Two lawyers fight over a bench seat in Kitsap County District Court

Voters will choose a new judge to sit on the Kitsap County District Court bench in November, and they will choose between local attorneys Shane Seaman and Stan Glisson for the position.

The two are vying for the seat currently held by Judge Marilyn Paja, who has served on the Kitsap County District Court since 1999. The limited jurisdiction court has four judges and hears misdemeanor and misdemeanor criminal cases, small claims and some civil actions.

Glisson, of Port Orchard, has a private practice and is also the city attorney for Gig Harbor. Seaman, from Poulsbo, is also in private practice and is currently a court commissioner at the Municipal Court of Bremerton. Both men have served as acting judges in the courts of Kitsap.

At a candidates’ forum hosted by the Kitsap County Bar Association on Friday, the two men touted their experience and advocated for the continued use of technology such as Zoom in courtwork.

Glisson highlighted the work he’s done as a public defender and as a prosecutor: “I think because a lot of what I’ve done over the past two decades has really focused on courts of limited jurisdiction, and largely on this court in particular, that my specific background in some way suits me for this job right now, in a way that I think makes me a unique candidate.

Seaman noted experience on both criminal and civil sides of the law.

“I think what really makes me different is that I have a very wide experience,” he said. “My experience not only includes jury trials and felony jury trials and public defender work, but I also have quite extensive civilian experience. My experience includes appellate cases all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court.

Stan Glisson, right, speaks at a candidates' forum on Friday, as Shane Seaman, left, looks on.

The pair were asked about the approach they would take to hold offenders accountable in a question that referred to comments made by a frustrated former Bremerton City Court judge, James Docter, last year about the state of the justice system as he retired.

Glisson complimented Kitsap County’s therapeutic court system, “I think what we have in place is exceptional, I want to see it grow.” I think when most of us hear the words “hold the offender accountable,” your first thought is jail, and jail is a perfectly viable option when appropriate. I have no problem imposing it, but I also believe that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem feels like a nail. And so I’m a big fan of the flexibility that this tribunal has shown over the years to resolve issues not just with punitive sanctions, but with opportunities to learn and grow and to give people the tools they need to not find themselves in these situations again.

Said Seaman: “I agree with Stan about therapeutic courts but we have to face some facts and one of the facts we have to face is that crime is on the rise in the county right now . And I’ve been on the campaign trail and I’ve talked to a lot of people and there’s real frustration about that. I’m a huge believer in that myself, because I had these probation hearings to give people a lot of chances. We have to be careful about our liberality in distributing, essentially, agreements that may have no consequences. Justice always demands that people be held accountable. I agree that doesn’t mean jail, but it does mean having the will to say ‘no’ when this problem we see persists.”

Asked about his aspirations for other judicial office, Glisson replied briefly: “I have no interest in another judicial office.”

Seaman said he wasn’t aiming beyond Kitsap County: “It’s something I really want to do. I want to serve here. I want to serve this court. It’s a short that I like, and it’s a short that interests me. I have no aspiration to go beyond what is before me.

Nathan Pilling is a reporter covering Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, or on Twitter at @KSNatePilling.

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