Speeders contesting their tickets will soon find someone new on the Pasco Municipal Court bench.
Longtime defense attorney Craig Stilwill has been named the court’s newest judge.
His appointment by City Manager Dave Zabell was confirmed Monday by the Pasco City Council.
“While we had some outstanding candidates, one in particular rose to the top,” said Zabell.
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Stilwill’s term is effective Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2021. However, since the position is vacant, Stilwill will get an interim appointment if he has time to step in and don the black robe for the rest of this month.
Municipal Court handles parking tickets, traffic and non-traffic infractions, and criminal misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors cited by Pasco police.
Dave Petersen was the last person to serve as Municipal Court judge.
The position pays $114,000 per year and calls for Stilwill to be available up to 30 hours per week for court dockets and administrative oversight.
That means Stilwill must modify his private practice in Kennewick so the judicial position becomes his main priority.
I look forward to humbly, yet capably, fulfilling this opportunity.
“I thank the city manager, Dave Zabell, and the city council for granting me the honor to serve Pasco and its citizens as their Municipal Court judge,” Stilwill said in a news release from the city. “I look forward to humbly, yet capably, fulfilling this opportunity.”
Stilwill is a native of Mount Vernon who graduated from Gonzaga University in Spokane and Seattle University School of Law. He got his law license in May 1988 and came to Pasco the next year to work in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.
Stilwill was a deputy prosecutor until 1992, when he switched to defense work. He regularly served as a pro tem judge in Pasco Municipal Court and Benton County District Court, while also on contract with Benton County as a public defense lawyer in Superior Court.
Then in January 2003, Stilwill was named to a newly expanded full-time position as Benton County District Court commissioner. He announced his resignation from that position in early 2007 and left the bench that May.
Two months later, Stilwill was suspended from practicing law for three months for failing to refund $750 to a client in his private practice years earlier. While he had agreed to the suspension in February 2007, the state Supreme Court order did not take effect until July 2007.
I think it’s a great example of the checks and balances of government.
Stilwill eventually restarted his practice and took on a defense contract with Franklin County Superior Court.
He was one of 10 applicants for the Municipal Court judgeship, and of five who went before a screening committee. Zabell then interviewed three finalists, did the background checks and selected Stilwill based on his experience and knowledge of the law.
Zabell noted that as head of the executive branch he gets to evaluate who is most qualified. The city council, the legislative branch, affirms the appointment. The chosen candidate then ultimately leads the city’s judicial branch, he said.
“The appointment of a Municipal Court judge is probably the most high profile and the most defined intersection of the three branches of our government, at least in the regular course of business,” Zabell told council members Monday. “And I think it’s a great example of the checks and balances of government.”