Though the two lawyers vying for a contested judge position don’t have direct experience that covers the diverse array of cases heard before the Kitsap County Superior Court, in a forum Friday they emphasized qualities that will help them meet the challenge.
Lynn Fleischbein and Tina Robinson are running for the seat held by Judge Jeannette Dalton, who after 12 years opted to not run for re-election for the court that hears cases ranging from drug possession and murder to divorce and child custody.
Fleischbein, a civil attorney of 20 years who most recently has focused her practice on family law, acknowledged she has never been in a jury trial — an essential aspect of criminal law — but said her work ethic and preparation would help her learn quickly.
A gavel (Photo: Kitsap County)
“If we are all honest there are many things each of us has never done before,” she said. “That’s what being a lawyer is, being ready to conquer the next test whether you know how to do it or not and don’t quit until you are done.”
Robinson, licensed as a lawyer in 2006, served one term as county prosecutor from 2014 to 2018 as a Republican but did not run for re-election. Before that she worked as a criminal defense attorney. Judge races are non-partisan.
Robinson emphasized her experience with juries and compassion as a trait she would bring to the bench. Leading the prosecutor’s office, which has a civil division and serves as the attorney for county officials, gave her critical insight into other areas of law, she said.
Tina Robinson (Photo: contributed)
“I did not handle cases personally, I won’t take credit for that, but I was very involved,” Robinson told her fellow lawyers, saying she was regularly briefed on cases, met with clients, made decisions and exercised discretion.
Though their experiences as attorneys cover different parts of Superior Court, both said they had meaningful experience in roles similar to a judge.
Fleischbein has served as a temporary judge in a limited capacity in Superior Court, as well as other quasi-judicial functions.
Much of her practice has been in family court, where people are often not represented by a lawyer. This gives her insight into dealing with people who are trying to figure out the legal system on their own.
“As a judge my job is to make sure people are aware of the resources,” Fleischbein said. “I can’t direct them, but I can make them aware and make sure they are fairly heard in my courtroom.”
Lynn Fleischbein (Photo: contributed)
As a prosecutor, Robinson made decisions on officer-involved shootings and other cases where she had to decide if there was sufficient evidence to file a charge, a process she said was quasi-judicial.
“I was the one who made the final decision,” she said.
Especially during trials, judges are called upon to make quick decisions. Fleischbein said she was prepared to do that and cited her work as a board member for local non-profits. Robinson said she would make decisions in a timely fashion but in some instances would take time to consider the question.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to process everything,” Robinson said.
No sharp differences were aired and the two found themselves in agreement at times, emphasizing preparation and making sure those in front of them felt heard. Robinson opined that they were both qualified.
Also, they both endorsed a statement from the state Supreme Court during the national upheaval following the death of George Floyd that acknowledged how racism has been woven through the judicial branch of government and called attorneys to act.
“We must recognize that systemic racial injustice against Black Americans is not an omnipresent specter that will inevitably persist,” the justices wrote. “It is the collective product of each of our individual actions — every action, every day.”
Following the forum, which was held remotely using a web application, the bar association will distribute ballots to members to vote on their preference to fill the seat. The results of the poll are expected to be released this week.
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