Although the two attorneys vying for a controversial judge's position have no direct experience covering the diverse cases heard in the Kitsap County Supreme Court, in a forum on Friday they highlighted features that will help them meet the challenge master.
Lynn Fleischbein and Tina Robinson are running for the seat of Judge Jeannette Dalton, who after 12 years has chosen not to run for re-election in the court that hears cases ranging from drug possession and murder to divorce and custody.
Fleischbein, a 20-year-old prosecutor who most recently focused on family law, admitted she has never participated in a trial – a key aspect of criminal law – but said her work ethic and preparation would help her quick to learn.
A hammer (Photo: Kitsap County)
"If we're all honest there are a lot of things that any of us have never done before," she said. "That's about being a lawyer and being ready to take the next test, whether you know how to do it or not, and only then stop when you're done."
Robinson, who was admitted to the bar in 2006, served a term as district attorney as a Republican from 2014 to 2018 but did not run for re-election. Before that she worked as a criminal defense attorney. Judges' races are impartial.
Robinson highlighted her judging experience and compassion as a trait that would put her on the bank. Leading the prosecution, which has a civil division and acts as an attorney for district officials, gave her a critical look at other areas of the law, she said.
Tina Robinson (Photo: Contributed)
"I haven't handled cases personally, I won't acknowledge it, but I've been very committed," Robinson told her colleagues, saying she was regularly briefed on cases, met with clients, made decisions and exercised discretion.
Although their legal experience spanned different parts of the Supreme Court, both reported having significant experience in roles similar to judges.
Fleischbein served in a limited capacity as interim judge at the Supreme Court as well as in other court-like functions.
Much of her practice has been before a family court where people are often not represented by a lawyer. This gives her insight into how to deal with people trying to figure out the legal system on their own.
"As a judge, it is my job to make sure that people are aware of the resources," said Fleischbein. "I can't guide them, but I can bring them to their attention and make sure they are heard fairly in my courtroom."
Lynn Fleischbein (Photo: Contributed)
As a prosecutor, Robinson made decisions about executions and other cases that required her to determine whether there was enough evidence to file a charge. A process that she described as quasi-judicial.
"I was the one who made the final decision," she said.
Especially during court hearings, judges are encouraged to make quick decisions. Fleischbein said she was ready, citing her work as a board member for local nonprofits. Robinson said she would make decisions in a timely manner, but in some cases it would take time to consider the issue.
"I'm the guy who likes to handle everything," said Robinson.
No sharp differences were expressed and the two agreed at times, emphasizing preparation and making sure those in front of them felt heard. Robinson said they both qualified.
They also both endorsed a statement by the Supreme Court during the national upheaval following the death of George Floyd recognizing how racism was woven through the government's judiciary and calling for lawyers to act.
"We need to recognize that systemic racial injustice against black Americans is not a pervasive specter that will inevitably continue," the judges wrote. "It's the collective product of every one of our individual actions – every action, every day."
After the forum, held remotely through a web application, the bar association distributed ballots to members to vote on their preference for the occupation of the seat. The results of the survey are expected to be published this week.
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