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Houser joins Kitsap County Superior Court on April 1
POULSBO – William C. Houser of Poulsbo ran for Kitsap County Superior Court in 2012 and finished fourth of four candidates.
On March 31, he’ll be sworn in as a judge of that court, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to the position vacated by Steve Dixon, who was appointed by Inslee to the Adams County Superior Court last year.
Houser’s appointment becomes effective April 1. He’ll have to run in November for the remaining two years in the term. Superior Court judges are paid $151,809 a year, a cost shared by the county and state.
Superior Court judges preside over felony trials, domestic relations matters, juvenile proceedings and probate. They handle real estate disputes and civil claims valued at over $50,000. They consider appeals in land-use cases and appeals from lower courts, and preside over mental inquest hearings. They are elected to four-year terms.
Inslee announced Houser’s appointment on March 10.
“Bill has extensive experience in criminal law as both a defense attorney and a former prosecutor,” Inslee said in a press release. “He brings significant trial experience to the bench as both a litigator and a pro-tem judge. I know he’ll serve the people of Kitsap County well.”
Houser currently serves as a public defender for Kitsap County and worked for several years as a prosecutor in Yamhill County in Oregon. He also served as a judge pro tem for Oregon circuit and district courts. Houser is a current board member and former vice president of the Kitsap County Bar Association.
Although he didn’t get past the primary in the race for Superior Court, Court 7, in 2012, Houser was similar in views and priorities as the top vote-getter, Jennifer Forbes.
In separate interviews with members of the Herald editorial board, Forbes and Houser spoke about the growing number of civil litigants who are representing themselves, called “pro se,” because they can’t afford an attorney; the right to an attorney applies only to criminal cases. Court rules apply equally to attorneys and pro se litigants.
Their suggestions: Make sure the process and procedures are understandable, and have a separate calendar for cases in which both sides are represented pro se.
Other suggestions: Establish a system by which Superior Court cases can be filed electronically, as in District Court.
Recidivism of cases that go through Drug Court is 5 percent. Both supported establishing therapeutic courts to handle cases involving veterans and those with mental health issues. “Mental health should not be dealt with in criminal court,” Houser said at the time.
"Over the last 20 years, we have seen the development of therapeutic courts which have proven to change the lives of the participants," Houser said during the 2012 campaign. "I hope I can be part of the continued movement to alternative dispute resolution models to reduce the stress on the parties and the costs to the public."
Houser has 30 years of experience as a trial lawyer and part-time judge. He has been an attorney with the Kitsap County Public Defender Division since the office opened in January 2010. Previously, he worked as a trial lawyer for The Law Office of Wecker Hunko and the law firm of Crawford, McGilliard, Peterson and Yelish.
He practiced law in Oregon before coming to Kitsap County. He was appointed by the Oregon Supreme Court as a part-time judge and served in that capacity in both adult and juvenile courts. He was involved in establishing programs to manage caseloads, court costs, and treatment for juveniles.
"My experience implementing a juvenile violations court not only gives me insight into the success of therapeutic courts, but I have the experience of court administration of caseloads and dockets,” he said during the 2012 campaign. “This experience will be allow me to fit into the needs of the Superior Court team quickly."
Kitsap County Public Defender Division Supervisor Clarke Tibbits endorsed Houser in the 2012 campaign. "Bill's ability to relate to people from all walks of life, his experience in dealing with litigants during the intensity of court and his professionalism and demeanor will serve him well on the Kitsap County Superior Court bench.”
Houser served a term on the Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, the Washington State Bar Civil Rights Committee, and the legislative committee of two legal associations. He was a member of the board of directors of a youth camp, hospital and community foundations, service club, and on his church leadership board. He volunteered as a mentor, coach and judge for high school mock trial teams, youth baseball and as an assistant college track coach.
Houser lives in Poulsbo with his wife, Brenda, and two children, Sarah and Curtis.