Candidates for this office

Election Results

Skagit County Superior Court Judge, Position 2


Candidate Votes Percentage
Laura Riquelme 0
Rosemary Kaholokula 0

Candidate Questionairres

Below are responses for the candidates running in this election.
Questions Rosemary Kaholokuka
Age 53 Mount Vernon
Residence Anacortes Skagit County Superior Court Judge
Occupation Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor for Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office Syracuse University College of Law; University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Education 1989: University of Texas School of Law, J.D.; 1987: University of Texas, B.B.A., Finance Skagit County Superior Court Judge 2016; Skagit County Superior Court Judge 2017 - present
Elected offices held None Skagit County Superior Court Judge
Elected offices sought Skagit County Superior Court Judge Currently: president of Madison Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (president 2016 - present; secretary 2014 - 2016); board member for Community Action of Skagit County (2016 – present), including service on Executive Committee, chairperson of Personnel Committee, and participant in Latino Advisory Committee; board member and scholarship chairperson for Skagit Women in Business; member of judges’ association committees; community outreach to students and youth groups. Past service: member of board of trustees for Mount Vernon City Library; provided legal services through clinics with the Skagit Volunteer Lawyer Program; president of public defender union; taught English as a Second Language classes through Community Action of Skagit County; volunteered with Skagit Immigrant Rights Council; coached soccer team for Mount Vernon Youth Soccer Association; volunteered for field trips and other programs with Summersun Montessori School and Madison Elementary School.
Community involvement I currently am on the SPARC (Skagit Preschool and Resource Center) Board, I am the Vice President for Fidalgo Island Rotary, I am the Secretary for AAUW (American Association of University Women), and I am the Youth Protection Officer for Rotary International, District 5050. Almost every year since 2011, I have volunteered as a mock trial evaluator at the YMCA Youth and Government’s Mock Trial Finals in Olympia. I am a proud graduate of Leadership Skagit, class of 2017. My group’s project was the renovation of Maiben House at Maiben Park in Burlington. We worked in conjunction with the Burlington Rotary and the City of Burlington to renovate this building. In the past, I have volunteered to provide legal services to military veterans (WSBA Call to Duty Day of Service), Native Americans (Native American Pro Bono Panel), and others (Skagit County Volunteer Lawyers). I have served as a panelist on a Take Back the Night event and at a Human Trafficking Conference. I have served on a number of boards and committees relating to my children’s events when they were school age. I was also very involved in the arts community in Whatcom County were I was a dancer, teacher, and board member of a performing dance group.
Campaign website I currently serve in the position, which is where I believe I can make the most impact on how people receive justice through the courts. As a judge, I ensure everyone receives fair treatment in court while I apply my legal experience and the law to their cases. Justice is the reason why I went to law school. I wanted to help everyday people with their legal needs. This brought me into a career in criminal law, first as a prosecutor and then for more than ten years as a public defender. Through this work, I saw the impact the judiciary has on the interactions members of the public have with the legal system. Clients who experienced hearings or trials had completely different beliefs about the courts based upon how they were treated and whether they felt like they were truly heard. I saw that the way a judge issues her rulings makes a real difference in how people receive justice and feel about the process. I take a thoughtful approach when applying the law to cases, recognizing that the decisions I make have a lasting impact on real people’s lives. A hasty decision can lead to years of appeals, and potentially incarceration or other irreversible consequences in the meantime. In addition to applying the law, I ensure that people from all walks of life are treated fairly in the courtroom and given a real opportunity to be heard. Justice may be seen by some as an ideal, but it is something I work toward every day on the bench. I believe this is where I am doing the most good for the people of our community.
Why are you running for office? This position deserves an attorney with my years of legal experience. I have been an attorney for 28 years. I have been practicing in the Whatcom/Skagit areas since my family and I moved here in 1995. I have been serving and protecting the citizens of Skagit County as a prosecutor since 2007. I know the law and I know the issues in our community. Public confidence in the judiciary is the biggest issue judges currently face. Many people believe that courts will not treat them fairly, that judges are partisan, or that the entire legal system is unjust. A fair court system is crucial to our democracy. It is where people turn if they need a divorce or to settle child custody issues. Superior Court also handles felony cases, which involve important rights of the defendant and public safety concerns. We hear lawsuits related to personal injuries, disputes over property and contracts, evictions, probates and guardianships, and protection orders. Additionally, Superior Court handles cases under juvenile law when children are accused of crimes or are removed from the home because of abuse or neglect allegations against their parents. These matters are all very serious and central to the lives of the people involved in them. Public confidence in the judicial system is what encourages people to file cases and to obtain the finality of a court order so they can move forward with their lives.
What is the single biggest issue facing the candidate who is elected to this position? The single biggest issue facing the judge, as well as the justice system, is drug addiction. Substance use disorder is directly related to much criminal activity to include crimes against persons, property crimes, driving offenses, and illegal drug possession. Drug abuse and addiction also creates issues and burdens in the civil and family law areas, particularly when it comes to issues concerning custody and parenting of children. Substance use disorder also devastates families with overdose deaths. Mental health issues are often co-occurring issues which can be initially difficult to detect because drug use and abuse can disguise or conceal underlying mental health issues. The most immediate thing a judge can do is to fairly hear cases and make rulings based upon the law. This is the central role of a judge, and one that I take very seriously. In that, I also strive to treat everyone in court with dignity. I manage the court’s time while also allowing people the opportunity to be heard, and to truly listen before delivering a ruling. The courtroom process and all of the preparation that goes into a ruling are essential to people knowing that they were treated fairly in court. Judges are also responsible for administration of the court, through which I have focused on providing more access to people with financial and language barriers. I will continue to do this. We also run therapeutic courts and set conditions on cases for people struggling with mental health and addiction. My work as a public defender certainly deepened my understanding of those issues, which I continue to learn more about so the court can be more responsive to evolving services, research, and community needs. A judge should be connected with the community she serves. I will continue to be an active and involved member of Skagit County, staying in touch with people from all walks of life. I have spoken to various student groups in schools and other organizations about the legal system. This outreach, which will continue after Election Day, has broadened my perspective on public perception of the courts and helped shape young people’s understanding of what happens in court. By knowing my community and continuing to remain intellectually curious about ways to improve our court system, I will be able to ensure that Superior Court remains independent while adapting to evolving legal needs of the people of Skagit County. The visible efforts I put into making fair rulings and engaging with the community should enhance the public’s confidence in a just and impartial judiciary.
How will you address this issue? This issue needs to be addressed on a multi-entity level. No one entity, including the judicial system, can solve this problem. Our legislators need to adequately fund treatment and resources for those who suffer from addiction. Attorneys need to assist in providing options for treatment. The criminal justice system as a whole needs to have treatment, enforced treatment if necessary, as a tool in its toolbox. The treatment option needs to provide both services to and accountability for the addicted person. The treatment option in a criminal justice context needs to include justice and restitution for victims of the addict’s criminal activity. The court needs to have the resources available to offer treatment to those individuals who end up in court. As a prosecutor, I have been involved in a number of ways in addressing this issue. In the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office, I was the prosecutor in their inaugural Drug Court program. Skagit County has had a Drug Court since 1997. Drug Court as it was in Whatcom County, and as it is here in Skagit County, is a two year intensive treatment program for addicted people accused of certain crimes. If the person successfully completes the program, his/her criminal charges are dismissed. If the person does not, then he/she is typically convicted of their charges and then they serve their sentence in jail or prison. The Skagit County Drug Court has served almost 600 individuals since its inception. Another way that I am involved in addressing this issue is via my role as the litigation coordinator for the lawsuit that Skagit County has filed in federal court against the largest opiate pharmaceutical manufacturers. We filed this lawsuit because evidence shows that these manufacturers spread false information about the addictive nature of opioids and their effectiveness in treating long-term pain and this led directly to our country’s and Skagit County’s huge increase in opioid overdose deaths. I also address this issue in recommending sentencing alternatives with a treatment component, where appropriate. And I address this issue through an educational component; I make presentations to service clubs and other organizations and I have written about the issue in a local publication. As judge, I will support the Drug Court program. Where appropriate and in line with the law, I will consider sentences that include treatment where available and in line with holding offenders accountable. Additionally, as a judge, I would explore treatment court options similar to Drug Court but that would be available to non-felony offenders. I am also interested in fostering relationships with the tribal courts and their judges. I think there are some situations where, for example, a tribal member ends up in Skagit County Superior Court. Treatment options would be appropriate but it may be more appropriate for services to be made available to that individual through his/her tribal community. I do not believe that our court system currently has the kind of relationship where that kind of referral can be, or is, made. My judicial experience, well-rounded background in the law, and record of treating people from all walks of life with dignity are what distinguish me as a candidate. While I am the incumbent, I did not take a traditional approach to the bench. I began my legal career at the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office, where I worked regularly with law enforcement and understanding the importance of public safety. This perspective was balanced by the more than ten years I spent serving as a public defender, representing clients struggling with the issues faced by people all around Skagit County. I worked with hundreds of clients over the years, learning more about the issues that led them to the court system, including mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, and poverty. I speak Spanish and directly represented many people who had language and cultural barriers as well as immigration concerns. I recognize the havoc left in the wake of criminal activity and other bad acts. I also understand that the role of a judge is to treat everyone in court fairly and see the humanity of everyone who appears in court. Every time I am on the bench, I recognize that I am making important decisions for the lives of people in this community. I have extensive criminal trial experience from my time as an attorney. As a judge, I have heard a wide range of motions and trials regarding family law, juvenile cases, evictions, protection orders, and various civil lawsuits in addition to felony cases. My judicial experience has broadened my knowledge beyond criminal law to the many other cases we regularly hear in Superior Court. This is why I have been endorsed by over 50 current and retired judicial officers here in Skagit County and across the state. My role as a judge is to be fair and neutral. I do not choose favorites or allow politics to come into play in court. I am committed to volunteerism and outreach to remain connected to the people I serve and the community that is my home. This is what I do every day and why I am the right fit for Skagit County Superior Court.
Why should voters choose you? Skagit County citizens have the right to have a judge with deep knowledge of the law, of the rules of the courtroom, and of the rules of evidence. I have that knowledge through my 28 years in the courtroom, including my work in the Court of Appeals. Skagit County citizens also deserve a judge who will treat every one who comes to court with dignity and respect and with fairness. I believe I have that reputation in the community. Skagit County citizens deserve a judge who will impartially follow the law. As a prosecutor, I am charged with seeking justice. That means that I look at the evidence in a case, I examine the law, and I apply the law to the facts at hand in making charging decisions and resolution decisions. I perform these functions in an impartial manner. I have the commitment to this community that voters deserve. This is reflected in the community organizations that I serve in. For my work in the community, I have received the Paul Harris Fellowship (Rotary), the Brigid Collins Community Achievement Award, and the Skagit County Child and Family Consortium Linda Nelson Community Champion Award (shared). There are three other current Superior Court Judges. Two out of these three sitting judges are endorsing me. Of the District Court Judges, only one is endorsing a candidate in this race, and he is endorsing me. I am supported by past and present sheriffs and police chiefs, line officers, and the Fraternal Order of Police. I am also broadly endorsed by victim advocates, elected officials of both parties, other judges who know me and my work, professionals with whom I have worked, attorneys, and citizens in the community. The judicial experience, perspective, and enthusiasm I bring to Superior Court set me apart from my opponent. Like me, my opponent is a hard-working woman with a strong background in criminal law and trials. Although these cases are typically what makes the news, Superior Court handles more than just criminal cases. In addition to handling and trying criminal cases, I have also served as a Superior Court judge for a total of almost two years. She does not have judicial experience. In my time as a judge, I have heard hundreds of motions and many trials covering the broad spectrum of cases handled in Superior Court. In addition to my on-the-job experience, I have over 75 hours of training designed specifically for judges. My opponent lacks this depth of experience. We have had three Superior Court judges retire since 2015, prompting an appointment process, where the Governor’s office requested applications from interested attorneys. My opponent and I went through this lengthy application and vetting process, including interviews, writing samples, references from judges, attorneys, opposing counsel, community members, and bar associations. We went through the same process, resulting in my appointment to the Superior Court bench. I have met other judges who were appointed by the Governor. Many are former prosecutors, others have civil litigation or family law backgrounds, and some have prior judicial experience. I would not classify any of them as partisan. What all of these judges have in common is that they have significant legal experience, a calm demeanor, and dedication to ensuring a just legal system. The appointment process should not be the only factor in guiding voters, but the extensive vetting of our qualifications - both our resumes and our interpersonal skills - should be an important consideration in who is better suited for the bench. The position is also about more than traditional experience, which I have as an attorney and a judge. It is also about heart. I have dedicated my entire legal career to serving the people of Skagit County. My time representing hundreds of criminal defendants as a public defender gave me the experience of working with people from diverse backgrounds, including many individuals who actively struggled with mental illness, chemical dependency, and poverty. My clients could count on me to know the law and represent them while also treating them with dignity. That was also something witnesses, from crime victims to police officers, could expect. Everyone who comes into contact with the court system deserves to be treated with dignity. I have been putting that into practice my entire career. I have the balanced perspective, diverse experience, and enthusiasm for justice that we need to keep on the bench.
What sets you apart from your opponent? The length and nature of my experience sets me apart from my opponent. I have been an attorney for 28 years and I have been working here in this area (Whatcom/Skagit) since 1995. I believe that my opponent moved here and commenced her legal career with the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office in 2004. I believe that she left less than two years later to become a deputy public defender. She was initially appointed by the governor to a judicial position in 2016. She lost the election to maintain that position because Skagit County voters chose Judge Svaren who had far more experience than my opponent. The governor then reappointed my opponent to the next judicial position which opened in 2017. This is the position currently up for election. In terms of the nature of my experience, I have written and argued many appeals. I believe my opponent has no such experience. In my current position, I supervise and train the attorneys in my office, I have a close relationship with law enforcement and frequently advise them, I create and carry out policy, and I carry my own full-time felony caseload. An additional factor that sets me apart from my opponent is in who endorses each of us. This position is nonpartisan. I strongly believe that a judge must be a judge for the entire county, and not just one end of the political spectrum. Those who endorse me include people across the political spectrum. I do not believe the same can be said of my opponent. The partisan officials and political organizations who endorse my opponent are all of the same political party. I enjoy broad support across Skagit County, regardless of political party. My experience, my endorsements, and the nonpartisan nature of my campaign is what sets me apart from my opponent.

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