This November, voters will pass judgment on who might pass judgment on them should they ever find themselves in Benton-Franklin Superior Court.
A current District Court Judge faces off against a Tri-City attorney with extensive Superior Court experience in a race to fill an open seat.
Another race has an attorney attempting to unseat a sitting judge.
Deciding who to recommend for the open seat was no easy task, given the quality of the candidates. The decision in the other race was much easier.
It’s hard to miss the fact that Judge Joe Burrowes and attorney Sam Swanberg are in a fierce battle to become a Superior Court judge.
Their large signs are planted one near the other around the community as they seek to replace Judge Robert Swisher, who will retire at the end of this year after serving 16 years.
Burrowes currently serves as a Benton County District Court judge and clearly has a passion for his work. Burrowes became a lawyer after 15 years in law enforcement, giving him a breadth of knowledge about the justice system.
Swanberg has been a trial attorney for 23 years in the Tri-Cities, beginning his career as a prosecuting attorney before entering private practice. He has extensive experience as a lawyer in Superior Court, handling more than 3,000 cases and taking 100 of those to trial, and has been involved in a death penalty case.
Both men also care deeply about people. They are compassionate and empathetic when they speak of those who would come before the bench.
In his role in District Court, Burrowes hears cases including traffic violations, misdemeanors and small claims up to $5,000. He is also involved in preliminary hearings for felony investigative holds.
Superior Court handles criminal cases, appeals from lower courts and jury trials, among other duties.
Burrowes seems ideally suited for the job he has now, saying every case is important. He cares deeply for people who come before him and will make the best decisions for them under the law.
Swanberg says Superior Court cases are more complex than what Burrowes is used to dealing with in District Court. Swanberg said his experience with criminal cases and his time spent litigating in Superior Court sets him apart from his competitor, and we tend to agree.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Sam Swanberg for Superior Court Judge, Position 2.
Local attorney Alicia Berry is seeking to replace sitting Judge Alex Ekstrom in the race for Superior Court Judge, Position 3.
Ekstrom was appointed to the court in 2014 to fill the vacancy created when Judge Sal Mendoza, Jr. was appointed to the U.S. District Court. Ekstrom ran unopposed in a special election in 2015.
Ekstrom has also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and a deputy prosecutor in Benton and Franklin counties.
Berry has served in the Kennewick City Attorney’s Office, was a judge pro tem in Franklin County District Court and Pasco Municipal Court.
Ekstrom was willing to meet with our editorial board. Berry was not.
Berry’s response to our invitation was that she felt, based on the newspaper’s coverage of the Arlene’s Flowers discrimination case and our editorials on the issue, meeting with us wouldn’t matter. She represented the flower shop owner and Ekstrom was the judge on the case.
Jumping to conclusions and refusing to engage in a dialogue about credentials do not reflect the traits we would expect from someone seeking a judgeship.
Ekstrom has superior credentials and has conducted himself honorably during his term.
Recommending Ekstrom for re-election is a no-brainer.
The Tri-City Herald recommends that Judge Alex Ekstrom be retained as Superior Court Judge, Position 3.
Look for our recommendation Sunday on Initiative 1433, which seeks to raise the minimum wage and require employers provide sick leave for all employees.