A couple days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Carrie Coppinger Carter, who is running for Superior Court Judge. We got right down to business.
Why are you running for judge? ”I’ve had a passion for law since a young age, and I have a commitment to this county and this community that compels me to step out of my comfort zone and step up to this challenge.” Seeing me frantically scribbling (I had left my laptop at home that day), she pauses before launching into her qualifications.
“I bring a wide variety of life and legal experience. I’m a 3rd generation county resident, grew up in rural north county where I picked the berry fields at age nine. I like to say that I’ve had alot more life than some people twice my age. I became a single parent at sixteen. Walking in those shoes really opened my eyes to some of the struggles people face. I feel I really have a feel for the richness and depth of human understanding, and I want to bring that to the bench.” She went on to raise four kids, and put herself through law school.
“My legal experience has really built a balanced perspective. I’ve defended small businesses, fought trademark infringement for the Fremont Troll, handled small discrimination cases, both defense and prosecution.” She cracks a big smile, “and of course, you can’t grow up in this county without getting legal calls for help from your extended family.” All and all, she totes twelve years of trial work in superior court.”
Moving along to the hot button issues, I ask her to define an “activist judge”. “An activist judge comes to the bench with their own agenda and doesn’t apply the law as written. We have several hundred years of precedent to help us decide cases.”
Who would she highlight as her legal role-model? Without missing a beat, she goes for the big name. “Abe Lincoln. Persistence and integrity in the face of opposition. He was the original county trial lawyer. I think I’ve read every biography of his. He took difficult stances when it wasn’t popular, and I admire his legal integrity.”
The “Coal-Free” initiative here in Bellingham is attempting to reclaim the legal rights to regulate commerce in our city, how do you feel about the citizen initiative process and its legal underpinnings? “What I enjoy is that people get involved, whether they agree or disagree with a law, they have a process by which people can legally disagree and exchange ideas peacefully. That is highly valuable.”
Coppinger Carter’s opponent, David Grant, recently made a partisan appeal at the Whatcom GOP Convention and rumor has it, was just endorsed by the Whatcom Republicans. Coppinger Carter has asked for endorsements from both parties, and decried the partisanship of the whole affair. “Partisanship is very dangerous in judicial system. The appearance of fairness is important; if you lean one way or another and are deciding a case, someone with a different political view might have a difficult time accepting your decision as fair.”
She cited her “very broad base of support from Democrats and Republicans. People are supporting me not because of my political or personal opinions but based on my reputation, integrity and work ethic.” What about the fundraising, I ask? She gets her back up and I see a glimpse of the passion that has served her well in her law practice. “I don’t think this seat should be bought.” She thumps her fist on the table. “I don’t like seeing large volumes of money wasted on propaganda. I’m uncomfortable raising money just to get my name out there. That’s not what this should be about. There shouldn’t be all this money in judicial races, or even political races at all!”
Moving on to easier subjects, she highlights her community service. Carrie Coppinger Carter has been heavily involved in mentoring young teens, drawing on her own personal life story, to inspire them not to give up on their goals. “Kids need hope, and when they see where I’ve come from and where I am now, they know that they still have a chance to renew those dreams. If I have helped even one iota, then I know I’ve done my job.”
When I interviewed her opponent Deborra Garrett, I asked about Garrett’s favorite fictional legal expert. Garrett pointed to Perry Mason for his ability to finish a court case in an hour. I asked Coppinger Carter the same question and got perhaps the most obvious answer. “Atticus Finch! How can you watch that and not get choked up. Talk about taking a difficult stand and holding firm to your convictions.”
You can find out more about Carrie Coppinger Carter at her website here.
Personally, I am delighted to have two strong, capable female candidates for judge. Too often, the public offices in the law and justice fields are held almost exclusively by men. I really encourage readers to take a good look at both Carrie Coppinger Carter and Deborra Garrett as their next superior court judge.