Hazelrigg-Hernandez, SeGuine face off for Court of Appeals seat
Skagit County Deputy Public Defender Cecily Hazelrigg-Hernandez and private lawyer Tom SeGuine are vying for a seat on the state Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals is responsible for reviewing civil and criminal cases that have been sent up from superior courts.
In Washington, the Court of Appeals is divided into three divisions, with each encompassing three districts. The Division I, District 3 judge represents Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
The nonpartisan seat, which carries a six-year term, is being vacated by Judge Mary Kay Becker, who has held the position since 1994.
SeGuine of Bow likened the qualifications for the position to a three-legged stool: the first two legs are criminal and civil law experience, while the third is appellate court experience.
Before entering private practice in 2007, SeGuine said he spent nearly 12 years as a public defender in Skagit County and about 20 years as a prosecutor, during which he also oversaw the county’s civil law division.
In addition, SeGuine said he has practiced appellate law for almost 30 years.
He said his work in all three areas of law and in all four counties represented by the seat has prepared him for the Court of Appeals.
“I will not have to learn on the fly or on the job,” SeGuine wrote in a Skagit Valley Herald survey. “I will hit the ground running.”
While quantity of experience is important, Hazelrigg-Hernandez of Mount Vernon said quality of experience is perhaps more important.
She said her endorsement from Becker speaks to the caliber of work she brings to the table.
“My entire legal career has been committed to serving traditionally underrepresented communities and, as such, I am intimately familiar with the impact of court rulings on not only the litigants in a given case, but their families, employers and the community,” she wrote in the survey.
Hazelrigg-Hernandez has been a licensed attorney since 2007.
Prior to assuming her position as deputy public defender in 2010, Hazelrigg-Hernandez said she formed a law firm that handled family-based immigration petitions and taught as an adjunct faculty member in the American Cultural Studies Program at Western Washington University for about seven years.
She said the appellate judge position is exciting because it combines her two passions: trial work and research.
One of the responsibilities of a Court of Appeals judge is to write legal opinions following a ruling. As such, both candidates said they recognize the importance of strong writing skills.
SeGuine said he has been involved in legal writing and analysis for 30 years, writing both motions in Superior Court and briefs for appellate court.
“I’ve been doing this since 1990,” he said.
Hazelrigg-Hernandez said she has writing experience from working in both law and academia and has a deep understanding that those serving on the appellate bench are building case law, which needs clear, understandable writing.
“I am able to effectively translate the historically exclusive language of the law in a way that makes it more accessible to the community at large, which I believe is critical in terms of social equity,” she wrote on her campaign website.