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Wednesday, October 25, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Five Seek Superior Court Judgeship

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

When King County Superior Court Judge Arthur Piehler retired this month, he made sure he did so on the last possible day so the governor's appointee to the job would have as little "incumbency" as possible before having to defend the seat in the Nov. 7 election.

Piehler wanted voters to decide - and he got his wish.

The appointee, Tim Bradbury, had officially been a judge four days when four candidates, all with significant support, filed against him for Superior Court Position No. 26.

Voters must choose among Bradbury, Seattle attorney Jeffrey Beaver, Seattle attorney Doug North, state Court of Appeals Commissioner Mary Ellen Hudgins and property-rights advocate Jeanette Burrage.

Beaver, North and Hudgins all boast excellent ratings in the legal community, experience and strong support, but Burrage, rated the least qualified and running for her third judicial post in a year, may have the largest constituency.

The top vote-getter will serve for one year and must run for re-election to a four-year term next fall with the other Superior Court judges. The job pays $99,000 annually.

Jeffrey Beaver

Jeffrey Beaver was an investigator for the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office in the early 1980s when he decided to give law school a try to better provide for his family.

"I took a six-month leave and told myself if I didn't maintain a certain grade I'd just go back to my job," he said.

Beaver, 44, finished near the top of his class and today is a candidate for the bench.

He has received the highest ratings from the Seattle-King County Bar Association as well as the Asian-American and Hispanic bars and from the Washington Women Lawyers. He has endorsements from several Superior Court judges and is president-elect of the Loren Miller Bar, an association of African-American attorneys.

He serves on several bar committees and task forces and was named last week to a state bar committee examining court congestion. His practice emphasizes commercial litigation.

Beaver graduated from the University of Oregon Law School in 1985, clerked for a federal appeals court judge, and worked with a Seattle firm until 1990, when he entered a law partnership.

He advocates specific changes for Superior Court, including a move to widen the number of cases that qualify for arbitration and mediation as a way to ease court congestion and reduce legal costs that result from protracted lawsuits.

As the only African-American candidate in the race, Beaver said, he has a clear understanding of how racism, often subtle, seeps through the judicial system and robs people of color of their confidence in it. Once, while representing a client, he was mistaken for the criminal defendant by the judge, he said.

"I am not the black candidate," he said. "I am the candidate with the broad support. My approach is it shouldn't make a difference whether you are rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight, or of a different race, you should get the same justice."

Tim Bradbury

Tim Bradbury, 51, was a sole practitioner, emphasizing civil litigation and contract law, when Lowry appointed him to the bench.

Bradbury has been active in bar-association committees and has served in a number of civic and business posts. He has been a member of the Pike Place Market Historical Commission, the Seattle Police Disciplinary Review Board and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and has received the president's award of the Greater Seattle Business Association.

In 1985, he co-founded the Voluntary Attorneys for Persons With AIDS, a clearinghouse of lawyers who help with legal problems that people with AIDS face. About 300 attorneys participate, he said.

He also has been involved in gay and lesbian efforts such as Hands off Washington and The Privacy Fund and said he is the first openly gay judge in the state.

"I think it an important dimension that I bring to a court," he said. "It is important to have a court representative of the community. Given the historical hostility gays and lesbians have faced, it gives me empathy for others who have also faced it whether it be based on racial, religious or gender issues."

Bradbury received only an "adequate" rating, below those given North, Beaver and Hudgins, from the Seattle-King County Bar Association. The bar panel doesn't explain its ratings and Bradbury declined to speculate on it, saying only, "I emphatically disagree with it." The bar's rating scale includes "not qualified," "adequate," "well qualified" and "exceptionally well qualified."

Bradbury graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1972. He worked for Seattle law firms until entering private practice in 1978. He also has served as a pro-tem Superior Court judge, arbitrator and mediator.

Jeanette Burrage

Jeanette Burrage, a Des Moines City Council member, is making her third run at a judicial seat in one year, having lost campaigns for the state Supreme Court last November and the state Court of Appeals last month.

She has virtually no trial experience, has been a lawyer for six years and has consistently been rated by the King County Bar Association as "not qualified." She has been called a property-rights zealot by environmental groups.

Burrage, 42, is undaunted and, in fact, appears confident.

"Things are looking real good," she said about her election prospects against the four Seattle attorneys.

Burrage, who for the past year has been working for the Snohomish County Prosecutor's civil division, has name-recognition in a crowded field where 21 percent of the vote could be enough.

She said she need not apologize for running three times in a year or for her lack of trial experience.

"I've built up some name recognition, and it makes sense to campaign while I have it," she said. "I will be fair and follow the law."

She calls herself a "strict constitutional constructionist" and said she co-authored a draft of Initiative 164. Her campaign literature says, "I believe the founding fathers intended private property to be a key to happiness, economic strength and family support."

She said one purpose of the judiciary is to "protect the family and individuals from oppressive taxes, rules, and regulations." The bar and other groups don't like her, Burrage said, because she is conservative.

She served one term in the state Legislature in the early 1980s before losing her seat in the next election. She also unsuccessfully ran for King County assessor in the mid-80s.

Mary Ellen Hudgins

Mary Ellen Hudgins, 46, has spent almost her entire legal career in public service and the past six years as a state Court of Appeals commissioner.

Hudgins was rated "well-qualified" by the Seattle-King County Bar Association and also has been highly rated by Washington Women Lawyers and the Hispanic and Asian-American bars.

Shortly after graduating first in her class from the University of Puget Sound Law School in 1976, Hudgins became litigation director for Northwest Women's Law Center.

She successfully handled a sex-discrimination suit on behalf of female athletes against Washington State University. The case dramatically increased the availability of athletic scholarships afforded women.

Hudgins also worked as a trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was a staff attorney for the Court of Appeals before becoming a commissioner in 1989.

Commissioners essentially filter cases before they go to Court of Appeals judges and may make various rulings and affirm trial courts but may not overrule them.

"I'm the only candidate with judicial experience," she said. "The others come from specialty law practices, and they will have to make the adjustment from advocacy to fact-finding. My background has all been in public service and public interest."

Hudgins serves on the bar's judiciary and courts committees and is a former member of its task force on sentencing reform.

She also is involved in the Mount Baker Community Club.

Doug North

Doug North, 43, has raised the most money of any of the candidates and has doggedly been making all the political rounds.

The son of former longtime King County Councilwoman Lois North, he already had supporters and a campaign budget in place when Lowry passed him over to appoint Bradbury.

North was rated "exceptionally well-qualified" by the Seattle-King County Bar Association and the Seattle Police Guild and received high ratings from other bar groups.

He has spent his career as an appellate attorney, with more than 40 published decisions. His opponents say he lacks critical trial experience, but North counters that he has reviewed trial procedure and judicial decisions for 18 years in a wide array of cases.

North won a 1991 "Judges Choice Award," as one of the top dozen litigators in Washington. He is extensively involved in bar committees, including those involving court congestion and ethnic diversity.

He founded the Rivers Council of Washington, which protects rivers and watersheds. He also was a member of the Washington Wilderness Coalition and has written a guidebook on river-running.

"I have done a lot of environmental work, but not so much that I couldn't be fair in cases that may involve it," North said. "My father is a professor of economics, and I have a feel for that as well."

He has worked as a pro-tem judge in King County Superior and District courts and has served as an arbitrator.

Born and raised in Seattle, North lives in Magnolia.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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