PTHS grad sets sights on district court

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Port Townsend attorney Noah Harrison, who can trace his involvement in law to Port Townsend High School, where he played an attorney in a mock trial contest 27 years ago, is setting his sights on succeeding Jill Landes as Jefferson County District Court judge.

“I like being a litigator. I like being in court. I love defending people and I love advocating for people,” said the 43-year-old Harrison of the decision to seek the office that Landes is vacating after 12 years on the bench.

Since graduating from high school in 1992, Harrison has received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and his law degree from Seattle University School of Law. He’s also attended and graduated from Washington State Judicial College, a prerequisite to serving on any bench in Washington state.

He currently serves as a judge pro tem in Jefferson County District Court, a position he has held since 2010. He also serves as a court commissioner in district court, and has served as a commissioner in the county’s superior court. In addition, Harrison serves as a judge pro tem in Clallam County District Court.

Harrison currently is in private practice and has represented indigent people, as assigned by the court. Harrison opened his law practice in Port Townsend in 2005 after working in the Kitsap County and Jefferson County prosecutor’s offices.

““It’s not like I grew up and aspired to be a judge,” Harrison said.

As a judge, Harrison said, he hopes that people appearing before him conclude, at the end of the process, that they got a fair shake. “I don’t ever want to lose my temper. Taking a recess is always a judge’s best friend.”

Harrison said he doesn’t believe “justice is blind,” as the saying goes, but that everyone has a story to tell, and people need to be heard and have their day in court.

“I want to model myself after Judge Verser on the bench,” Harrison said of well-known and well-respected former Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Craddock Verser, who died in 2013. “Verser was a mentor and a friend,” Harrison said. Verser had appointed him as a commissioner in 2011.

In all of those roles, Harrison said, he has presided over civil and criminal calendars, juvenile matters as well as Drug Court and Mental Health Court. He serves as a substitute when Judge Landes is unavailable.

“I have enjoyed working with and helping residents of Jefferson County for over a decade,” he wrote in a press release. “I firmly believe that District Court can be a rehabilitative court and mental health court is one of those programs I intend to continue to support.”

If elected, he said, he would aim to modernize the court by transitioning to an electronic filing system to “save taxpayer money and reduce the court’s carbon footprint.”

Harrison does expect other candidates to seek the office. He said some of his attorney friends, whom he declined to name, have already expressed an interest in running.

The district court race is nonpartisan, so candidates don’t declare a party affiliation in this race. Since filing a C1 campaign finance report with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Jan. 9, Harrison has put $3,000 of his own money into his campaign.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Harrison, who decided after graduation from law school that he wanted to be in private practice in a small town, moved home to Port Townsend in 2006 after having lived on Bainbridge Island.

He and his wife, Caitlin Harrison, who works in human resources at Jefferson Healthcare, are active in the community. He has three daughters. He serves as president and is the longest-serving member of the Jefferson County YMCA advisory board and is a board member for the Olympic Peninsula YMCA.

He also has served as a volunteer for the Port Townsend Education Foundation, Port Townsend Playschool Co-op and YMCA.

In addition, Harrison is an adviser to the Port Townsend mock trial team.

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