Attorney Appointed Judge for Stevens County, Ferry, Pend Oreille

Judge Rebecca Baker retired recently from her position as Superior Court Judge for the Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille Judicial District. In her place, Chewelah lawyer Patrick Monasmith was appointed.

Image of Pat Monasmith

Pat Monasmith

The appointment was made by governor Christine Gregoire.  See story.  In Washington State, superior court judges handle such cases as personal injury lawsuits, probate matters, divorces and adoptions, real estate disputes, and all felony court cases. The change in judges probably will not result in any dramatic changes in how the court system is run or how the cases are handled in the tri-county area.  However, here are a couple of things to look out for.

Medical Marijuana

Every judge across the state has a different take on the issue of medical marijuana.  The law is vague and poorly written in some areas, and legislative attempts at clarification have sometimes raised more questions.  In my work as a criminal defense lawyer, I have noticed that Judge Baker views the medical marijuana laws from a more traditional view point, and this is true of our other local judge Allen Nielson.  But many other judges state-wide have taken a broader view of the law, interpreting the statutes more liberally.  So we will have to see how Judge Monasmith rules on issues like this.  The laws are vague on some of the following issues of law:  When can a single patient have more than 15 plants?  Can the police ever be ordered to return cannabis to a patient?  Is medical marijuana limited to patients with extraordinary health problems or can it be lawfully authorized in more routine cases of pain management? Do patients have to produce their physician in court at their own expense to use the medical marijuana defense?  Can patients use medical marijuana while on probation?  We will see how Judge Monasmith deals with these sort of legal issues when defense attorneys bring them to court.

Public Defense

Judge Baker was always a strong advocate for the public defense systems in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.  She helped the formation of guidelines that would make sure the public defenders were not overwhelmed by their case load, and that required the public defenders to account for their time in each case.  She also encouraged contracts with local lawyers to make sure that public defenders were available the next day after a person was arrested.  In other parts of the State it seems like some superior court judges have given in to the wishes of the county commissioners to hire the cheapest lawyers possible to do the work.  Consequently, some counties have been sued.  Judge Baker did some public defense work earlier on in her career, and this may have shaped her thinking on this subject. In these tough budgetary times, Judge Monasmith will certainly face pressures from county commissioners to cut public defense costs. The commissioners in Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties have forced other county departments to make cuts, and this could be an issue with public defense lawyers too.

CASA and Child Protective Services

When Judge Baker came on the bench in 1996, she helped get the local CASA program started that appointed trained volunteers to serve as advocates for children in CPS cases instead of local lawyers.  I don’t do very many cases with CASA, but some lawyers are of the opinion that they are too chummy with Child Protective Services and always side with the department’s wishes.  Child Protective Services in Colville has been criticized by the State Ombudsman in the last few years in several news articles.  This subject will continue to arise in court, and Judge Monasmith will have to come to his own conclusions on the subject.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR….
Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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