You could safely flip a coin to pick the next member of the Pierce County District Court. Any of the three candidates — Sandy Allen, Jeanette Lineberry and Karl Williams — would enhance the bench.
We tilt toward Williams, but all of them display the temperament, smarts and empathy needed for the job. Both Williams and Allen have more than proven themselves already as appointed substitute (pro-tem) or city judges. Lineberry’s judicial experience is more limited, but she looks just as promising.
District courts are limited in authority, but they handle jury trials, lawsuits for up to $75,000 and crimes that can put people in jail for up to a year, including domestic violence and drunk or drugged driving.
A closer look at these candidates for the Position 8 seat:
• Williams, a University Place lawyer, has 27 years of legal experience. He’s done extensive work as a pro-tem judge on the District Court and on city courts over the course of his legal career.
His long record of community involvement includes work with the county Minority Bar Association and leadership in the Tacoma Narrows Rotary.
• Lineberry, a Gig Harbor attorney, is a former Pierce County deputy prosecutor. She’s served as a pro-tem judge on the District Court since 2012 and recently began working as a pro-tem for the City of Lakewood.
We’re particularly impressed by Lineberry’s work at the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, where she has provided legal services for domestic violence victims.
• Of the three, Allen has the greatest breadth of judicial experience.
She currently hears cases at the municipal courts of Ruston and Milton, and she has done pro-tem work at many different courts since 1999. Beyond the courtroom, she has been heavily involved in judicial education; for example, she trains municipal court judges how to preserve their independence from city officials.
This is a hard choice. In terms of their potential, it’s a three-way tie.
We’re inclined to break the tie by factoring in ethnicity. Williams is an African American. In one respect, the Pierce County District Court doesn’t resemble the community it serves: Its judges are all white.
That doesn’t mean they are unfair, nor that Allen and Lineberry would feel less sympathy than Williams for people of color. But perceptions of fairness in a court system can be as important as actual decisions in hearings and trials.
Members of racial minorities should feel a sense of connection when they walk into the courthouse. Williams would strengthen that connection — a good reason to add him to the bench.