Three county judge candidates plead cases at forum

Trio agreed on most questions, said all would do well in role



Candidates John Hart, left, Dan LeBeau and Rob Rembert listen to the moderator before giving their opening statements at a candidate’s forum held in the Neill Public Library on Wednesday evening.

IAN SMAY, Evergreen reporter

The three candidates for the Whitman County District Court judge seat vacated by retiring judge Doug Robinson responded to questions at a forum held by the League of Women Voters of Pullman on Wednesday night.

Colfax Municipal Court Judge John Hart, Whitman County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dan LeBeau and Pro Tem Whitman County District Court Judge Rob Rembert faced questions for approximately an hour from the public on topics ranging from court room concerns to sentencing.

The candidates oftentimes agreed with each other, including when the issue of court security arose, with all three stressing the lack of such safety in Whitman County courts.

“There’s a court rule that says we have to have court security, and frankly, here in Whitman County we don’t even come close,” Rembert said. “I’m seriously concerned the only thing that’s going to change that is if somebody actually gets injured or shot.”

Hart echoed these sentiments, adding it had been an issue for a long time.

“We need it not now, we needed it 10 years ago,” Hart said. “It’s just a matter of funding it.”

LeBeau summed up the groups feelings as the last to answer.

“It’s unanimous, we don’t have any security,” LeBeau said.

A question that drew similar yet different answers from the group came when the three were asked why they should be voted in as judge over their opponents. While all three said they were qualified, their reasoning for being the better pick differed.

LeBeau said the decision comes down to “personality and demeanor.” He also said his experience in judicial work has given him the right mindset to make fair judgements if elected.

Rembert also pointed to experience among other characteristics.

“I have the experience, background … and bedrock to well-rule in this county,” Rembert said.

Hart was the final one to answer the question and said his record speaks for itself.

“I believe I can use my experience to make a difference,” Hart said.

Another topic covered during the forum dealt with alternative sentences for offenders. Hart, who received the sole endorsement given by judge Robinson, said these types of sentences are integral to the system.

“Alternative sentencing is why judges are important,” Hart said.

He also said judges should be focused on preventing offenders from reappearing in court due to future violations.

Dan LeBeau said the different sentencing categories allow for judges to be versatile in an attempt to treat each case correctly.

“All of these things are good tools a judge can use,” LeBeau said.

While the sentences may be less harsh, LeBeau added the alternatives are not “free passes.”

Rembert said he saw the greatest value in alternative sentencing in how it allows defendants to rehabilitate.

“It’s important because frequently it give those offenders a chance to evaluate what got them into court,” Rembert said.

One of the judges will be eliminated from the race in August as the primary elections narrow the field down to two for November’s general election.