0715 yost

Elizabeth Yost Neidzwski

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: Elizabeth Yost Neidzwski

Party preference: Non-partisan

Age: 36

Residence: Mount Vernon

Occupation: Senior deputy defender, Skagit County Public Defender’s Office; supervisor of our juvenile, mental health and parent’s representation units; felony trial attorney. Former: Skagit County Superior Court law clerk; civil litigation attorney; public defender in Orange County, California, and King County, Washington.

Education: Anacortes High School; Western Washington University; BA, Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Elected offices held: None

Community involvement: Northwest Justice Project Board of Directors, current vice president. Previous chair of Board Development Committee; Skagit County Law Library Board of Trustees, current president. AFSCME Union, Local 176-PD, current secretary.

Campaign website: www.ElizabethForJudge.com

Why are you running for office?: I am running for judge because I care about this community. It is where I grew up and where my husband and I choose to raise our family. It is important to me that our community is a safe place, where all children can grow and be treated fairly. To make that happen, our judges must understand the struggles our community members face every day, including the barriers to access justice. I have dedicated my career to ensuring that all people can be heard and have their rights protected in court. Skagit County is incredibly close-knit and interconnected. When one of our neighbors is struggling, it impacts us all.

What are the five biggest issues facing the candidate who is elected to this position?: 1) Public confidence in the court’s ability to distribute justice equitably, particularly in this time of great unrest over racial and social justice.

2) The full resumption and safe adaptation of court operations. During the pandemic, court is operating at significantly reduced capacity. Civil and criminal cases alike have had trial dates delayed. Litigants remain in limbo. Most hearings are conducted via video conference, instead of in person. Despite our court’s diligent efforts to maintain maximum access, there will be a backlog of cases to address once in-person hearings can be conducted safely.

3) Mental health and its role in our criminal justice system. Untreated mental illness can lead to homelessness, addiction, and criminal charges. Skagit County used to have a mental health court which provided support and stability within the community instead of incarceration. Unfortunately, our mental health court was terminated several years ago.

4) The opioid epidemic. Too many of our community members suffer from addiction, leading to increased crime, incarceration and loss of life.

5) Equal access to justice. Justice remains difficult to obtain for many people. This is due to barriers including but not limited to poverty, housing instability, mental health, systemic racism, and immigration concerns.

How will you address them?: First and foremost, as a judge, I will always uphold the law and serve our community with honesty and integrity. I will be fair and treat every single person who walks into the courtroom with dignity and respect.

While the solutions to these issues require much more discussion engaging the entire community, my path to addressing each comes from a place of following the law, compassion and listening. I am results oriented. Just like most members of our community, I want Skagit County to be a safe place to raise my children, with opportunity for success, health, and happiness.

When something is not working, we need to look at the problem and figure out why. Is mental health or chemical dependency treatment needed? Do the parties need some time apart? What can we do to keep our community safe and equitable? Is this issue impacted by a history of systemic racism or personal bias? What solutions are available within the law? Every action I take as a judge will be governed by the law, equity and my compassion for the people on both sides of the dispute in front of me.

What sets you apart from your opponents?: My entire career has been dedicated to ensuring all people can be heard and treated fairly in court. In my daily work I get up close and personal with some of the most challenging situations in our community, including mental health crises, homelessness, addiction and racial bias. While protecting and defending my clients and our Constitution, I work toward practical solutions to address the underlying issues that bring people through the courthouse doors in the first place.

As current vice president of the board for the largest civil legal aid provider in Washington, I have stood as an ally for low-income people in legal cases affecting basic human needs such as family safety and security, housing preservation, protection of income, access to health care and education. This pandemic has shown that as a community, we really are only as strong as our most vulnerable members. We need judges who understand this and will work to uphold the law for our entire community. Equal access to justice is what I have worked toward for my entire career, and it is what I will strive toward in every case as a judge.

How are you campaigning and engaging with voters during the pandemic?: My biggest priority during this campaign is connecting with as many people within our community as possible. That is admittedly a challenge during the pandemic. Most of my campaign time has been spent on the phone, having one-on-one conversations, and in virtual meetings speaking with larger groups of people. I have also been working with social media (Facebook and Instagram) to connect with a broader swath of the community and other voter information sources.

How can voters learn more about you?: Check out my website at www.ElizabethForJudge.com for more information about who I am and my qualifications, as well as a full list of endorsements. I also invite you to follow along with my campaign on social media (Instagram and Facebook — @ElizabethForJudge). If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. I would love to hear from you!

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