At the Apr 25, 2018 general meeting, members of the 31st District Democrats voted to endorse Rhonda Laumann for the position of King County District Court Judge.
- Candidate Name: Rhonda Laumann
- Position Sought: King County District Court Judge (Non-incumbent)
- Home Legislative District: 41
- Democrat: Judicial candidates are prohibited from declaring party affiliation.
- Manager or Point of Contact: Mary Ann Ottinger – 425-466-0619
- Phone: +1425-466-06194
- Address: Laumann for Judge Committee, PO Box 20792, Seattle, WA 98102
- Website: http://www.laumannforjudge.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rhonda-Laumann-116395755847588/
Part I – Candidate Background
1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.
I have a broad range of experience as a lawyer, in criminal and civil law. For the past 9 years, I have worked almost exclusively as a Judge Pro Tem in District Courts and Municipal Court, as an Arbitrator, and a Mediator – helping ordinary people settle their disputes. I also have teaching experience, and I believe the skills I’ve used as a teacher, by providing clear direction to a wide variety of people, are very helpful in the courtroom.
In the past, I have been a member of the Prosecutors Association when I worked for small cities.
2. What law firms or public law offices (i.e. King County Prosecutor’s Office) have you worked for? Have you served as a prosecutor or a public defender? Please include dates, and title for each position that you have held, as well as areas of law practiced.
The Laumann Firm, PLLC, 2008 to present
Mediation services focused on dispute resolution in all forms, emphasizing balanced, focused, and creative win-win resolutions.
Represent Plaintiffs in personal injury actions, including motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall injuries. Frequently appointed by King County and Pierce County Superior Courts as arbitrator for personal injury lawsuits in claims with stated value of less than $50,000.00.
King County District Court, 2013 to present
Judge pro tempore in MRJC, Auburn, Seattle, Redmond, Burien and Issaquah courts. Preside over all aspects of criminal trials, including expedited felony, arraignment, pretrial, motions, and trial, as well as jail calendars with felony first and second appearances.
Preside over all aspects of civil calendars, including jury trials, motions, small claims, anti-harassment/protection orders (temporary and full hearings), traffic infractions and photo enforcement calendars.
City of Puyallup Municipal Court, 2013 to present
Judge pro tempore. Preside over all aspects of criminal trials, including arraignment, pretrial, motions, and trial, as well as jail calendars. Preside over all aspects of civil calendars, including jury trials, motions, traffic infractions and photo enforcement calendars.
City of Lakewood Municipal Court, 2016 to present
Judge pro tempore. Preside over all aspects of criminal trials, including arraignment, pretrial, motions, and trial, as well as jail calendars. Preside over all aspects of civil calendars, including traffic infractions and photo enforcement calendars.
Pierce County District Court, 2014 to present
Judge pro tempore. Preside over all aspects of criminal trials, including arraignment, pretrial, motions, and trial, as well as jail calendars. Preside over all aspects of civil calendars, including jury trials, motions, small claims, anti-harassment/protection orders (temporary and full hearings), and traffic infraction calendars.
Kitsap County District Court, 2013 – 2014
Judge pro tempore. Preside over all aspects of criminal trials, including arraignment, pretrial, motions, as well as jail calendars. Preside over all aspects of civil calendars, including modification/revocation of protection order requests and traffic infraction calendars.
Port Orchard Municipal Court, 2012-2014
Judge pro tempore. Preside over all aspects of criminal trials, including arraignment, pretrial, motions, and trial, as well as jail calendars. Preside over of civil calendars, including traffic infractions.
National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA), 2006 to present
• Develop and manage training curriculum for Seattle Deposition Program and Deposition Advocacy Skills (public interest program)
• Recruit and train qualified faculty in effective deposition and trial techniques in effective adult learning techniques
• Teach large groups of lawyers, through presentation and demonstration, effective trial and deposition skills to improve their skills
• Mentor new attorneys to develop as teachers
• Collaborate with Program Directors from across United States in national yearly strategy and planning session
University of Washington School of Law, 2013 to present
Professor for Trial Advocacy I, teaching UW law students fundamentals of trial, including case theory, jury selection, direct and cross examination, exhibit use, opening and closing statement. Spring 2013-2014, Winter and Spring 2015-2016, Fall 2016-2017, Fall 2017-2018.
Middleton & Associates, PS, May 2006 to June 2008
Represent Plaintiffs in all aspects of personal injury actions, including motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall injuries, from initial client intake to arbitration and trial. Frequently appointed by King County and Pierce County Superior Courts as arbitrator for personal injury lawsuits in claims with stated value of less than $50,000.00.
Progressive Insurance Companies, February 2003 to May 2006
Civil insurance defense at level Staff Attorney III, representing Progressive insureds and Progressive Insurance Companies in all aspects of insurance defense, including adjuster and client relations, discovery, depositions, motion practice, mediation, and arbitration. Frequent motions and arbitration practice and jury trials
SAFECO Insurance Companies, January 1997 to February 2003
Staff Attorney position, representing SAFECO insureds and SAFECO Insurance Companies in all aspects of insurance defense, including adjuster and client relations, discovery, depositions, motion practice, mediation, arbitration, bench and jury trials.
Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney, November 1992 to December 1996
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney responsible for all aspects of vertical prosecution, including assisting police officers with investigation and search warrants, probable cause and charging decisions, arraignment, pre-trial hearings and extensive motion practice, witness interview and preparation, trial, and appeals to Court of Appeals, Division II and Washington State Supreme Court. State v. Trevino, 903 P.2d 447, 127 Wn.2d 735 (1995).
3. Have you ever served as a mediator or arbitrator? (If so, please describe your experiences.) If you are an incumbent, do you perform settlement conferences?
Yes, for the past 9 years, arbitration and mediation have been a significant part of my legal work.
I frequently arbitrate and mediate personal injury cases. In my practice before 2008, I arbitrated hundreds of cases as an advocate. I can only recall a handful of times that the arbitrator explained his or her decision, either orally at the hearing or in writing. From the litigant’s perspective, not knowing what a decision maker finds important or not important was frustrating. When I am appointed to be an arbitrator, at the end of the hearing, I orally tell the litigants what I believed to be important and why, then give counsel the opportunity to address any issue s/he believes I may have not taken into account. After the hearing, I prepare a written opinion so that all parties will have a documented record of what facts I determined to be the facts of the case and why.
In a mediation, the parties have different perceptions of each other and the facts, yet usually share the goal that they want to resolve their lawsuit. Part of my method is to start with the common goal and take the parties through their perception of the case, frequently asking questions about the other side’s perspective to shift the other party’s perspective, increase empathy and humanize the opponent. I enjoy mediating cases, as I attempt to create an environment that empowers ordinary people to take back authority many feel they have lost. Many people want to get through a conflict, and the lawsuit reminds them of the injury that was not their fault. Being able to accept a settlement that is offered and move past a conflict to live their lives, as it is, is very restorative for many people.
4. Have you been a judge pro-tem? If so, what was that experience like? What did you learn from it?
Yes, I completed the King County pro tem training in 2012.I frequently serve as a judge pro tem in King County, in Kent at the Maleng Regional Justice Center, Auburn, Seattle, Redmond, Issaquah and Burien. I have sat for the following Judges in King County District Court: Judge Arthur Chapman, Judge Lisa Paglisotti, Judge Anne Harper, Judge Ketu Shah, Judge Nathanial Green, Judge Mark Chow, Judge Marcine Anderson, Judge Gregg Hirakawa, Judge David Meyer, Judge Mark Eide, Judge Susan Mahoney, Judge Corinna Harn, Judge Jason Poydras, Judge Matthew York, Judge David Steiner, Judge Lisa O’Toole, Judge Peter Nault, Judge Michael Finkle, Judge David Christie, Judge Laurel Gibson, Judge Elizabeth Stephenson, and Judge Charles Delaurenti.
I have learned a great deal in the many hours and locations I have been a judge pro tem and the following list is not exhaustive, as I continue to learn something new every day.
First, I have seen that there are many different ways to perform the same function, in terms of court administration. Second, I have increased my decision making capability to quickly make decisions that take into account the particular person and situation before me. Third, I have expanded my ability to handle a courtroom and emotional outbursts from those who are under stress. Fourth, my level of patience has increased, so that I am able to withhold judgment about a situation until I have all the necessary information to make a just decision. Fifth, my ability to have compassion for a person while still imposing appropriate sanctions for failure to follow court orders has increased. Being a judge pro tem has been excellent training for running for the position of District Court Judge.
5. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?
Integrity, patience, compassion, flexibility and open-mindedness, common sense, creativity, ability to clearly communicate, courtesy, ability to control a courtroom, tact, and ability to deescalate extreme emotional reactions to situations.
6. What prompted you to run for this office? What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?
I have gained a great deal of experience with King County District Court, in addition to many other district and municipal courts, and want to make my service to the community full time.
The three most important issues facing the District Court are access to justice, criminalization of social problems, and assessing how jurors receive and process the court’s instructions.
First, access to justice can be created by providing assistance at the court, to help those unfamiliar with the court a clearer understanding of what is required by the law. Clerks and the Court are prohibited from providing legal advice and having a court facilitator would be extremely helpful to assist those seeking protection orders or defending against such an order and filing small claims or defending against a small claim by going through what evidence the court can consider. Court facilitators are provided in Superior Court for divorce actions and have proven to save both time and money for the Court and people who come to court.
Second, particularly in the District Court, which is the community court, people have sought court intervention in situations that were previously handled by families, community organizations and churches. Neighbors seek anti-harassment orders rather than talking to each other about concerns and videotape each other. Issues of untreated mental health and substance abuse lead to arrests for theft and criminal trespass, resulting in arrest and incarceration while waiting for trial. King County District Court is beginning a community court to address some of these types of cases outside of the criminal arena and I would like to be a part of such a court, so that the Court’s resources dealing with serious issues such as domestic violence and driving while under the influence could be more appropriately allocated.
Third, there is increasing research how people hear, see and process information differently. Forming a panel consisting of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to address revision of jury instructions to incorporate the newer scientific information how jurors make decisions and process information would be a way to address how to treat input of all jurors equally.
7. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?
I hired a professional campaign manager who specializes in judicial campaigns in January of 2018. We have a website and Facebook page, campaign literature, and a substantial endorsement list. We have a fundraising kickoff coming up in early April and have already received expected donations. I have been visiting all the Democratic LD’s in my electoral district on a regular basis, and my message has been well received. At the present time, I am unopposed, but if I do have an opponent, my outreach will grow.
Part II – Position-specific
1. Do you support making it easier for Washingtonians who are not members of the bar to access public records, particularly at the Superior/District court levels, where per-page fees are charged?
Yes, I support the ability of the public to access electronic court records and choose what they wish to print, at a reduced cost at the courthouse. If individuals receive any form of state or federal public assistance, the fee should be waived. Additionally, I support public access to download public documents from devices outside the court.
2. Do you have any thoughts on how our courts should address the growing use of smartphones during court proceedings, particularly by jurors?
Yes, I believe that temporary, secure locking devices such as Yondr should be used when juries are in session. Pattern jury instructions have been modified to include admonitions to not perform independent research on smartphones, and securing the devices would be a non-invasive means of insuring that jurors followed the instructions.
3. Is Washington relying too much on court fees to cover the cost of operating our judicial system? How do you believe our courts should be funded?
After the decision in State v. Blazina, 182 Wash.2d 827 344 P.3d 680 (2015), directing courts to make an individualized inquiry about the financial ability of defendant to pay discretionary costs and fees, I would anticipate that source of funding to be reduced. With the Washington Supreme Court recognizing that imposition of discretionary legal financial obligations can impose an unreasonable burden, particularly for those receiving SSI or similar fixed benefits, the dollar amount of court fees imposed will be going down. Different sources of funding will be necessary, as the majority of funds for District Court come from local funds, rather than relying on court fees.
Part III – Access to Justice
1. If elected, how will you work to improve access to justice, particularly for communities and constituencies that do not understand the American legal system?
King County has a wealth of communities that speak languages other than English. Working with those communities to give them an explanation of the legal system, translated in different languages, would be a step toward providing basic knowledge of how the Court functions. Topics of information could include a breakdown of jurisdiction, e.g., as to what type of court hears what type of case. For example District Court hears traffic infraction, small claims, anti-harassment and some protection orders, civil cases under $100,000 and misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes. Examples of Superior Court jurisdiction could include divorces, juvenile offenses and dependencies, wills, unlawful detainers, personal injury cases and felony crimes. When people are given a clear explanation about which Court could properly hear their case and potentially grant relief for their problem, they have a better opportunity for justice.
I would also support having an on-site District Court facilitator, similar in function to the Family Law facilitator, who is able to work with people one-on-one to insure all necessary paperwork is completed and filed to limit confusion and multiple trips to the courthouse. Providing education to ESL educators and community centers, who can in turn speak to many individuals about common topics, would be helpful to increase access to justice. If people do not know about potential remedies and how to ask a court for those remedies, opportunities for justice are lost. Some common questions include: What are my options when I get a traffic ticket? What am I required to do if I get a summons in the mail? How do I ask for an anti-harassment order? When people are educated about what options are available and how to access those options, access to justice can be increased.
2. What does the phrase Black Lives Matter mean to you as a judicial candidate?
To me, Black Lives Matter means acknowledging the implicit biases that systemically exist, which have created barriers to individuals having the same access to education and employment opportunities, knowing they are safe when they walk down the street or are in their homes; that the law protects all people equally, regardless of where a person was born, where they currently live, or the color of their skin.
3. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?
The public should be able to download publicly accessible documents at any computer, in addition to at the courthouse. By having the official business of the courts, both substantive and procedural, clearly available to the public with reasonable limits to protect security and privacy, the Court is more open to the community.
By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name: Rhonda Laumann