’s degree in history in 2005 from the University of Washington and law degree in 2009 from Seattle University School of Law. Keddie was admitted to the Washington State Bar Association in 2013, according to Northwest Justice Project. He was a staff attorney and IT strategist for Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida from January 2009 to March 2013, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“As a commissioner and pro tempore these last two years, my litigation skills allowed me to make informed and fair decisions consistent with the law, my legal aid experiences allowed me to treat all parties with respect and kindness, and my understanding of systemic inequities allowed me to see my decisions within a community context. As a judge I could improve the lives of all parties, grow respect for the court system and support community growth,” Keddie wrote in an email Tuesday.

“All that being said, I believe the court should prioritize diversity on the Clark County Superior Court bench, and the governor has great options to choose from in that regard,” he added.

Rachael Rogers, 36, of Vancouver

Rogers has been a deputy prosecutor with the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office since July 2008, according to her LinkedIn profile, and is the head of the appellate unit, where she handles appeals, personal restraint petitions, motions for relief from judgment and other post-conviction litigation for the criminal division.

She obtained a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and French in 2003 from Northeastern University and law degree in 2006 from Willamette University.

“I have devoted my life to public service, from collecting food cans on Halloween as a child to working for the government and to now serving as a director for the Evergreen School Board. I believe continuing my service as a judge is a great way to use my abilities to serve the people in my community,” Rogers wrote in an email Monday.

In stating her qualifications for the position, Rogers said she’s “frequently called upon to make quick decisions on legal issues when deputy prosecutors are in trial and need advice, similar to the decisions I would be called upon to make as a trial judge.” She also knows the rules for evidence well after having tried about 100 cases in her career and is accustomed to evaluating cases “from a neutral frame of mind to determine if a trial was fair and if a conviction was properly obtained.”

“I am ready and able to make quick, legally-sound judgment calls in trials, I work to be free from bias, including my own implicit biases, and I am fair and reasonable, and I would treat all parties and all those who appear before me with dignity and respect,” Rogers wrote.

Emily Sheldrick, 48, of Vancouver

She oversees the civil division of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, representing and advising the county and its elected and appointed officials on civil matters. Sheldrick supervises civil staff attorneys and legal assistants and is chief adviser to the Clark County Council. She was previously the employment labor attorney for the civil division from April 2014 until her promotion in January 2018. Before joining the prosecutor’s office in 2014, Sheldrick worked for private firms in Seattle and Vancouver, where she practiced employment and commercial law, according to Columbian archives.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree in 1992 from Oregon State University and law degree in 1996 from the University of Washington School of Law.

Sheldrick is the former president and current treasurer of the Clark County Chapter of the Washington Women Lawyers, a member of the Clark County Bench-Bar Committee and volunteer coach for the Columbia River High School Mock Trial Team.

“I am requesting this judicial appointment to further extend my commitment and contribution to public service and more directly serve my community. This position would enable me to realize my enduring belief that a judge should strive to address matters based on application of law to facts, without influence or bias,” Sheldrick wrote in an email Tuesday.

“I thrive on continuous learning, and with my strong work ethic, I seek to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds, respectfully and professionally. I am uniquely qualified for this position given my extensive civil litigation experience, knowledge of court administration and community involvement,” she added.

Jennifer Snider, 48, of Vancouver

Snider was appointed as a full-time Clark County Superior Court commissioner in August 2013. Snider presides over any business of the court assigned by the judges. For nearly five years, she was primarily assigned to juvenile offender and family law matters. Now, she’s also on a dependency rotation, where she has trial settings three days a week and a full day of review hearings and motions, in addition to Family Treatment Court.

Previously, she worked for the same Vancouver law firm, Reed & Johnson and later Johnson & Snider P.C., for 17 years as an associate and then partner, practicing family law, dependency cases and personal injury cases.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree in politics in 1993 from Whitman College and law degree in 1996 from Gonzaga University School of Law.

“What sets me apart from the other candidates is my extensive judicial experience and skill developed by being in charge of a courtroom for almost six years. I have a proven track record of preparation, fairness, equal access, legal knowledge and common sense, and I apply those attributes to challenging situations in superior court every day,” Snider said in an email Tuesday.

“I applied for the position being vacated by the Honorable James E. Rulli because I believe Clark County needs more qualified female judges, and I enjoy serving the public and positively impacting the community,” Snider added.

Kasey Vu, 50, of Woodland

Vu has been a member of the Clark County legal community for nearly 20 years. He was hired as a deputy prosecutor at the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in September 2002, and has worked in the district court, felony drug, general felonies, juvenile, docket and major crimes units. Vu was promoted to senior deputy prosecutor seven years ago and has supervised the major crimes unit for the last five years. He’s tried dozens of felony cases. Previously, he clerked for now-retired Judge Elaine Houghton at the Court of Appeals, Division II.

He also served two combat tours, from February 2004 to March 2005 and October 2008 to July 2009, in Iraq, and served in the Washington Army National Guard from July 1998 to March 2016.

Vu obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1991 from the University of California, Riverside, and his law degree in 2001 from the University of Washington School of Law. He started as an extern in the prosecuting attorney’s office during the summer of 1999 and returned the following summer as a Rule 9 intern.

His family came to the U.S. as refugees, fleeing the Vietnamese Communist regime, when he was 7 years old.

“With my background and life experience, I will bring to the bench a much deeper and more profound appreciation for the role of our courts, particularly the role of the judge, who is charged with dispensing justice and making decisions that have the potential to affect a person’s freedom, parental rights, property rights and other important consequences. I have a demonstrated record of public service to this country, to this state and to this community,” Vu said in a written statement.