Good judges are experienced, independent and in touch with the community. They know the law; they understand the community they serve; and they are fair minded. I developed these qualities over 30 years of work in Whatcom County, and I want to use them to serve our Superior Court.
Experience matters, if it's the right experience for Superior Court. That means broad experience in the many kinds of cases the Superior Court hears - family law, business disputes, real estate questions, criminal cases, probates, land-use issues and Constitutional rights. Superior Court work is different from county District Court and cities Municipal Courts, which handle the cases Superior Court does not hear -- parking and traffic offenses, small claims, misdemeanors. These courts' work is important, but very different from the Superior Court's work.
I've been fortunate to have gained broad experience throughout my career. After three years of prosecuting federal unfair labor practice cases and two years of representing Whatcom County people with a nonprofit legal services agency, I helped establish a law firm and began my adventures in the private practice of law. I worked in family law - one third of all Superior Court case filings. I defended criminal cases, represented people in car crash and insurance cases, and wrote wills and contracts. My practice evolved to business- and employment-related cases, where I've represented local people and businesses large and small in employment, insurance and commercial disputes.
I continued to represent abused children in Superior Court for many years because it was rewarding work - helping people through some of the hardest times in their lives. Several years ago, I received the state bar association's Local Hero award for defending the privacy of county library patrons from an FBI subpoena.
My work has taken me to several superior courts, to federal trial courts, and to the Washington Court of Appeals many times. Twice I won cases in the Washington Supreme Court and once, in the United States Supreme Court. Some cases established important precedents in the law, while others were important only to the people involved. Working in appeals courts helps me see the big picture - what's important later, when the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court reviews the superior court's work.
The right experience fosters insight into the concerns of those who come before the superior court. I understand how the court affects real people and small businesses because they've been my clients throughout my career. That experience distinguishes me from my opponent, who has represented only the government, and it lends a perspective that's essential to a fair and efficient superior court.
That private-sector background has also kept me independent and strong. I have no ties or biases toward police, prosecutors, defenders, government or insurance companies. I developed strength and confidence from years of advocating for clients whose cases were not always popular. I'm driven by a passion for justice, and that's reflected in the different perspectives of the hundreds of people who have endorsed my candidacy. (See dgarrettforjudge.com for more information.)
A good judge is in touch with a broad range of people in her community. I've learned that community service is a two-way street. Coaching Meridian High School's Mock Trial team helps the students learn about courts, law and their own abilities, and it's great fun for me. Serving as Womencare Shelter's volunteer attorney since 1980 has given me insight into domestic violence and the challenges that face people trying to rebuild their lives. I learned about planning and land use from seven years on the Bellingham Planning Commission. Serving as a hearing officer for attorney discipline cases showed me the need for justice when attorneys commit wrongs. Teaching law to community groups has taught me that people want to know more about our legal system. And serving as a board member for the St. Francis Foundation and the Pickford Film Center has connected me with other aspects of our community.
Over the years I have developed the experience, independence and commitment to justice that a good judge needs. I am ready to make this contribution. I will work hard for our community. I'd be honored to have your support.
Deborra Garrett is a candidate for the non-partisan Whatcom County Superior Court Judge, Position 2. Three Whatcom County Superior Court judges are elected every four years to handle criminal and civil cases in the county. Judges are paid $148,832 annually. There is no incumbant for this non-partisan seat as Judge Steven Mura, who was first elected in 1992, announced he would retire this year. One candidate will win election in the Nov. 6 general election.