Richland attorney files to run against VanderSchoor

A longtime attorney and Richland councilman who said he wants to see public trust in the judicial system filed Friday to run against Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor.

Bob Thompson made his bid for the Benton-Franklin Superior Court judgeship on the final day of filing. He said VanderSchoor is "a fine jurist" and has nothing against him but he had to pick someone to challenge.

One question the filing prompts is what will happen to Thompson's cases assigned to VanderSchoor, most notably that of Vicente Ruiz. VanderSchoor is presiding judge in the 1987 auto body shop slayings case, which is scheduled for trial Aug. 18.

Thompson said he doesn't have an answer for that but has called the Washington Bar Association to discuss the situation. He anticipates the ethical question of whether to continue will be up to VanderSchoor.

"It's my hope we'll sit down and talk," said Thompson.

Ruiz is set to return to Franklin County Superior Court next Thursday. Thompson said he has already talked to Ruiz about his judicial aspirations.

Meanwhile, VanderSchoor admitted he was caught off guard by the news Friday afternoon. He anticipates a busy 10 weeks trying to retain the job he's held for nearly 12 years.

"It just came as a surprise to me," he said. "Every attorney has a right to run for judge, so that's fine."

VanderSchoor, 55, was in private practice for 17 years and served as a Franklin County District Court commissioner for 12 of those years. He has been the Superior Court's administrative presiding judge for two years, and when he's not on the bench serves on the boards of a number of nonprofit agencies, including the Benton-Franklin Legal Aid Society and Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

"I think our court is running really well, and I'm fortunate to be in this position," VanderSchoor said.

He and his wife Gail, who live in Pasco, have three daughters and a granddaughter.

Thompson, 52, has been practicing for nearly 26 years and is on contract with Franklin County Superior Court to represent indigent defendants. He has a law office in Pasco.

Thompson also has been on the Richland City Council for 14 years, serving four years as mayor. He lives in Richland with his wife Patricia and their four children.

Thompson is the only candidate to challenge a sitting elected judge in the bicounty system, opting not to seek the open seat of retiring Judge Dennis Yule.

Superior Court Commissioner Jerri Potts and lawyers Sal Mendoza Jr. and Bruce Spanner have all filed for Yule's Position 1.

"I like the other individuals running for the open seat. They've got some qualifications that I'd like to see on the bench as well, and I said I would not run against those individuals," Thompson said.

The primary election is Aug. 19. A Superior Court judgeship is a nonpartisan office with a four-year term.

With only two candidates for the office, the primary will determine which of them will be elected because a judicial candidate who receives more than half the votes cast in the primary is the winner.

Thompson sought appointment to the Benton County District Court in 1995, but lost out to Holly Hollenbeck for the new judicial post.

Being a judge is "something I've always wanted to do," Thompson said, and he believes his years of civic involvement have prepared him for it. He said he wants to help restore faith in the judicial system by ensuring balance and fairness.