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April 16, 2021

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Nine candidates vie to replace Veljacic on Clark County Superior Court

Mediation attorney leads bar association poll on judgeship

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

Poll results released last week by the Clark County Bar Association show members’ top pick is mediation attorney Nancy Retsinas to replace former Superior Court Judge Bernard Veljacic.

Retsinas, 56, of Vancouver is one of nine candidates vying for judicial appointment to the Department 5 seat.

The vacancy was created Friday after Veljacic was sworn in to the Court of Appeals, Division II. He replaces Judge Rich Melnick, who retired.

The other candidates who applied to the Department 5 seat are:

• Clark County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield, 48, of Vancouver.

• Defense attorney Louis Byrd Jr., 63, of Vancouver.

• Assistant Attorney General Tsering Cornell, 39, of Vancouver.

• Vancouver attorney John Davis, 48, who specializes in family, real estate and business law, and criminal defense.

• Defense attorney Sean Downs, 41, of Camas.

• Vancouver Assistant Attorney Dan Lloyd, 42, of Camas.

• Clark County Senior Deputy Prosecutor James B. Smith, 41, of Vancouver.

• Clark County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu, 52, of Woodland.

Out of 155 respondents, 43, or 27.74 percent, said Retsinas is their “choice” for Veljacic’s replacement, according to the preference poll. Retsinas led Banfield (20.65 percent), bar members’ next choice, by 7.09 percentage points. Smith was the bar association’s third choice with 13.55 percent.

Members ranked the rest of the candidates: Downs (12.9 percent), Vu (8.39 percent), Lloyd (5.81 percent), Cornell (5.16 percent), Byrd (2.58 percent) and Davis (1.94 percent).

Respondents gave Retsinas the highest ratings (exceptionally well qualified) in all categories but one: temperament (66), integrity (63) and relevant legal experience (62). Smith received one vote more, for exceptionally well qualified, in the legal ability category, 54 to Retsinas’ 53.

Retsinas founded Retsinas Collaborative Law Center, located in Vancouver, in 2015. She serves as a pro tempore commissioner in Superior Court, a title she’s held in the past. She also served as a part-time Clark County District Court judge from 1998 to 2004. She has been a volunteer lawyer and mediator for the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program and Community Mediation Services since 1992, according to her resume.

“I’m humbled and honored by the responses of my colleagues in the bar poll, especially given the deep field of quality candidates,” Retsinas said in an email Monday.

The preference poll is one factor Gov. Jay Inslee will consider in vetting the candidates. In Inslee’s past four local judicial appointments, he selected Jennifer Snider and John Fairgrieve, who were favored by the local bar association, and Veljacic and Derek Vanderwood, who were not the bar association’s top poll choices, according to Columbian archives.

A spokeswoman for Inslee said Monday that the governor hopes to make an appointment in the coming weeks.

Superior Court judges are elected, and Velajcic’s term expired in 2020. In this case, the appointee would need to file for candidacy in May. Depending on the number of candidates, they would either appear on the primary ballot, go directly to the general election or, if no one else runs, be deemed elected for the three-year unexpired term.


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