Cowlitz County Superior Court

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office last week put out a call for applicants for Cowlitz County’s new fifth Superior Court judge position, and some attorneys have already expressed their interest.

Two attorneys with Longview-based private practices have confirmed they are gunning to be the next Superior Court judge. Attorneys Jamie Imboden and David Nelson have both notified the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum County Bar Association of their interest in the position, said Meredith Long, the association’s president.

Gov. Jay Inslee will appoint the new judge in September, and the appointee will hold the position until the general election of November 2018.

Superior Court Judge Michael Evans said Friday he has heard of a handful of others who have expressed interest “through the grapevine,” though none of them have confirmed it.

The county commissioners approved the position in December in hopes of helping deal with a backlog of cases, civil cases especially. The judge’s annual salary will be $166,000, half of which will be paid for by the state and half by the county.

Imboden, 44, co-owns Crandall, O’Neill, Imboden & Styve, P.S. He lives in his hometown of Kalama and has been practicing law in Longview since 1998. He said the timing is right for his family, at a time when his son is older and transitioning into high school.

“Being a judge has been a goal of mine since the beginning of my career,” Imboden said. “It was just a question of whether or not the opportunity would arise.”

Nelson, 61, has lived in Longview since 1990. He began running the Nelson Law Firm in 2000 and has been a part-time court commissioner at the Superior Court for six years. More recently, he became a judge pro tem in the District Court. He said he never intended to be a judge until he became court commissioner and enjoyed the process. He began seriously considering a judgeship at least a year ago, he said.

“I like the process. I like dealing with the public that way,” Nelson said. “I’m looking forward to the process. I think it’s going to be interesting ... however it turns out.”

Judge Evans said the fifth judge will be a big asset to the public, whose wait times to get into court will significantly decrease. He said Cowlitz Superior Court is one of the busiest courts in the state, and the number of criminal filings are on par with Clark County’s — which has a population about four times as large.

The Superior Court has five courtrooms available, so all five judges can simultaneously attend trials and hearings, Evans pointed out. The Legislature approved the position in 2006, but the commissioners didn’t fund the position until this year.

“A new judge, it’s a big deal because there’s not many of them,” Evans said. “And the people have given tremendous authority and power to the judges. To be granted that opportunity and responsibility to wield that power is a significant undertaking.”

Inslee is seeking more applicants for the position and is encouraging them to schedule interviews with statewide minority bar associations.

All applications must be submitted to the Governor’s Office by May 31.

Contact Daily News reporter Hayat Norimine at 360-577-7828

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