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Judge has ideas on local crime

 

Judge Estudillo waves to the crowd during the 2016 Colorama parade.

A judge of the superior court of one of the four local counties whose corners meet in the Grand Coulee Dam community has ideas he thinks should be considered across counties to help curb local crime.

But he has to get re-elected first.

Grant County Superior Court Judge David Estudillo addressed Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce members Thursday.

Appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee a year ago to fill out the term of retiring Judge Evan Sperline, Estudillo now must seek election by the people, and he has a challenger in 20-year Grant County attorney Nick Wallace. Estudillo said he expects the election to be close.

Addressing rising local concerns over property crimes, Estudillo said he thinks the county should institute drug courts designed to keep people with addiction problems accountable and frequently reporting to the court.

"A lot of these property crimes ... involve people who have meth issues or heroine issues, and they're not being well supervised" in this community that doesn't have many services to address the problems and is over an hour from Ephrata, Estudillo said.

The local area's distance from any county seat makes it an expensive place to provide services that help people break their drug addictions, he said.

"If we could work together with some of the other counties, we might be able to do some of that stuff," he said. "We've got to figure out a way. How do we get services to come here and keep them on task?"

Born and raised in Sunnyside, Washington, his parents immigrated from Mexico. He was one of five of their 10 children to be born in the United States, he said.

He started his law career as an attorney in Moses Lake 17 years ago, moved to Seattle to work on insurance cases, then opened his own practice in 2005 doing insurance defense, plaintiffs' litigations, and immigration work, where his fluency in Spanish was an asset.

When his predecessor announced his retirement, Governor Jay Inslee selected Estudillo from eight candidates for the bench in Grant County after what the judge described as an extensive vetting process.

Over a year later, Estudillo sees the bench as an avenue to help people, to "make a difference in the community," offering a fresh perspective with ideas to improve the functioning of the court.

His ideas include such practical offerings as setting specific trial dates for civil issues and holding attorneys to the schedule. But on a more personal level, he's also acutely aware of the impactful example a sitting Spanish-speaking judge can have on a county that is 40 percent Latino.

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