Clallam County District Court II Judge John Doherty was sworn in on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 17 by former District Court II Judge Erik Rohrer. Rohrer, a resident of Beaver, was elected to the Clallam County Superior Court in the November general election. Doherty has served is also serving the judge for the Quileute Tribal court and is the brother of Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty. He has previously served as a District Court judge in Clallam County.
Judge Rohrer, known for his good-natured humor, addressed a gathering of about three dozen in the District Court II courtroom, which is located within Forks City Hall. He praised court employees and spoke of some of his experiences while serving in Forks since 2001, including having a defendant call him out while on the bench, saying, "You're judging me!"
Judge Doherty followed Rohrer in addressing the courtroom. Doherty said the court was in very good order and praised Court Administrator Sabrina Bees, whom he said was likely the youngest senior court administrator in Washington state. He also described the limits that define which court a case is heard in, with the Forks court handling traffic fines, misdemeanors and other cases that generally don't rise to the level of felony, which go to the court in Port Angeles. He said providing advice from the bench to young defendants who might find themselves in court for the first time, and to older adults who may need treatment for substance abuse provides a social, as well as a judicial, service to the community.
Doherty is now set to serve on the Forks bench until Rohrer’s term as District Court II judge expires in 2014.
Clallam County Commissioner Mike Chapman attended the swearing in along with court officials from Port Angeles, Mayor Bryon Monohon and Forks Police Department Administrator Rick Bart. Chapman said the county commissioners strongly support keeping District Court II located and open in Forks. The budget for the Forks’ court has been cut each year over the past few years.
During the selection process for replacing Rohrer a three-member panel without West End representation was originally to make the choice of a new judge. After complaints about the process from the West End Mayor Bryon Monohon was added as a pro-tem commissioner on the panel after Commissioner Doherty recused himself from the process due to the conflict of interest in having his brother as a candidate. Input from Rohrer and Bees was also considered. Chapman and Monohon voted for Doherty, while Commissioner Jim McEntire of Sequim voted for another candidate.
Rohrer, who has presided over District Court 2 since 2001, defeated county Hearing Examiner Chris Melly in the November election to replace Williams on the Superior Court bench.