Hunter wants Douglas District Court seat

Attorney Hunter wants Douglas District Court seat

By Gary Bégin
EAST WENATCHEE - NCW Media Managing Editor Gary Bégin sat down with Wenatchee area attorney Robert Hunter recently at Joe's Grill here to discuss why he wants to become the next District Court Judge for Douglas County. His answers follow:
NCW Media: Tell us about yourself: Hobbies, family, passions. Age, religious affiliation, and whatnot.
Robert Hunter: I am a 61-year-old Christian who plays on a senior softball team and studies the law for a living. I have four kids. Dallas and Brittany are in their twenties and have flown from the nest. My wonderful wife, Yulia, and I have been married 14 years and we have a girl, six, and a boy, four.
Douglas County is my home. Twenty years ago I arrived in this remarkable area. My path to here has not been easy. After being abandoned, an elderly couple, Dallas and Alma, took me in at about the age of five to become my surrogate parents. Neither had a high school degree, but emphasized the need for education. "Bobby, you need to be educated,” they said. Sadly, they did not see me accomplish that goal, since mom died when I was 14 and dad died while I was still in college.  But I still carry their influence over me. As Dallas often said, which I now repeat to my children, “Education is the best investment. Once gotten, no one can take it from you.”
NCW Media: Tell the reader about your formal education and your experience as a paralegal:
Hunter: After obtaining my bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University, I found myself without any family or ties to Detroit’s north end where I grew up. So, I struck out for Los Angeles. Those were rough times, but I was able to complete the paralegal program at UCLA. At 35 I enrolled into the University of Minnesota School of Law, which at that time was rated the 16th best law school by the U.S. News & World Report.  There I received a tremendous scholarship that paid all but $2,400 for my three years of tuition.
NCW Media: What type of cases have you brought to court?
Hunter: I started my own law practice in 2003. Much of my work has been serving corporate clients, doing their collection work. That work also included defending those companies and allowed me to learn a great deal about consumer claims. I applied that knowledge to gain success bringing claims under Washington's Consumer Protection Act. These included complex civil claims against corporations. For example, one case involved a claim against a Bellevue car dealership that sold vehicles as new even though they previously had been damaged substantially. As a result of my client's tenacity in that case, the state legislature passed a law to better protect consumers from such deception.
Presently, I represent another tenacious client by defending her against a foreclosure. We stopped the bank from selling her home and recently filed a brief in the federal Ninth Circuit Court Appeals to address an unsettled area of the law concerning when a bank can no longer foreclose. A non-profit organization, the Northwest Justice Project, has submitted an amicus curiae brief that agrees with my client's position. If successful, this case will serve as precedent to stop non-judicial foreclosures if the notice of sale was not recorded within six years from the date of default or debt acceleration.
NCW Media: Why, after 20 years of running a successful law practice, do you want to be Douglas County District Judge?
Hunter: My legal career began with me working in a law library at the age of 18. From that point on I have always participated in the legal field in some way. In Los Angeles I served legal papers and worked as a paralegal. I continued working as a paralegal in Seattle until I was able to attend law school. During law school I worked for Prudential Insurance as a legal analyst. At each stage I became more and more enamored with the law. While I feel that I have accomplished much in my private practice, as a natural progression of my career I am drawn to serve as Douglas County’s next District Court judge.
NCW Media: Are there aspects of being a judge that appeal to you?
Hunter: Yes. This position will allow me to serve the public much in the same way as I have served them in private practice. The district court handled over 7,000 cases filed in 2017. Working with a voluminous case load is not new to me. My clients sent their legal work to me in large volumes. So, I have handled thousands of cases over the years, many of which have gone to trial. Even as paralegal I managed a heavy caseload and a crew of paralegals, secretaries and document clerks.
As I efficiently served clients with courtesy and respect, I will do so for the county’s clients, the taxpayers. Working on the county’s sizable caseload affords me the unique opportunity to strengthen county relations with the public. This comes by protecting the rights and liberties guaranteed by our state and federal Constitutions. Our laws entitle the public to equal access in a fair forum for dispute resolution. This entitlement should not come with excess delay or cost. And it should not come by sacrificing one’s right to a trial by an impartial judge or jury. In return for a fair service, the county has then earned the taxpayers’ respect and confidence.
NCW Media: Won't it be stressful having the fate of others in your hands?  
Hunter: No, quite the opposite occurs. Stress is relieved when I know that I am doing whatever I can do to keep the peace. That is why you will see an olive branch displayed on my signs and other advertising. Keeping the peace is what I enjoyed when doing prosecution for East Wenatchee Municipal Court, when I first came to town. I have lived in crime ridden areas where fear abounds. As judge I will remain vigilant to keep our county peaceful.
NCW Media: Does it take a certain philosophy/demeanor or inner strength to remain unbiased as a judge?
Hunter: My job as a judge will be to apply the law to the facts presented.  My personal feelings or beliefs have no place in the courtroom. Common sense, however, should always be applied. This realization came to me while working the front desk at a law library in Detroit.
It was around 11 at night, shortly before closing. An elderly Black man entered and, like most attorneys, I guessed he came to do some last minute cite checking (pre-Internet). He was formally attired, but as he drew nearer I saw his suit was a bit disheveled and inebriated. He walked up to me to explain, in a loud voice, how he had so admirably helped a client avoid jail time by arguing that the defendant had simply misused a firearm. He began to cry and said "I'm too damn good." He went on to explain how his former client had killed a young girl that night. He gave me some advice. Essentially, do not ignore your instincts. My life experiences have led me here with a good measure of commonsense to temper my decisions.
NCW Media: How will you remain a man of integrity despite all the special interest groups that may want to sway your rulings?  
Hunter: Apply the law as written and adhere to the moral standards underpinning those laws.
NCW Media: Are there judges, locally or otherwise, that you model yourself after or that serve as an example of what you'd like to be?
Hunter: I see judges as taking on a parental role so to speak. Some of us who have raised children might find that one of our kids is a bit more spirited than the others. Here, I should disclose that I was kicked out of kindergarten. I was accused of being a tad spirited. Dallas and Alma did not change the rules for me due to my prior difficulties. Indeed, their form of persuasion could be swift and sorely convincing.  We cannot lower the bar or make exceptions for the spirited child nor can we apply the law according to one’s position in life. It would not be fair to others and it only encourages further misdeeds.
I admire judges who are compassionate, but firm in their rulings. For instance, he or she might offer services to overcome drug addiction. Yet, at some point it takes more than rehabilitation to render justice. If the facts reveal that a defendant has unlawful propensities, the judge's role is not to be one’s counselor, but to protect the community. As for civil matters, I have always appreciated a judge whose aim was to fully understand the complexities of the transaction or accident before them.  This would be my aim as well.
NCW Media: Any comments about the McCleary decision?
Hunter: Although I do not wish to opine about particular cases, it is no secret that education rates high in my book. I am always glad to see any effort taken to oversee that education is administered properly. That is what our state’s Supreme Court did in 2012 in the McLeary matter. It ordered the Legislature to comply with ARTICLE IX of our Washington State Constitution that declares it “the paramount duty of the state to make ample provisions for the education of all children.” The court said that “ample” does not simply mean “adequate.” Some argued that the educational funding system was not even adequate given the high dropout rate at high schools.
Eastern Washington is experiencing an increase in companies that apply advanced technologies.  We should want our kids educated amply so as to acquire positions in those companies if they choose to do so.  Along those lines, for wayward youth who come before me, it would be my hope to have them fill community service positions even if only janitorial at one of these companies. This might give them a feel for where a straighter path could lead them.
NCW Media: Douglas County has a variety of demographics including a large Hispanic population. Will your court be fair to all regardless of race or financial standing?
Hunter: Those who know me know that I have always been sensitive to our increasingly diverse community. This comes natural to me. Justice requires a litigant to understand the judicial process to a certain extent.  For example, the language barrier can hinder some of the population from fully understanding the court system. The Spanish speaking interpreters serve the court admirably. The same quality service should be offered to all who do not understand English well, no matter what the reason may be. As judge I would liberally apply various services to assure an understanding of the legal process.
NCW Media: As a judge, how can you possibly be fair to a wheat farmer as well as an indigent as well as a business owner and also the "man in the street?"
Hunter: Mostly, this is accomplished by applying the law as written. Our laws have developed out of hundreds of years of jurisprudence. This led to equal application of the laws. The law does not vary according to one's difficult past or current station in life. A businessman who drives drunk gets the same punishment as the indigent who drives drunk. Due process also evolved and as judge I will apply the same procedural and evidentiary rules for all before me.

 

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