Clallam panel returns John Doherty to District Court bench

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — John Doherty, a former Clallam County District Court judge in Port Angeles and the current Quileute Tribal Court judge in LaPush, has been appointed to serve the remainder of Erik Rohrer's term on the bench of Clallam County District Court 2 in Forks.

Doherty was appointed late Tuesday after county Commissioners Mike Chapman and Jim McEntire and pro-tem Commissioner Bryon Monohon interviewed three candidates in an open meeting.

County Commissioner Mike Doherty, who is John Doherty's brother, disqualified himself from the interview process because of the conflict of interest. Monohon, the mayor of Forks, was appointed to fill in.

John Doherty — a longtime lawyer, judge and public servant — was appointed by a 2-1 vote.

McEntire said he favored Cathy Marshall of Sequim by a slight margin. Marshall, an attorney, is the section chief for the Attorney General's Office in Port Angeles.

Doherty's appointment to the bench completes a three-judge shuffle in the Clallam County court system, which was promoted by the impending retirement of longtime Superior Court Judge Ken Williams.

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.

Commissioners needed to appoint a new judge to preside over the West End court until Rohrer's current term expires in 2014.

Chapman said the main reason he made the motion to appoint Doherty was to provide the West End court with a smooth transition.

“We need to have someone who can hit the ground running on Jan. 2,” Chapman said, noting that Doherty is already fully trained as a judge.

“I think John brings a tremendous amount of experience to the bench.”

Other factors that influenced Chapman were the fact that Doherty already works on the West End, and that he brought “new, innovative ideas” to the interview.

“That court is too important not to have a judge out there on Jan. 2,” Chapman said.

A five-member panel reviewed the resumes of each candidate and recommended three — Doherty, Marshall and Bellingham attorney Richard Petersen — for the county commissioners to interview.

All three commissioners said they were impressed with Marshall.

“When it came down to the end, a 25-minute interview and a good resume does not trump a lifetime of work and experience and dedication to the citizens of Clallam County,” Monohon said.

“And he had a stronger resume.”

McEntire had a slightly different view.

“There was just a shading of difference in terms of judicial temperament that I detected,” McEntire said.

“It was just an impression. They're both fine and well-qualified candidates.”

Attempts to reach John Doherty on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Doherty is a graduate of Port Angeles High School, Peninsula College, Western Washington University and Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane.

He served two four-year years as Clallam County District Court No. 1 judge in Port Angeles.

He was defeated for re-election in 2002 by Rick Porter, then a senior prosecuting attorney for the county.

Porter focused his campaign against Doherty on issues involving the use of pro-tem (fill-in) judges and the collection of court fines. Porter has been re-elected several times and continues as the District Court No. 1 judge.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at

Last modified: December 18. 2012 8:21PM
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