Q&A with Grant County Superior Court Judge Candidates


GRANT COUNTY – Melissa Chlarson and Anna Gigliotti are vying for the position of judge of the Superior Court of Grant County. Each candidate was given a series of questions to highlight their experience and goals for the position. Candidate responses are provided below and have been slightly edited for clarity. Candidate responses are listed alphabetically by last name.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Chlarson: Of local culture, I was born in Quincy, Washington, raised in Quincy and Moses Lake. I am a proud graduate of Gonzaga University and Gonzaga University School of Law, where I earned my Bachelor of Business Administration and Juris Doctorate. I am a mother of two very active children and I have been fortunate to be able to raise my children in the community where I grew up while pursuing a professional career.

I have been licensed to practice law since 2002 and currently serve as Commissioner of the Grant County District Court. I was appointed to this position by the current District Court Judge after my opponent was nominated to the superior court by Governor Inslee last fall.

I am applying for this position because I am passionate about the administration of justice and believe in the importance of having a strong and balanced judiciary. I love our community, am proud of my roots and believe in the importance of the right to vote and giving voters the opportunity to have an active voice in deciding who will serve them on the bench.

Gigliotti: I’m from Eugene, Oregon, and I was born in the same hospital as Grant County Superior Court Judge Hill. I was an assistant prosecutor for 10 years and a defense attorney for five years. During my tenure as a defense lawyer, I also handled civil cases. I was Assistant Grant County District Attorney for District Attorney Dano from 2016 to 2018. In 2018 I was appointed Commissioner of the Grant County District Court and in 2021 I was appointed Judge of the Superior Court of Grant County.

I first became interested in the position when there was an opening for the bench and many people in the community urged me to apply and bring my experience to the Superior Court and give back to the county.

Q: What are your qualifications for the office?

Chlarson: I have spent the past 20 years practicing law here in Grant County and diligently represented clients in all areas of law. In addition to being a lawyer for 20 years, I also have nine years of judicial experience. I served as Commissioner of the Superior Court of Grant County for 8 1/2 years. As commissioner, I presided over cases involving domestic relations, paternity and alimony, juvenile addictions, domestic violence, juvenile delinquent cases, and any other cases assigned by the judges. During this period, I gained a reputation for my respectful and calm judicial temperament and my articulate and consistent decision-making. I currently serve as commissioner of the Grant County District Court and preside over civil and criminal cases. I am the candidate with the most diverse legal experience and the candidate with the most judicial experience. This experience, in Grant County, matters.

Gigliotti: I am the most qualified for the position due to my extensive experience in the legal field. I have tried over 60 jury trials and understand how important it is to make sure a judge is familiar with the rules of evidence, as well as the rules of criminal and civil procedure. In addition to my extensive experience in the courtroom as an attorney, I also have experience on the bench from my time as a Grant County District Court Commissioner. I am approved by the three district court judges for whom I served as commissioner of the district court. I currently hold the office for which I am running and have presided over a wide range of civil, criminal and family law cases.

Q: If you are elected, what are your three main objectives? What issues do you see as the Court’s greatest challenges in the future?

Chlarson: If elected, my three main objectives are (in no particular order): 1. To ensure that cases progress to faster and more effective resolution; 2. Be an active judge who supports and encourages participation in the local bar association; 3. Restore our community’s faith and trust in our justice system here in Grant County.

The biggest challenge facing the court going forward is our community’s lack of trust in the justice system. It is important to me that steps are taken to help restore that trust. It starts with judges who need to start raising the standards of practice in the courtrooms. The rules of the courts must be respected and fewer extensions must be granted. For our court to be more effective, judges must regain control.

Gigliotti: 1. The first challenge/objective is to address the backlog of cases caused by court closures due to COVID. Our court has already made progress in bringing the cases to trial and I will continue to work on the planning so that we can get the cases heard as soon as possible.

  1. The second challenge/objective relates to crimes committed by people with substance abuse problems. When a property crime occurs, the victims suffer a loss, but there is also the cost of housing the accused once they are convicted of their crime. Without addressing the underlying addiction problem, this cycle can repeat itself.

Our court is meeting this challenge/goal by establishing a drug court in this county. This alternative sentence will allow addicts to resolve their substance abuse issues, learn the skills to stay sober, and become productive members of our community. By tackling addiction, we will reduce our recidivism rate and the cost of housing these people.

  1. The third challenge/objective is the lack of space in the prison. People with active warrants are not always taken into custody; additionally, there are times when law enforcement has probable cause to stop, but they choose not to due to booking restrictions. Once the new prison is built, this challenge should be met and the warrants can be executed. Until then, I pledge to ensure that this problem is resolved by adopting a holistic approach by carefully analyzing whether the defendants should be detained or released.

Q: What do you see as the longer term challenges for the county?

Chlarson: A longer term challenge for our county is mental health. A significant percentage of our population suffers from mental health issues, issues that go untreated. Because of this, our homeless population has increased and drug use and crime rates are on the rise. We need a therapeutic tribunal. We need more resources for people with mental health issues.

Gigliotti: A long-term challenge for our county is the lack of space in the courthouse. Currently, there is no room to accommodate several juries at the same time and more office space is also needed. With the increasing population in Grant County, this problem will only get worse over time. For this reason, it is imperative that we look to long-term solutions such as building expansions.

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