After 42 years as a Judge and lawyer, Clallam County District II Court Judge John Doherty will step down at the end of his term this winter and will not run for re-election this fall.
Doherty was born and raised in Clallam County and graduated from Port Angeles schools. He graduated from Port Angeles Hight School in 1966 and reported for active duty with the Navy in Vietnam from 1967-1969.
He graduated from Peninsula College in 1970 with an AA Degree and a BA in Political Science in 1971 from Western Washington University in Bellingham. He received his Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga in 1975 where he was a member of the Gonzaga Law Review.
He joined his father, Howard V. Doherty, in 1976 in the general practice of law. The senior Doherty had established his practice in Port Angeles in 1946. In 1993, John Doherty was elected to the Clallam County District I Court bench serving until 2002.
In 2004, Doherty was appointed Chief Judge of the Quileute Tribal Court serving until 2013. He served as Hoh Chief Judge pursuant to the Quileute service and had earlier presided as Chief Judge of the Lower Elwha court for nearly a decade in the 1980s. He was appointed in 2013 as Presiding Judge in the Clallam County District II Court to fill the vacancy after Judge Erik Rohrer was elected to the Clallam County Superior Court bench.
Doherty was elected in 2014 to the District Court position. He is the only Judge to have been elected Presiding Judge in both districts.
“I’ve heard about every excuse for conduct humankind could ever create including, ‘My dog ate my papers’.”
“There have been some welcome revolutions in the practice of law the last four decades. Word processing and computerized legal research advances really have been remarkable. Old images of lawyers in a stuffy, dank law library with stacks of books eclipsing them was a reality. It was tedious and time consuming,” Doherty said.
“By far the most rewarding experience was my 11 years as counsel to the Clallam County Guardian Ad Litem program (CASA). One does not often come in contact with volunteer citizens who work so selflessly for the protection of abused and neglected children. Hundreds of youngsters coming from the most tragic conditions have been literally ‘saved’ by the dedicated and tenacious folks who advocate for them in court. These folks are saints who do so much, for so many, for so little. It was an honor and distinct privilege to be their lawyer.”
“Over the years we’ve concentrated in Court on areas of importance to promote acceptable conduct and prevent criminal activity – including: established the first collection agency contract for legal/financial obligation; meaningful sentences and bails; reinstated the probation office position to intensely supervise drug and alcohol testing and therapy attendance; streamlined calendars for efficiency; promoted GED classes for the incarcerated; expanded work release for legal/financial payment obligations; facilitated in jail drug/alcohol evaluations in preparation for inpatient treatment.”
“Crafting unique sentences and working with staff and Probation Officers to improve the lot of youth who were destined for felony court was rewarding. It is a unique quality of the District Court system.”
“I’ll miss the daily interaction with staff most of all. Where else can you find three people working together with over 100 years of combined trial court experience. The West End is truly fortunate to have court staff with the depth that Glenna Pitt, Steve Brown and Mark Downing bring to this office.”
“I intend to make myself available to help incoming District I and II Judicial Officers to ensure these two Districts work together.”
“From 1981-2002 the two courts had pre-set times of Judge exchanges to save pro-tem and other costs. That cooperative spirit needs to be re-instated to protect against duplicity and to ensure the best usage of both facilities.”
“It’s with a bit of melancholy to step away from being in the courtroom daily after all these years. My father served as Clallam County Prosecutor and U.S. Magistrate. My brother Mike served 20 years as County Commissioner. I’ve spent 14 years as a judge and more than 35 years as a West End Protem Judge. Now, after 70+ years, I’m the last Doherty to serve in the Clallam County Law and Justice community. All may not be lost however, I have two nephews who are practicing lawyers!’