In rare 3-way race, judge candidates have diverse reasons to run
EVERETT — Of two new judge seats up for grabs, only one will have a primary election.
In March 2022, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a new law to add two Superior Court judges in Snohomish County, bringing the county’s total to 17. It was the first expansion of the county bench since 2007.
The two new seats are the only judicial positions up for election in Snohomish County Superior Court. Seat 16’s two candidates, incumbent Judge Miguel Duran and Brett Rogers, who ran for prosecutor in 2022, will automatically advance to the general election.
Seat 17 has three candidates: incumbent Patrick Moriarty and attorneys Mary Anderson and Jody Cloutier.
Superior Court judges handle felony criminal cases, juvenile cases and a wide range of civil cases from personal injury to family law. Judges are paid about $100,000 annually and serve a four-year term.
Patrick Moriarty (Photo provided by candidate)
Mary Anderson would be the county’s first Black woman to serve on the Superior Court. She said her life experiences allow her to serve as a bridge between the community and the bench.
“When I was 10 or 11 years old, some bail bonds people broke into my parents homes. If I would have known now what I know today, that would have been in violation of my parent’s Fourth Amendment rights to unlawful searches and seizures,” Anderson said. “It was that moment I knew I needed to understand and learn the law so folks’ rights wouldn’t be trampled on.”
Law is Anderson’s third career. Before law school, Anderson had her own mortgage brokerage firm and worked as a licensed real estate agent. After the 2008 financial crasg, she earned a law degree from Seattle University. Right out of law school, she opened her firm, Guidance to Justice, where she has been working as a trial attorney specializing in real estate law for over a decade. Since February 2022, she has served as judge pro tem — a substitute judge — on the Everett District Court, handling over 1,700 cases.
“I always desired to become an attorney, because I wanted to make sure that people had a voice in the legal system,” Anderson said.
Anderson made her decision to run after the murder of George Floyd. She said she never wanted to be a judge, but felt her calling after reading a letter signed by all nine state Supreme Court justices.
“As judges, we must recognize the role we have played in devaluing black lives. This very court once held that a cemetery could lawfully deny grieving black parents the right to bury their infant,” the judges wrote. “We continue to see racialized policing and the overrepresentation of black Americans in every stage of our criminal and juvenile justice systems.”
Jody Cloutier (Photo provided by candidate)
Jody Cloutier also had a wide-ranging career before becoming a lawyer. He worked as a police officer for six years in Maine until 1999, when he moved to Washington. He spent 17 years working at Microsoft and Amazon. Disillusioned with the tech industry, he retired. He then studied for his law degree in Seattle University’s part-time evening program, while also working full-time and raising his family. He also works as commissioner pro tem on the King County and Snohomish County superior courts.
Cloutier said his practice, Family Law Solutions, specializes in representing victims in complex domestic violence cases, and how they intersect with divorces. A large percentage of cases in the county have to do with family law, he said, and there was a huge need in the community for someone who was passionate about it.
“I know real people, I see real people’s problems every single day,” Cloutier said. “My mother was a victim of domestic violence. I was. Family law is super impactful. You get to help people whose problems are usually the most difficult thing they will ever go through, short of death.”
Cloutier had to leave his family at 14, choosing to be homeless over staying. The experience guided him toward becoming the kind of judge he needed when he was a kid.
“I had a tough upbringing, I saw friends get sucked into the criminal justice system because they made some bad decisions,” he said. “I still think about growing up as a kid and how amazing it was that I didn’t end up in prison. That both-sides view has been really helpful for me.”
Mary Anderson (Photo provided by candidate)
Inslee appointed Moriarty to the position in June 2022. Moriarty had been a Superior Court commissioner since 2018. That position oversees family law, probate and other proceedings.
“Pat brings over three decades of legal experience to the bench, including judicial experience,” Inslee said in a statement. “He’s worn the robe, and earned the respect of practitioners who appear before him.”
Before that, Moriarty also served as judge pro tem in many municipal and district courts throughout the county for 17 years. He also worked both publicly and privately in criminal defense, family law and drug law throughout Snohomish County. He prosecuted cases as assistant city attorney in Seattle in the late 1990s.
Moriarty garnered endorsements from all current Snohomish County judges and over 170 lawyers, including people he both worked with and against while he was in private practice, and those who came before him while he has been a judge.
“Once I started doing it, you find it’s just intellectually stimulating, you get to deal with people and their problems and issues,” Moriarty said.
By having experience in both prosecuting and defending cases, Moriarty said he learned the value in seeing different kinds of perspectives.
“I like to think that I’m fair, and people walk away thinking, ‘He listened to me, he heard me, and he gave a reasoned decision, and explained why he was ruling for or against one party,’” he said.
Campaign finance records show Moriarty has raised about $36,000, though about $9,400 of that is his own money. Anderson has raised about $19,500, and Cloutier has raised about $6,000.
That’s a tough question. We have meetings all the time to try and reevaluate procedures, to make sure we’re doing them in a way that’s as fair as possible. At the start of Zoom, I was a commissioner at the time, and we had been doing everything in person. We made an immediate transition to remote hearings, to keep everything going so it doesn’t stop. At first I didn’t like it, but you get used to it, and it definitely has a place. What I’ve found, just from the pure access to justice, we have people coming to court, and their hearing may be 15 minutes, but they’re going to have to miss a whole day of work, and they don’t have the ability to do that and they’d abandon their case. So those types of things, where you can step out of work, get on your phone, enter a hearing and not miss a day of work, has been a sea change in making sure people have access to the court system.
The court needs to be a little more transparent in their judicial rulings. When an individual asks for oral argument, the court should grant it. It’s people’s constitutional right to allow different mediums of argument to come in through the court. It’s important that we’re transparent as a judiciary, to foster goodwill throughout the community — to allow the community to see inside the court. This is a democracy, this is the people’s court, we serve the people, not the other way around. Just because I wear this black robe, doesn’t make me better than anyone else. It was my whole goal and desire as a judge pro tem. On occasion, I had to write my own opinions because I knew it was the right thing to do, so individuals know why I was doing what I was doing. We have a responsibility and a duty to educate the citizens of Snohomish County.
The biggest problem we have today is equitable access to the court system. The Washington state Administrative Office of the Court did a study, and found 86% of people that call in to the clerk’s office are unrepresented. And a plurality of clerks say they don’t even know where to find the information that people need to help them prosecute their cases. The system is tilted in favor of people that are represented, because it becomes impossible to navigate. We’re pushing all of these cases online, but a high number of households in Washington don’t have access to internet that’s fast enough to participate in online hearings. And especially hard hit are low-income, Native American peoples and people of color. These are huge problems that we’re facing. We have to do more outreach, to get to people and explain to them how to navigate our system. As a judicial officer, my job is to work with the clerks and put together a primer on how to do something, and they publish it. You have to be really sensitive to the fact that not everybody can participate in the way that we prefer them to participate, so you have to be flexible. And you have to do your part to go out of your way and help them to figure out what’s going. We have to treat everybody equally. We can’t have a two-tiered justice system where if you have a lawyer, you get a better result.