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Andrew Biviano and Deanna Crull vie for open Spokane court seat

Photos by Savanna Rothe/Spokane Public Radio
Andrew Biviano and Deanna Crull

The two candidates talk about why they want to preside in District Court.

Hear Deanna Crull's conversation with SPR's Doug Nadvornick.

Spokane County voters will choose eight judges for the District Court bench in this year’s general election. Six of the races are uncontested. We’ll focus Monday and Tuesday on the two races where there is a choice.

Today, we focus on position 6, where Deanna Crull and Andrew Biviano are competing.

Deanna Crull says she has served in judicial positions for the last three-and-a-half years. She is a pro tem judge in Spokane County District Court and in the Kalispel Tribal Court and a court commissioner in Airway Heights.

“In Airway Heights we’ve actually started a community court. We’ve had a couple of graduates. We help them get their drivers’ license, find their Social Security card, get housing, get treatment, really fundamental things that people don’t associated with being barriers for most people, but they are. We’ve seen a lot of progress," she said.

Crull has also worked for the Spokane city and county prosecutors’ offices and operated her own law firm. She has a few other jobs that she says require judicial skills.

Crull says she is ready to be a judge full-time and says it requires a lot of energy and passion.

“It is not a 9-to-5 job. It is prepping, a lot of work, keeping updated on the law," she said. "I meet Wednesday mornings with other judges to do what we call advance sheets. We read the rulings from the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals that have come down and being involved. You should not be just putting on a robe and then leaving at the end of the day. You have to volunteer. You have to be involved. We have to make our courts better.”

Crull says the district court has room to improve, but it has also made progress in becoming easier to use for the public.

“Covid forced us to look at the court system and access to the courts a lot differently. In Airway Heights, 90% of our clients will appear either by phone or by Zoom. That really has improved the attendance record. The failure to appear rate has gone down. People feel more comfortable. They know that they could log in or call in and have their court date. Individuals who struggle with transportation or they’re not supposed to be driving, that helps them," she said.

Hear Andrew Biviano's conversation with SPR's Doug Nadvornick.

Deanna Crull’s opponent for the position 6 seat is Andrew Biviano, who operates his own law firm. He has also worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office and in two Spokane law firms other than his own. He has also been a case manager at what was formerly known as Spokane Mental Health and a Spokane County District Judge Pro Tem for a year.

“Judges have a superior opportunity to do good in the world. They really have a chance with the number of people that they interact with and the important issues they decide to make a profound difference in their community and I’d love the privilege of being in that position," he said.

Biviano’s firm works on civil rights cases.

“I have people who I’ve been able to help who have been wrongfully prosecuted for speaking their minds," he said. "One of my clients was prosecuted for writing in sidewalk chalk a political message and she had her First Amendment rights violated. Or people who were put in solitary confinement for too long or victims of crime were locked up after being found mentally ill.”

Biviano says 16 years into his legal career, he feels he’s ready to be a judge. And, he says, he’s ready to contribute to discussions about how to make the District Court more understandable and accessible for the people who are required it.

“We want to reduce the number of the people who fail to appear. It’s bad for the court system. It’s bad for the people. It’s bad for the whole system that has to arrest people on warrants when it turns out they could have made it to court if they just had somebody offer them a ride or an Uber or remind them, figure out child care. That also protects public safety to make sure people aren’t committing crimes while they’re released," he said.

Next time, we’ll talk with the two candidates in the other contested District Court race, Jenny Zappone and Eric Dooyema.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.