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Cotton, Brown vying for Godfrey’s judge seat

MONTESANO — The general counsel for Gov. Jay Inslee is officially soliciting candidates who could be under consideration to take over the judge seat of retiring Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Gordon Godfrey.

Godfrey says he’ll leave office on Oct. 1. Inslee is responsible for appointing the replacement, who would then have to stand for election.

Thus far, Elma attorney Jean Cotton and Grays Harbor District Court Judge Stephen Brown have both announced their intention to seek the appointment.

“To be considered for this vacancy, applicants are strongly encouraged to promptly submit complete applications, along with a short resume and the waiver and authorization to release information, and schedule judicial evaluations with the statewide minority bar associations,” the notice from the Governor’s Office states.

The Governor’s Office wants everything complete by Aug. 25 so the evaluation process can begin.

Cotton last sought an appointment to the Grays Harbor Superior Court bench in 2007, when Judge David Foscue retired after 22 years. The appointment by Gov. Chris Gregoire ultimately went to Judge David Edwards.

Judge Godfrey told The Vidette last week he was not ready to endorse a candidate for the position, but thought he might. On Aug. 5, Judge Brown announced his candidacy. On Aug. 6, Cotton announced her own candidacy.

“Local attorney and Elma native Jean Cotton has announced that she is seeking appointment to the vacancy which will require closing her private practice in Elma to pursue full-time the work she has come to love since she began working in the Superior Courts as a commissioner pro tem and judge pro tem more than 15 years ago,” Cotton’s press release states. “Ms. Cotton has taken her judicial service seriously as she is cognizant that decisions made by Superior Court judges affect the very fabric of our lives. She appreciates being from a family with a long history of judicial service in Grays Harbor.”

The release notes Cotton operates her own law office in Elma. She received her law degree from the University of Puget Sound School of Law, now Seattle University School of Law. The release notes that Cotton is a member of the Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Executive Committee, having served as chairwoman for a year. She serves as a member of the bar association’s local court rules task force and has also served on the state supreme court dissolution task force. She says she received the bar association’s “Family Law Section Attorney of the Year” award in 2008.

Judge Brown was first elected to Grays Harbor District Court in 1986 at the age of 31.

Brown graduated from Elma High School and has spent most of his life in the Montesano and Elma areas. He’s a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Washington School of Law.

He began his career in 1980 as a deputy prosecutor for Grays Harbor and went on to serve in private law practice. He served as an Elma municipal court judge for about two years and he was elected to district court in 1986.

In 2010, Brown says his judicial peers selected him as president of the Washington District and Municipal Court Judges Association.

He says the highlights of his career include “creation of the county’s adult probation department to increase offender accountability, efficient reorganization of court administration and case management, institution of a community restitution program, introduction of mediation services in small claims court, and development and improvement of the court’s public outreach through information pamphlets, videos and county-maintained website.”

Judge Brown notes he also worked with the Elma-McCleary Lions Club, including chairing the “Community Christmas Basket” program for more than 20 years. He’s also been a soccer coach and board member of the Dispute Resolution Center for Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties, named as business of the month by Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. in August.