Cecily Hazelrigg-Hernandez vs. Tom SeGuine
Cecily Hazelrigg-Hernandez vs. Tom SeGuine

Edi­tor’s Note: This post is the sec­ond install­ment in a series focus­ing on most­ly ignored state and local judi­cial con­tests in the 2018 midterm elec­tions. Read the first post in the series — focus­ing on the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court and the con­test between Jus­tice Steve Gon­za­lez and his chal­lenger — by fol­low­ing this link.

Not long after Wash­ing­ton became a state in 1889, its legal com­mu­ni­ty real­ized that hav­ing a sin­gle appel­late court would not serve the inter­ests of jus­tice in the long term. After many years of dis­cus­sion, in the late 1960s, dur­ing the Evans era, the Leg­is­la­ture pro­posed — and the peo­ple adopt­ed — a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment cre­at­ing a new set of courts to relieve the Supreme Court’s heavy workload.

These courts — col­lec­tive­ly, known as the Court of Appeals — serve us today as our inter­me­di­ate appel­late courts. Gov­er­nor Dan Evans appoint­ed the first twelve judges, who all faced the vot­ers in 1970.

Today, the Court of Appeals has twen­ty-two judges. Ten of them sit in Seat­tle, the home of Divi­sion I. Anoth­er sev­en sit in Taco­ma, the home of Divi­sion II. And the remain­ing five sit in Spokane, the home of Divi­sion III.

Like Supe­ri­or Court judges, Dis­trict Court judges, Munic­i­pal Court judges, and Supreme Court jus­tices, Court of Appeals judges are elect­ed. The length of terms is the same as for those on the Supreme Court: six years.

State law pro­vides that the Court of Appeals has exclu­sive appel­late juris­dic­tion except for in cer­tain types of cas­es, like those involv­ing a ques­tion of con­sti­tu­tion­al law. In oth­er words, the Court of Appeals is the usu­al next stop for a final judg­ment being appealed by the los­ing par­ty from a Supe­ri­or Court.

The Court of Appeals is empow­ered to hear cas­es con­cern­ing per­son­al restraint peti­tions and writs of man­damus and quo warranto.

The Court of Appeals can also pro­vide dis­cre­tionary review of a Supe­ri­or Court’s deci­sion in an appeal from a court of lim­it­ed jurisdiction.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the Court of Appeals has appel­late juris­dic­tion over review of final deci­sions of admin­is­tra­tive agen­cies pur­suant to RCW 34.05.518.

The work of the Court of Appeals is very impor­tant, but sad­ly, we rarely hear about it. And at elec­tion time, we the peo­ple have to decide who should sit on the Court of Appeals, but we receive very lit­tle infor­ma­tion with which to make our deci­sion. Media cov­er­age of Supreme Court races tends to be extreme­ly min­i­mal; media cov­er­age of Court of Appeals races is pret­ty much nonexistent.

Part­ly, that’s because con­test­ed Court of Appeals races are not all that com­mon. Also, the Court of Appeals does­n’t have the stature the Supreme Court has as the state’s high­est court. Judges on the Court tend to run unop­posed for reelec­tion. Some­times they draw chal­lengers, but those chal­lengers aren’t always qualified.

This year, Wash­ing­ton has one con­test­ed Court of Appeals race. It’s in Divi­sion 1, in the 3rd Dis­trict. Since pret­ty much no one (not even peo­ple who work in pol­i­tics for a liv­ing) remem­ber the bound­aries of the Court of Appeals dis­tricts, here’s a map:

Map of Washington State's Court of Appeals divisions and districts

Click to enlarge. As we can see, the dis­tricts are drawn along coun­ty boundaries.

King, Pierce, and Sno­homish coun­ties are so big that they are their own dis­tricts. The oth­er coun­ties are grouped togeth­er in districts.

The 1st Dis­trict of Divi­sion 1 is King Coun­ty; the 2nd Dis­trict is Sno­homish Coun­ty. The 3rd Dis­trict is What­com, Skag­it, San Juan, and Island counties.

There are two can­di­dates still seek­ing elec­tion to Judge Posi­tion #1 in the 3rd Dis­trict this year: Tom SeGuine and Ceci­ly Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez.

Whid­bey native Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez is a deputy pub­lic defend­er work­ing for Skag­it Coun­ty; SeGuine is a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor who is now in pri­vate prac­tice. Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez stud­ied law at Gon­za­ga, while SeGuine stud­ied law at Willamette.

The posi­tion is cur­rent­ly held by Judge Mary Kay Beck­er, who is retiring.

A pre­vi­ous cam­paign for this posi­tion, won by Beck­er, was one of the few Court of Appeals con­tests in recent mem­o­ry to attract media attention.

Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez and SeGuine are the final­ists in what was orig­i­nal­ly a crowd­ed field of five can­di­dates hop­ing to suc­ceed Beck­er. SeGuine won the Top Two elec­tion, with Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez not far behind. The results were as fol­lows:

  • Tom SeGuine: 29,407 votes (28.76%)
  • Ceci­ly Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez: 24,197 votes (23.67%)
  • Lisa Keel­er: 22,474 votes (21.98%)
  • Rita Latsi­no­va: 16,560 votes (16.2%)
  • Roger Leish­man: 9,597 votes (9.39%)

None of the elim­i­nat­ed can­di­dates appear to have endorsed either of the finalists.

Although judi­cial posi­tions in Wash­ing­ton State are non­par­ti­san, the Repub­li­can Par­ty is sup­port­ing SeGuine and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is sup­port­ing Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez. The Skag­it Coun­ty Repub­li­cans have giv­en $2,000 to elect SeGuine and the What­com Coun­ty Repub­li­cans $500, accord­ing to reports filed with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion. Mean­while, the What­com Coun­ty Democ­rats have giv­en $909.87 to Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez and the Skag­it Coun­ty Democ­rats have giv­en $500, also accord­ing to reports filed with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion.

SeGuine has the fundrais­ing edge — he has raised more than three times as much as Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez ($74,391.84 to $26,665.41).

How­ev­er, Beck­er has endorsed Hazelrigg-Hernandez.

“Ceci­ly Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez is an out­stand­ing, hard-work­ing lawyer and she will be an out­stand­ing, hard-work­ing judge on the Court of Appeals. Be assured that she will serve the law with integri­ty, impar­tial­i­ty, and inde­pen­dence,” Beck­er says in a tes­ti­mo­ni­al post­ed on Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez’s web­site.

Two Supreme Court jus­tices have also endorsed Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez: Jus­tice Steve Gon­za­lez and Jus­tice Sheryl Gor­don McCloud. Both are up for reelec­tion them­selves this year. Gon­za­lez faces admon­ished attor­ney Nathan Choi and McCloud is unop­posed after her oppo­nent was kicked off the bal­lot due to being disbarred.

SeGuine has no pub­lished endorse­ments from any cur­rent or retired Supreme Court jus­tices. He has been endorsed by sev­er­al cur­rent and retired judges in What­com Coun­ty. He is also sup­port­ed by Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors Doug Erick­sen, Bar­bara Bai­ley, and Kei­th Wag­oner (Wag­oner’s name is mis­spelled as Wag­goner on the web­site), along with for­mer Repub­li­can guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Rob McKenna.

“A Repub­li­can precinct com­mit­tee offi­cer, SeGuine has been endorsed by Skag­it Repub­li­cans and attend­ed par­ti­san fundrais­ers after announc­ing his can­di­da­cy; which sug­gests he will be a con­ser­v­a­tive judge who favors judi­cial activism,” the Pro­gres­sive Vot­ers Guide says, urg­ing a vote for Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez.

SeGuine nat­u­ral­ly does not talk about his past par­ti­san activ­i­ties on his cam­paign web­site since he is run­ning for a judi­cial posi­tion. Instead, he touts his expe­ri­ence, cit­ing its longevi­ty and say­ing that makes him the supe­ri­or choice.

If you ask us, the longevi­ty of one’s prac­tice as an attor­ney is a pret­ty sim­plis­tic, one-sided way to eval­u­ate a can­di­date’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions for the bench. Mere­ly com­par­ing years of ser­vice does­n’t tell you how skilled or effec­tive an attor­ney is and whether they pos­sess the tem­pera­ment to be a good judge.

There is no ques­tion SeGuine has been a lawyer for longer than Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez has: he earned his law degree in the 1980s and she earned hers in 2007. Senior­i­ty, how­ev­er, does not auto­mat­i­cal­ly make him the best candidate.

Bar rat­ings are a far bet­ter way to mea­sure can­di­dates in a judi­cial con­test, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, no bar rat­ings appear to be avail­able to vot­ers in this race.

“My entire legal career has been com­mit­ted to serv­ing tra­di­tion­al­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed com­mu­ni­ties and, as such, I am inti­mate­ly famil­iar with the impact of court rul­ings on not only the lit­i­gants in a giv­en case, but their fam­i­lies, employ­ers and the com­mu­ni­ty,” Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez told the Skag­it Val­ley Her­ald.

Both can­di­dates have records of com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment and cite them in their voter’s pam­phlet state­ments and on their web­sites. SeGuine has served as Pres­i­dent of the Skag­it Coun­ty YMCA, has been involved in Big Broth­ers, Big Sis­ters of Amer­i­ca, and has taught con­sti­tu­tion­al law at Skag­it Val­ley College.

Hazel­rigg-Her­nan­dez has worked with the Skag­it-Island Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ner­ship for Tran­si­tion Solu­tions, the LBAW Free Legal Clin­ic, the Skag­it Coun­ty Law Day Clin­ic; and the Belling­ham YWCA in addi­tion to serv­ing as a par­ent vol­un­teer in the Mount Ver­non School Dis­trict. She also has also been an instruc­tor at West­ern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty; a vis­it­ing instruc­tor at Uni­ver­si­dad Lati­na de Amer­i­ca, and a Legal Ser­vices Facil­i­ta­tor at the Spokane Child Abuse & Neglect Pre­ven­tion Center.

The win­ner of this con­test will serve a six-year term on the Court of Appeals end­ing in ear­ly 2025. Bal­lots are due back by 8 PM on Novem­ber 6th and must be post­marked by that day if being returned through the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice. There is no longer a cost to return a bal­lot through the Postal Ser­vice, as all bal­lot return envelopes in Wash­ing­ton State have pre­paid postage.

Please vote and encour­age all your friends and fam­i­ly who are cit­i­zens to vote. Vot­ing is a cru­cial oblig­a­tion of cit­i­zen­ship. Gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans have fought and died to pro­tect the rights and free­doms we enjoy today, includ­ing the right to vote. Hon­or their sac­ri­fice by com­plet­ing and return­ing your ballot.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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