Candidate Q&A: Superior Court, Department 7

This is part one in a series of Q&As with candidates for local office in the Nov. 6 general election. This week: Jennifer Forbes and Karen Klein, Kitsap County Superior Court, Department 7.

(Editor's note: This version corrects the university from which Forbes received her juris doctorate.)

Superior Court judges consider felony matters, real property rights, domestic relations, estate, mental illness, juvenile, and civil cases over $50,000. The superior courts also hear appeals from courts of limited jurisdiction. Judges serve four-year terms and are paid $148,832 a year. The judge’s salary is shared by the county and the state. The state pays all benefits.

Jennifer Forbes
Residence: Poulsbo.
Occupation: Judge pro tem, Bremerton court commissioner, local attorney, former prosecutor.
Education: BA, Whitman College; JD, cum laude, Seattle University School of Law.
Online: forbesforjudge.com.

Herald: What qualifications do you have for this job?
Forbes: For more than seven years, I have served as a judge pro tem throughout the area, serving on the Bremerton Municipal Court, Bainbridge Island Municipal Court, Gig Harbor Municipal Court, and Kitsap County District Court. During that time I have accumulated nearly 1,200 hours as a judge and am the most trusted and called upon judge pro tem in the county.

Recently, I was named court commissioner for the Bremerton Municipal Court and judge pro tem in Jefferson County Superior Court. Additionally, as an attorney, I have 16 years experience practicing criminal law and 9 years practicing civil law.

Herald: What are your top five priorities if elected?
Forbes: Access to justice, making sure everyone in our growing and diverse community has equal access to a fair hearing, including “specialty” courts. Being an open-minded, dedicated, hard-working and fair jurist you will be proud to call the judge you voted for.

Improved courtroom efficiencies, from continued technology improvements to updates on courtroom scheduling, for the purpose of reducing waste of both the public and lawyers’ time.

Working to improve our system by drafting local rules so that they are understandable to non-lawyers, reducing “legalese.”

Keeping in touch with the community, being a more visible judge so our court process isn’t as removed from the people who rely on it for justice.

Herald: How would you accomplish your priorities?
Forbes: My friends and family tell me I am one of the most organized people they know — and I have the energy and work habits which have allowed me to handle more than my fair share. Currently I have two jobs — court commissioner/judge pro tem and private attorney — plus I am the president of the Kitsap County Bar Association, an active Rotarian, and a community volunteer on just about any good cause that involves our kids. I intend to be active in breaking down the barriers between the courts and the folks we serve. I will work harder, take on more challenges to make the courts more accessible and understandable, and be visible as a public servant to our community.

Herald: What makes you different from your opponent? 
Forbes: I have broad experience — not only in the law but in life. I have nearly 1,200 hours on the bench to my opponent’s infrequent work as a pro tem judge. I recently received 64 votes to my opponent’s one vote in the bar favorability poll, and was so pleased to win the August primary election with almost 50 percent of the vote to my opponent’s 20 percent.

I have experienced bad breaks in my life but a fair system has allowed me to prosper; I owe my community the same opportunity. If there is one place where the playing field must be absolutely equal, it is in front of a judge.

Herald: What’s the most important job of an elected official? 
Forbes: Honoring my role as a public servant to stay in touch with the people I serve by being accessible and approachable within the bounds of the law.

Karen Klein
Residence: Bainbridge Island
Occupation: CEO and general counsel of Silver Planet, a company dedicated to caring for our aging population.
Education: Bachelor of Arts with high distinction, University of Michigan, 1979; JD, Boston University School of Law, 1982. I was published in the Boston University International Law Journal and received the Paul J. Liacos Distinguished Scholar Award.
Online: karenkleinforjudge.com.

Herald: What qualifications do you have for this job?
Klein: I have been a civil and criminal trial attorney for 30-plus years in diverse legal settings: sole practitioner, general counsel for a multi-media publishing company and for an Internet company, UW law school instructor, and a pro tem judge in Superior and District courts. I have spoken on legal issues throughout Washington, on topics such as ethics and social media. I have the right experience needed on the Kitsap County Superior Court.

Herald: What are your top five priorities if elected?
Klein: Dedication to justice, fair leadership, independence, integrity, and educational outreach to the public.

Herald: How would you accomplish your priorities? 
Klein: I will accomplish my priorities through listening to those who appear before me, ruling fairly and impartially, and collaborating with judicial colleagues.

It is important that elected officials are engaged in the community and aware of real-life issues. I am involved locally in multiple ways, including serving on the Washington Women Lawyers State Board and on the county Health Priorities Committee. I also volunteer in Kitsap schools, including Suquamish Elementary, and have developed high school mock trial programs and judged law school competitions.

Access to justice is an issue facing our community now more than ever in these tough economic and social times. As a lawyer and pro tem judge, I am deeply committed to social justice. Everyone deserves meaningful access to our courts. If elected, I will ensure those who come before me have an opportunity to be heard and that rulings are based on the facts and the law.

We need leadership that is fair, independent and demonstrates integrity. I believe my experience and commitment to the community show I will bring those priorities to the bench.

Herald: What makes you different from your opponent? 
Klein: I am the only candidate with pro tem experience at the Superior Court level. I have substantial business and legal experience with both the business world and aging issues — guardianships, elder abuse, custody, disability — and will bring those sensibilities to the court.

With more than 450 endorsements from the legal field and our community, I have broad support that demonstrates I am qualified and understand Kitsap County. I have the support of 20 judges, 50 lawyers, 12 elected officials, and more than 375 individuals.

Herald: What’s the most important job of an elected official?
Klein: A judge, like other elected officials, is foremost a public servant and is entrusted with a huge privilege as well as responsibility in judging others. I promise to work hard, remain independent, and have the courage to rule on what is just under the law, based on the facts before me.



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