A local attorney and a candidate for the vacant Position 2 Thurston County Superior Court judgeship have filed a petition asking that Court Commissioner Christine Schaller’s name be removed from the ballot.
Attorney Vicki Lee Parker and Jim Johnson, a candidate who works as an assistant attorney general, filed the petition Wednesday in Superior Court.
The petition alleges that Schaller, who lives in Pierce County and is not registered to vote in Thurston, cannot run for the seat. State law requires that candidates live in the county in which they wish to serve.
Schaller came in first in the Aug. 7 primary, with 48.56 percent of the vote. Johnson came in second, with 22.04 percent. As the top two vote-getters, both are set to be on the November ballot.
Schaller’s attorney, Shawn Newman, said he is prepared to fight the petition, which names both Schaller and county Auditor Kim Wyman as respondents.
Newman has said the state constitution does not have a residency requirement for Superior Court judges’ races, and the state constitution trumps state law. Also, the Prosecuting Attorney’s civil division has cited a legal opinion written by its office in 1986 that supports the argument that the state constitution has no residency requirement for candidates for Superior Court judge. Based on that opinion, Thurston County did not oppose Schaller’s candidacy.
It remains to be seen what will happen if the petition is successful. It asks the courts to settle the question of whether the third- and fourth-place candidates, Marie Clarke and Victor Minjares, should be on the ballot if Schaller’s name is removed. Clarke heads the torts division of the Washington Attorney General’s Office; Minjares is an assistant attorney general.
The case was filed in Thurston County but likely will be heard by a judge in another county, because Schaller works closely with the Superior Court bench and was appointed to her current job by a number of the judges there.