There are a few ways to end up in King County Superior Court. One way is to stand trial and another much preferred option is to preside over them.
Two Island attorneys have been putting their personal lives on hold this summer to do just that. Regina Cahan and Sue Parisien, both working mothers and close friends, are running for county court positions this year and are hoping to make it past next week’s primary election. They are both running against two opponents and only the top-two vote getters will move on to the general election in November as King County judges are elected by voters. Candidates in Superior Court races who receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the primary are also declared the general election winner.
Although the two women independently decided it was time for the career change, they made sure not to run against one another, and it seems that their campaigns are only bringing the friends closer as each is campaigning for public office for the first time.
“We have gotten so close that I almost called Regina because I was afraid we’d wear the same outfit,” Parisien joked during a joint interview at the Reporter last Thursday.
Both attorneys said they wanted to work from the other side of the court room after spending many years arguing cases. Cahan has spent the last 10 years working in labor law for the county after spending a decade in the King County Prosecutor’s Office, putting criminals behind bars for homicide, sex crimes and domestic violence. She said she has conducted approximately 75 jury trials and pioneered the use of DNA evidence in Washington.
Parisien has been a litigator for nearly 20 years and has worked for the State Attorney General’s Office during the past 10, representing state employees in civil rights, discrimination, negligence and contract cases.
Becoming a trial judge is the next logical step after spending so many years in trial court, Cahan said.
“Not one judge I have talked to about what it’s like working on the bench has said it’s boring,” Parisien said. “Not one said they experience a lack of challenge. There’s diversity sitting on the bench.”
Parisien also said that she wanted to continue working in the civil sector, as she has for much of her career, and was drawn to the bench because of the breadth of the caseloads. Cahan agreed.
“It’s time for a different role,” said Cahan. “The areas of practice you get while on the bench are so much more broad. It’s the last great generalist. Law is so specialized, but as a judge you get to hear everything. I think that will be interesting.”
Cahan is running for Superior Court Position 10 while Parisien is going for Position 1. Each position is a four-year term and the fact that there were five open seats this election was a major indicator for both women that it was time to go for it.
“That’s unusual,” said Parisien of the number of vacancies. “We talked about [running] over the years, and I had just finished breast cancer treatment. The timing just seemed right.”
So far, the race has consumed much of the two candidates’ summers, and both said it has been a bit tough to finance their campaigns. Parisien said that may be indicative of how public interest in judicial races is increasing compared to years past.
“I think judicial races used to be kind of sleepy and didn’t draw a lot of interest,” said Parisien. “But today they cost more, the financial hurdle is larger, it’s much more demanding, and I think all of the candidates today are echoing the same sentiment.”
As friends, they have discovered that they share several similarities — they are both Jewish, have two children, are former Phinney Ridge residents in Seattle, they met through a mutual friend, and neither one took her husband’s surname when exchanging wedding vows.
“For awhile we lived parallel lives but just hadn’t hit it off,” Cahan said of their friendship.
Outside of work, Parisien said she loves to cook, while Cahan said she enjoys riding her bicycle. After the election, they are looking forward to spending more time with their families. Cahan is married to Howard Schneiderman, and they have two children in Island schools, Ian, 12, who is attending Islander Middle School, and Cara, 10, who is a student at West Mercer Elementary. Parisien is married to Tim Graham, also a lawyer, and they have two daughters, Julia, 8, and Emma, 11.
Cahan and Parisien both have Web sites for more information about their candidacies. Visit www.cahanforcourt.com to learn more about Cahan and www.sueforjudge.com for more information about Parisien.
The primary election is on Tuesday, Aug. 19, and ballots were recently mailed to registered voters. For more information on the election, go to www.kingcounty.gov/elections.