Sunday, July 14, 2024

Waterville's Eric Biggar wants to remain as District Judge for Douglas County


EAST WENATCHEE - Waterville's Eric Biggar wants to remain as the District Court Judge for Douglas County. He is poised to face a challenger in the November general election. NCW Media Managing Editor Gary Bégin interviewed him recently and what follows are his answers:

NCW Media: Tell the readers about yourself:

Eric Biggar: I have proudly lived in Douglas County for over 50 years.  My wife and I both graduated from Waterville High School, and attended Washington State University and Eastern Washington University, where I obtained my bachelor's degree.  Thereafter, I attended and received my law degree from Gonzaga Law School in 1987 (Go Zags!).  After our college years my wife and I returned to the Waterville plateau where we raised our family, and where we continue to live.   After the birth of our son my wife and I became involved in the local foster care program providing emergency placement for children at risk, and we added two daughters to the family home.  During our 36 years of marriage my wife and I were active in our local community.  My wife spent several years as a city council member and volunteer with the Waterville ambulance.  I served as a school board director, youth sports coach, high school boys and girls basketball coach, and junior high football coach.  My wife and I are members of the Waterville Lutheran Church and Gateway Ministries.  We enjoy visiting with our children and grandchildren, hunting, fishing, and watching the wheat grow.  

NCW Media: Why do you want to remain a District Court judge?

Biggar: I have a deep respect for judges, and a passion for the judiciary.  The majority of my career was spent in the courtrooms of Douglas County.  I served Douglas County as a public defender for nearly 3 years, a deputy prosecutor/chief criminal deputy for over 22 years, and for the past 4 years I have served on the bench as a court commissioner, District Court judge pro-tem and now District Court judge.  During my career I have had the opportunity to appear before many distinguished local judges; Judge John Hotchkiss, Judge Lesley Allan, Judge John Bridges (Ret.), Judge T.W. “Chip” Small (Ret.), and Judge Judith McCauley (Ret.) to name a few.  It was an honor to present cases to these judges, to observe and absorb what it means to be a judge of integrity, candor and professionalism.  My career has prepared and given me the relevant court experience to preside as Douglas County District Court judge, and that experience has shaped and formed the passion I have to continue to serve.

NCW Media: What do you feel you have accomplished as a judge in Douglas County?

Biggar: I believe the court should set an example of integrity and professionalism for the community and court participants. During my time on the bench, I have set a tone in my courtroom, and among my staff that regardless of circumstance, all individuals are to be treated with dignity and respect.  If the judicial branch is to be respected, it must first demonstrate respect. District Court is a court of first impression for most people in our community.  Whether individuals appear for driving infractions, small claims matters, or misdemeanor offenses, it is oftentimes their first contact with the judicial system.  I believe it is the responsibility of the court to promote confidence in the judicial system.  Win or lose, court participants should leave the courtroom feeling that they have been heard and treated fairly.
On a more objective measure, my staff and I have initiated mediation in our small claims department.  Mediation for our non-attorney litigants will help to resolve many cases in a fair and equitable manner without direct court intervention.  Furthermore, we have established a framework for enhanced probation services for persons convicted of drug and alcohol related offenses, domestic violence and crimes associated with mental illness.   Enhancing probation services for these “at risk” cases promotes greater public safety through reduction in repeat offenses, ensures necessary services are provided to offenders, and affords greater offender accountability.  

NCW Media: As a judge, what do you feel is the biggest law enforcement issue that you see every day, Drugs? Domestic Violence? Other?

Biggar: Approximately 65-70 percent of the workload in District Court is criminal.  The most common offenses seen by the court are driving under the influence (drugs or alcohol) and domestic violence.  From my years as a prosecuting attorney, and now judge, the most common factor in domestic violence cases involve individuals that suffer from drug and alcohol addiction.  These type of offenses and behaviors create a significant safety risk to law enforcement during intervention, investigation and the arrest process.  From the judicial side, a significant amount of resources are spent by the court and probation department to address the treatment needs of offenders, and to hold them accountable.  By and large, drug and alcohol addiction is the biggest issue I encounter on a daily basis as judge.

NCW Media: Do you feel the Hispanic population is getting its fair share of legal representation?

Biggar: I feel the Hispanic population is receiving its fair share of legal representation in Douglas County on criminal matters.  In the criminal arena, our state and federal constitutions guarantee the right to counsel for all individuals.  Douglas County contracts with local law firms for District Court and Superior Court to provide legal representation for individuals who cannot afford to retain private counsel.  In our system of justice, anyone charged with a criminal offense is afforded an opportunity for counsel.  It has been my experience in criminal courts, that the only individuals that don't have legal representation are those that made a conscious decision to waive counsel and represent themselves, which they have a right to do.  Regardless of race, all individuals are guaranteed legal representation in criminal courts.

Generally, people do not have a constitutional right to legal representation in civil matters, thus financial ability becomes a factor in obtaining counsel. If there is a disparity in the Hispanic population for attorney representation, it may arise in the civil arena.  From my experience, however, financial ability to retain attorneys is not race specific.  My court calendars represent a cross section of our community, and it is clear that financial difficulties do not exist in the Hispanic population alone.  Programs such as the Chelan Douglas Volunteer Attorney Services (VAS) have done tremendous work in assisting low income persons, regardless of race, by teaming them with attorneys who volunteer their time on civil matters.  Interpreter services are provided in Douglas County District and Superior Court on all criminal and civil calendars to aid litigants in understanding the court process.


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