I know the two Superior Court judicial candidates professionally as well as anyone in the community. I have practiced law in Walla Walla during Mike Mitchell’s entire legal career. Brandon Johnson worked for the law firm Minnick-Hayner for eight years.
The Superior Court judicial position is a trial judge. Therefore, the most important qualification is comprehensive and substantial trial experience. Criminal cases are the single largest category of cases which end up in trial.
Mikeworked in the Prosecutor’s Office and handled many criminal jury trials. After leaving the Prosecutor’s Office he remained involved in litigation.
In the last five years Mike has attended judicial conferences and has presided over hundreds of cases. Mike has been active in judicial matters almost every day.
Mike has been endorsed by numerous trial court judges, law enforcement officials, attorneys, county and court personnel. Mike will step into the judicial role fully prepared.
In contrast, Brandon has no criminal law experience and virtually no actual trial experience. Brandon has had no judicial training.
A couple of letters to the paper have argued that criminal law and litigation experience is not necessary and have held up Bob Zagelow as the example. I practiced with Bob Zagelow for 25 years. Bob was an excellent attorney and was a great judge.
Bob was thoughtful, thorough, dedicated and had common sense. Bob also had a significant amount of trial experience and had a diverse law practice. He handled both jury and non-jury trials. Bob had a great deal more experience than Brandon when Bob ran for judge.
Brandon’s proponents have argued that Brandon’s clerkship at the Court of Appeals gave him trial experience. This is like arguing that reading a medical textbook qualifies a person to be a surgeon.
When Brandon left our office at Minnick-Hayner six years ago he indicated he was leaving the practice of law. He has not had a full-time active practice since then.
Brandon states on his website that he has kept busy with mediations. Mediation requires quite different skills than being a trial court judge.
Brandon is young and with a concerted effort could become a viable judicial candidate by handling litigation, and learning the complex rules of evidence.
At this time, Mike Mitchell is the only candidate qualified to become our next Superior Court Judge.
James K. Hayner