Three Spokane municipal court judges are up for re-election this year. There’s one contested race for the seat now held by Matthew Antush, but the other two judges, Mary Logan and Kristin O'Sullivan, are unopposed.
Logan has held a seat on the Spokane municipal bench since 2009.
“We handle everything from parking tickets to red light enforcement and then business code violations and then directly into the criminal code, anything from driving while suspended in the third degree up to DUIs and domestic violence cases," she said.
That court does not handle murders and rapes. It is the venue that most people are likely to encounter first hand and the volume reflects that.
“Running probably, on average, 10,000-12,000 criminal cases and then 60,000 parking tickets and infractions," Logan said.
Municipal court has also shown a willingness to experiment. One of those experiments came years ago when Logan and her colleagues created a community court. It takes legal proceedings out of the courtroom and into less intimidating and less formal sites, such as community centers, and connects defendants with the services they need.
Logan still dispenses justice there at least two days a week, though the court has had to adjust to the realities of the pandemic. For months it operated online, which isn’t ideal, considering its clientele are often homeless or not able to access technology. Many people never showed for their court appearances. Now, Logan says, the court is mostly back to business in person, though not fully back to normal.
“The part that isn’t in person because the treatment agencies are not able or even desirous of that, is that face-to-face, warm handoff with somebody there," she said.
Mary Logan is unopposed for another term and so is Kristin O’Sullivan, who was appointed to the court by Mayor Nadine Woodward in January. O’Sullivan had been serving as a municipal court commissioner.
“It allowed me to handle civil infractions, which got me good exposure in dealing with the community. A lot of the people that the commissioners see are not represented. They’re civil infractions. They are not entitled to court-appointed representation. Some of them do hire attorneys. So it gave me good experience as far as dealing with the public and really assuring myself that I had the temperament to be a judicial officer," she said.
O’Sullivan has worked as a prosecutor here in Spokane and Benton counties and as a defense attorney in western Washington. During her time as a municipal court judge this year she says she has worked to get to know the people who come before her in court, though Covid has limited face-to-face connections. Now she’s up for election and presenting herself to voters.
“If you were to look at my resume, I have dedicated my entire career to the criminal justice system in different capacities, starting with when I was back in college during the summers and holidays. I would work, in my hometown, I would work in the clerk’s office, so I got great exposure on what a court system is like, how it works, the different types of cases," she said.
O’Sullivan says she’s eager to preside over a municipal courtroom in Spokane for another four years.
Ballots are in the mail. They must be returned to the county elections office or a ballot drop off box by 8 pm on November 2 or postmarked by that same if returned by mail.