A discussion of the men and women who have served as judicial officers in Superior Court of Benton and Franklin Counties would not be complete without an understanding of the history of the judicial district. Washington became a state on November 11, 1889.
Franklin County (along with Adams County) was established on November 28, 1883 out of Whitman County. It was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Originally, the county seat was the town of Ainsworth, a small construction town at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. When the Great Northern Railroad bridge over the Snake River near Ainsworth was completed in 1884, the town quickly declined. Work soon began on the first railroad bridge over the Columbia River at Pasco. Ainsworth was formally vacated as a townsite in 1889.
Pasco became the county seat in 1885. The first courthouse and jail were relocated from Ainsworth to Pasco. A second courthouse was constructed in 1889. It was located on Lewis Street, near the railroad depot. In 1913 a third courthouse was completed. Designed by C. Lewis Wilson, it is considered a superbly styled example of courthouse architecture. It was entered on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978.
Benton County did not exist at the time of statehood. It was established on March 8, 1905 out of Yakima and Kittitas Counties. It was named for Thomas Hart Benton, lawyer, newspaper editor, and Missouri congressman who brawled with Andrew Jackson, injuring the latter. The county seat is Prosser.
At the time of statehood, Franklin County was in a judicial district that included Walla Walla and Franklin Counties. In 1897, Franklin County became part of the judicial district of Yakima, Kittitas and Franklin Counties. When Benton County was established in 1905, it joined the judicial district that included Yakima, Franklin, Kittitas and Benton Counties.
On March 6, 1907 Benton, Franklin and Adams Counties were formed into a new judicial district. The district remained unchanged until 1951 when Benton and Franklin Counties judicial district was formed. It so remains.
The jumping-from-the-bridge theory was quickly put to rest when it was reported that Judge Linn was seen alighting from the No. 4 train in Pasco. He was seen posting a letter, which was later received by his wife. While Judge Linn did not jump from the bridge, the letter ominously suggested that his life would soon end. Believing he had died, the grieving Jo Linn sold their house in Prosser and moved to Seattle.
Robert S. Day was born on April 16, 1923 in Ezel, Kentucky, but raised in Okanogan County. He went to Whitman College on a track scholarship, having set the state high school record in the 880 yard dash. He won the state championship in 1942. He served as a U S Marine in World War II as an aircraft armorer in the south Pacific. He received his law degree in 1953 from Gonzaga School of Law, graduating at the top of his class.
After admission to the bar, he went directly to work for Superior Court Judge Swellingback as his law clerk. He moved to Pasco, Washington in 1954, and was appointed Kennewick Police Judge and Justice of the Peace. Judge Day practiced law in Pasco, Washington for many years, first in a firm with John Westland. Later he practiced in the firm of Peterson, Taylor, Day and Shea. He served as the president of the Washigton State Bar Association in 1975.
Craig G. Matheson was born in Pasco, Washington in 1951 and grew up in Kennewick. After graduating from Kennewick High School he went on to Northwestern University and in 1973, earned a B.A. in Economics. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1976, and was admitted to the Washington bar in the same year.
He began his legal career with the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. After two years, he was in private practice with his brother, John Matheson. He left to become a staff attorney with the Washington Public Power System. Judge Matheson worked there for three years, until he was appointed in 1987 to take the place of deceased Judge Brice Horton as judge of the Benton County District Court. He served in that capacity until he was elected to the Benton Franklin Counties Superior Court in 1993. He was reelected to five additional terms.
Judge Matheson was very active in efforts to improve the courts. He was appointed by the Supreme Court to the Gender and Justice Commission in 1994. During his five-year tenure he chaired the planning committee for the first Washington State Domestic Violence Summit. He also served on the domestic violence homicide review committee of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic violence. He also served on the Courthouse Security Task Force, a committee tasked with developing statewide guidelines for courthouse security.
Judge Matheson was also active in developing and operating educational programs. He was elected to the Board of Court Education of the Washington Superior Court Judges Association. He taught for four years at the Washington Judicial College. He was the dean of the judicial college in 2008 and 2009. One of his favorite activities was the YMCA High School Mock Trial Competition. He served for 20 years on the Board of Directors of the YMCA Youth and Government Program, and in that capacity chaired the Mock Trial program committee in the Tri-Cities.
Judge Matheson was also active in the Washington Superior Court Judges Association. He served as a member of the Association Board. He was elected President of the Washington Superior Court Judges Association from 2012 to 2013. He also assumed a leadership role in developing caseflow management programs for civil, domestic and criminal cases in the Benton Franklin Counties Superior Court.
In 1996, the Supreme Court recognized Judge Matheson as one of twenty judges in the state who went beyond the bench to improve the judicial system. He was also named as the Judge of the Year by the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association in 2002. The YMCA awarded him its Outstanding Leadership Award in 2013. Judge Matheson retired from the bench in May, 2013. He has been a licensed pilot since 2001, and enjoys flying his airplane.
Carolyn A. Brown was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1939. After marriage to Larry Brown in 1966, she lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where she volunteered in many areas in the community. She graduated from University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a degree in business administration in 1974. Judge Brown then moved to Chicago with her husband and attended law school at John Marshall. She graduated in 1978.
Her next move was to Richland, Washington, where she worked as a deputy prosecutor until 1982. Then it was back to the Chicago area where she opened her own law office. In 1984, she moved to San Diego and studied for the California bar. The return to Richland occurred in 1985. She rejoined to the Benton County Prosecutor’s office.
When Judge Robert Day retired in 1988, Judge Brown ran successfully for that position, becoming the first woman elected to the Benton Franklin Counties Superior Court. Judge Brown retired in 2004.
Judge Robert G. Swisher was born in 1946 in Lewiston, Idaho. Shortly after he started grade school, his family moved from St. Maries, Idaho to Connell, Washington where he grew up. He graduated from Connell High School in 1964. While growing up in Connell, he was active in the Boy Scouts which gave him his first exposure to government and the court system. After completing high school, he earned a degree in accounting from the University of Idaho He then served in the U.S. Navy for 3 ½ years where the majority of the time, he was Operations Officer on the U.S.S. Detector. Upon release from active duty in the Navy and after working briefly at Hanford, he entered law school at the University of Idaho and graduated in 1975.
Judge Swisher was admitted to the Washington Bar in 1975. He practiced law in the Tri-Cities for 25 years with an office in Richland. At the time of his election as a Superior Court judge, he was a partner with Wayne Gladstone. His law practice was general in nature. However he did represent several small municipalities including the City of West Richland for 25 years and the City of Connell for 15 years. He and his partner were also legal counsel for GESA and HAPO credit unions.
Judge Swisher and his wife, Nilea, raised their two children in the Tri Cities where they continue to reside today. While in private practice, he was active in the community serving on the Benton-Franklin Counties Community Action Committee Board of Directors and as president of his Rotary Club. He also served the Girl Scouts as their pro bono legal advisor.
Judge Swisher was elected as a Judge of the Benton-Franklin Superior Court in 2000 and served until his retirement in January 2017.
Cameron Mitchell was born and raised in Richland, Washington. After graduating from Richland High School, he went on to Washington State University. He played varsity football for the Cougars, and was on the team that played in the 1981 Holiday Bowl. He graduated in 1982 with a B.A. in History.
Judge Mitchell graduated from Williamette Law School in 1986 and was admitted to the Washington bar the following year. He was employed as an Assistant Attorney General until appointed as a Hearings Examiner with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. He served in that capacity until his appointment to the Benton Franklin Counties Superior Court in 2004. He has served on the bench since that time. In 2012 Judge Mitchell received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirt Award by Columbia Basin College.
Jacqueline J. Shea-Brown was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1964 and moved to Pasco, Washington in 1971. She received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington in 1987 in Business Administration and, in 1992, earned a J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. During her third year in law school, she participated in the Law Students in Court program assisting indigent people in Washington D.C. involved in landlord-tenant disputes. She began her legal career working for Shanley & Baker, an intellectual property law firm, in Washington D.C. In 1994, she relocated to Bellevue, Washington and worked as an associate attorney with Trujillo, Peick, Lingenbrink & Magladry, P.S. with a focus on personal injury law and employment law. She also did pro bono work for the Eastside Legal Assistance Program. In 1999 and 2000, she served as chair and then co-chair, respectively, for the family law committee of the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association (WSTLA) now known as Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ).
In 1998, Judge Shea-Brown returned to the Tri-Cities area and opened her own firm handling cases in family law, juvenile law, employment law and civil law. She had a juvenile civil defense contract from 1998 to 2003 representing indigent parents (and children) involved in dependency actions as well as truancy, CHINS and At-Risk Youth matters. In 2000, she and Walter “Russ” Brown, Jr. opened the law firm of Shea & Brown, P.S., and in 2010, Tri-Cities Law Group, P.S. She had a Benton County Superior Court felony defense contract to represent indigent defendants between 2005 and 2007. Judge Shea-Brown was appointed to the Benton Franklin Superior Court bench by Governor Jay Inslee, and sworn in on October 16, 2015.
Judge Shea-Brown was a member of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL) and the Washington Defenders’ Association (WDA). Subsequently, she became a judge pro tempore in all the local courts and she served as a mediator in family law cases beginning in 2011. She served as a Guardian ad Litem in Title 11 and Title 26 cases. She provided pro bono legal services as a volunteer attorney through the Benton-Franklin Legal Aid Society (BFLAS) and received Certificates of Recognition from BFLAS in 2010, 2011 and 2013. She became a board member of the BFLAS in 2009 and served as its President from 2013 to 2015.
Judge Shea-Brown has participated in the Tri-Cities Youth and Justice Forum which annually brings together middle and high school students from throughout southeast Washington and justice system professionals for a day of interaction and learning about the justice system. She is a member of the Benton-Franklin Bar Association and Washington State Bar Association, the National Association of Women Judges, a member and treasurer of the Washington Women Lawyers, a member of the Pasco Kiwanis – Satellite Club and of the Columbia Basin Badger Club.
Joseph M. Burrowes was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1962. He was raised in a military family traveling around the United States before making Tri-Cities his home in 1979. He earned his B.A. degree from Washington State University Tri-Cities and AA degree from Columbia Basin College while attending night school. After working 15 years for the Department of Energy and Hanford Patrol, he enrolled in Gonzaga University School of Law. Upon graduation, he practiced as a prosecutor, civil attorney, family law facilitator and public defender.
Judge Burrowes was first appointed to Benton County District Court in 2007 as a Court Commissioner. He was later appointed as a Benton County District Court Judge in 2009 by the County Commissioners. He was retained in the 2010 election and re-elected in 2014. In 2016, Judge Burrowes was elected to the Benton Franklin County Superior Court.
Judge Burrowes has been very active in Washington State judiciary leadership, having served as Vice President, Treasurer and Board Member of the Washington State District and Municipal Court Judges Association, the Dean of Judicial College, the past Chair of the DMCJA Education Committee. He has also been a member of the Washington State Bar Association Local Rules Committee, a member of the Washington State Judicial Needs Committee and a faculty member of the Judicial College.
In 2013, Judge Burrowes was honored by WSU Tri-Cities with the Distinguished Alumnus Award
for his support of higher education, community involvement and distinguished service on the bench.
Judge Burrowes devotes countless volunteer hours to civic organizations such as the YMCA Mock Trial Competition, various high school programs, police citizen's academies, and domestic violence advocate training programs. He has received many service commendations from the Washington State Bar Association for his legal work and various community activities.
Born Samuel Perry Swanberg in Los Angeles, California in 1966, Judge Swanberg grew up in Edmonds, Washington. After receiving undergraduate and law degrees from Brigham Young University, he began his legal career at an admiralty firm in downtown Seattle.
After realizing he was meant to be a trial attorney, Judge Swanberg accepted a position with the Franklin County Prosecutor in 1993 and prosecuted felony cases. In 1996, he became a partner at a private law firm where he received exposure to various areas of civil law. His passion for the next 21 years, however, was serving as a public defender in the Superior Courts of Benton and Franklin Counties, as well as a Criminal Justice Act Attorney for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. During this time, he handled many high-profile cases.
Governor Jay Inslee appointed Judge Swanberg to the Superior Court Bench for Benton and Franklin Counties on August 10, 2017, and he was sworn-in on October 2.
Judge Swanberg and his wife, Stephanie live in Pasco where they stay actively involved in the community they love. They have six children.
Herbert H. Davis was born on October 24, 1909. It is believed that he was born in Butte, Montana. Nothing is known of his early years. But, he was a classmate of Henry “Scoop” Jackson at the University of Washington. They were also members of the Delta Chi fraternity, and graduated together from the University of Washington Law School in 1935. Commissioner Davis practiced law for several years in the Seattle area until he was persuaded by Pat Sensney to join him in the Benton County Prosecutor’s office in Prosser. Mr. Sensney had been appointed as the Prosecuting Attorney in 1950.
After serving as a deputy prosecuting attorney for several years, Commissioner Davis was elected to the position of Prosecuting Attorney in 1958. He was re-elected three times and served in that capacity until he returned to private practice in 1974. Sometime thereafter, he was appointed to the position of part-time Court Commissioner. He served in that capacity until 1994, retiring due to poor health. He moved to Spokane, Washington and lived with his daughter until his death on April 8, 2000.
Pamela Peterson was appointed to serve as a Superior Court Commissioner in July 2016. She worked at the Kennewick Office of the Attorney General from 1998 through 2009, where she focused on litigation in the areas of dependency and termination of parental rights cases. Commissioner Peterson also advised Walla Walla Community College, Columbia Basin College, and various state agencies.
In 2009, Commissioner Peterson moved to the private sector and served as an associate and then as a partner at Cowan, Moore, Luke, Carrier and Peterson. She focused on family law and civil litigation while at Cowan Moore. She later worked as a parents’ representation attorney for the State Office of Public Defense on cases involving dependency and termination of parental rights.
Commissioner Peterson served on the WSBA Judicial Recommendation Committee until being appointed to the Bench. She also serves as a board member for Benton-Franklin Counties Legal Aid.
Commissioner Peterson graduated from Willamette University School of Law in 1997. Prior to that, she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education at Central Washington University, where she graduated summa cum laude as a President’s Scholar. Commissioner Peterson also received a graduate degree in Education.
Families are encouraged to provide additional biographical information and photographs. Submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
The process for ex parte has changed in both counties on a permanent basis. Click HERE for a description of the process.
Further, the Court requires that litigants submitting orders ex parte must attest to whether or not a notice of disqualification has been filed. Click HERE to view Judicial Resolution 17-002 and related form.
Superior Court Administration Benton County Justice Center
7122 W Okanogan Pl
Kennewick, WA 99336
The Courts will be closed for Memorial Day on Monday, May 28, 2018.
Trials will not be held during the week of April 10, 2018 due to Judicial Spring Conference.
Please refer to Court Holiday Schedule to see changes to regular calendar.
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