Three candidates are on the primary ballot for Skagit County Superior Court Judge Position 3. Superior Court judges serve four-year terms. The Superior Court handles the following cases: felony criminal, civil, divorces and child custody, paternity and adoptions, and probates, as well as Juvenile Court and mental commitment proceedings.
Name: Tom Seguine
Party preference: Nonpartisan office
Occupation: Attorney, Law Office of Tom Seguine
Education: BA in Political Science, State University New York Plattsburgh, 1982; Juris Doctor, Willamette University School of Law, 1986; MBA, Willamette University, 1986.
Elected offices held: Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney, 2002-06.
Community involvement: Board member and president, Skagit Valley YMCA; literacy volunteer, Big Brother program; adjunct instructor, Criminal and Constitutional Law, Skagit Valley College; Student Moot Court; chair, Skagit Law and Justice Council; representation of indigent defendants in criminal court, 2007-20.
Campaign website: tomseguine.com
Why are you running for office?: I am ideally qualified to fill the position of Superior Court judge in Skagit County, having lived here in Skagit County and worked in the Skagit County justice system for over 30 years. I have defended and resolved tens of thousands of cases over that time, handling virtually every type of case that comes before the court, including criminal and civil law. It is from those experiences and those perspectives that I have gained the ability to exercise sound judgment about legal controversies that come before the court.
What are the five biggest issues facing the candidate who is elected to this position?: 1) COVID-19 is the biggest issue for the court, as it is for the rest of society. Every aspect of traditional court and justice administration is being affected by the safety issues that come with COVID-19, affecting litigants, jurors, court personnel and lawyers at the same time. The courts must continue to navigate through those problems while ensuring that traditional constitutional rights and procedures are protected. This includes criminal law and civil law.
I will address this problem by pragmatically working with all stakeholders in the court system and in state and county government who are jointly responsible for ensuring that the overall safety of the court system. I will look to successful models from other jurisdictions and consider all best practices that emerge from other locations, especially other courts around the country that are ahead of Skagit County on these issues.
2) Access to justice — the continuing problem for the courts is ensuring that all citizens have access to the courts, regardless of their wealth, age, race, gender, or sexual preference. I will always err on the side of making sure that cases are heard on their merits, such that all people get their day in court. I will listen to all people who appear before me and strive to understand the reasons why they have chosen to approach the court for relief. In granting or denying relief, I will explain my decisions fully. I will not allow politics to influence my decisions on cases, or my attitude toward the litigants or the attorneys. I will continue to support those organizations that traditionally have created access to the courts for those without the economic resources to do so otherwise.
3) From the personal standpoint of being a judge, the single most important attribute is to maintain an appearance of fairness in all things, whether acting as a judge or engaging in other activities. This is a constant issue for a judge, one that must be addressed every single day. To the extent a judge does not adhere to this most important canon of judicial conduct, the institution of the judiciary — along with the judge himself or herself — is compromised and even tainted. I pledge to live every single day keeping this principle foremost in my mind.
4) The budget of the Skagit County Superior Court needs to be controlled so that it does not spiral endlessly. Included in this is the need to ensure that the system is operating efficiently and without waste. I would control the court budget by first conducting a review of all personnel in it along with their job functions, to try to determine whether any surplus services can be discontinued. I would then try to consolidate and streamline certain court functions when feasible.
5) The Skagit County Courthouse is arguably outdated for a number of reasons. Foremost of these is that it is unstable and not entirely safe seismically. Consequently, the building as it now exists is not sufficiently safe for those who live and work in it, as well as those who frequently enter it. I will work with county officials to explore the options for upgrading or replacing the facility, as necessary and prudent, to eliminate this risk.
How will you address them?: Answered above.
What sets you apart from your opponents?: I have more legal experience than both of my opponents combined. That experience is diverse and includes extensive experience in criminal and civil law. My opponents can claim, mainly, either criminal or civil experience, but not both. I prosecuted criminal cases for 18 years; I have defended in criminal cases for 15 years. I am admitted to practice in federal court and have successfully prosecuted civil cases there.
I have been a town attorney for 3-4 years. I have handled at least 50 appellate cases, including many in the Court of Appeals and a few in the Washington Supreme Court. I have successfully prosecuted civil cases, including complex commercial disputes and personal injury cases. I have defended civil claims many times. I have practiced law before many, many different judges and I have a very good sense of what makes a good judge and what makes a bad judge. I have served as a mediator for the Skagit County Superior Court.
All of these things, combined, sets me apart from the other candidates. For these reasons, voters should consider me for their vote.
How are you campaigning and engaging with voters during the pandemic? I am using traditional campaign methods during the pandemic, with emphasis on direct mail contact. I have already submitted one large mailing to selected parts of Skagit County, with a second one on the way. Both of these mailings are in English and Spanish, and both provide my phone number directly so that voters can call me directly if they choose to do so. Several have done just that.
We are using signs in the traditional manner. Some of these are bilingual and others are in Spanish only.
The online voter guide can be accessed through the Skagit County Auditor’s website, in Elections. As of this writing, is is believed that the Auditor will not be publishing a print edition of a guide for the primary; it can only be accessed online.
How can voters learn more about you?: Answered above.