Gov. Jay Inslee is evaluating five applicants to replace Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Henry Rawson. Rawson is required by state law to retire at the end of this year because he’s turning 75.
The appointment is for the remainder of the term, which ends next year. The appointee is required to seek retention/election at the next general election following the appointment, Inslee Deputy Communications Director Mike Faulk said.
The governor solicits applications from members of the Washington State Bar Association. They don’t have to be current residents of Okanogan County.
The governor’s general counsel reviews all applications and conducts initial interviews. Finalists are interviewed by the governor.
The governor’s staff makes recommendations to Inslee, who makes the final decision, Faulk said. Inslee is expected to announce the appointment by the end of November.
A central goal in the governor’s judicial evaluation and selection process is to gather as much information as possible about each candidate from multiple sources. Input from judges on the bench where the vacancy exists and from community leaders is always considered, according to the governor’s website. Rawson told the Methow Valley News that the governor had consulted him about the appointment.
The five applicants are: Kathryn Burke, Coleen St. Clair, Ken Miller, Byron Moore, and Arian Noma.
Burke has been the prosecuting attorney in Ferry County for eight years. Before that, she worked for a civil litigation firm in Seattle and was a public defense attorney in Okanogan County in 2012, representing indigent defendants.
Burke is “intrinsically bound” to Okanogan County, where she grew up, and she still calls the county home. She believes she would provide an “impactful perspective” as Okanogan County’s first female Superior Court judge.
St. Clair has worked as Okanogan County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor since 2022. Before that, she was a felony prosecutor in Clallam County and assistant attorney general in the Northern Mariana Islands, where she prosecuted cases connected with the Violence Against Women Act. She also served as a criminal defense attorney in Seattle, a deputy prosecuting attorney in Snohomish County, and handled professional liability and commercial litigation at a law firm in Seattle.
St. Clair aspires to be a judge who will “listen, amplify, and engage people with humility and compassion,” and to recognize the inherent dignity of all people.
Miller is a partner in the Miller & Chase law firm in Okanogan, handling litigation in a variety of criminal, civil and domestic matters, including assaults, foreclosures and dissolutions. Before that, he was in private practice in Okanogan and Moses Lake, where he worked as a public defender and developed case-management software.
Miller’s law career began in public defense and he aspires to return to public service. He believes his breadth of experience and even temperament make him the ideal candidate.
Moore is an attorney in private practice in Wenatchee, handling criminal defense; real estate; and family, business and estate law. He was a deputy prosecuting attorney for Okanogan County from 2022-23. Moore also has a doctorate in human services, and was an assistant professor at the University of Mexico, teaching social work and family studies. Moore previously worked as a certified counselor in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness in Wenatchee.
Moore wants to continue the work he started in New Mexico, delivering fair outcomes in civil and criminal matters.
Noma was elected as Okanogan County prosecutor in 2018 and served through early 2021. Since resigning as prosecutor, he has been an adjunct professor at Gonzaga University Law School, where he is also a staff attorney for the university’s Moderate Means Program, providing training and legal advice to program volunteers. Noma has also been in private practice since leaving Okanogan County, handling litigation in criminal law, civil rights and civil litigation. He created Spokane’s first legal clinic for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community. Noma also served as an attorney in private practice in Baltimore and Washington, DC.
Noma seeks to create an environment “where legal rulings are based upon the merits of a case and not one’s immutable traits.”