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 Benton and Franklin Counties and 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.
Judicial District. 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.
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.
Craig J. 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.
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.
While in private practice, she handled a variety of cases including cases involving family law, juvenile law, criminal law, employment law and civil law.
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 information about careers in the justice system.
She is a member of the following organizations: the Superior Court Judges’ Association, the Benton-Franklin Counties Bar Association, the Washington State Bar Association, the Pasco Kiwanis – Satellite Club.
She was appointed to the Benton-Franklin County Superior Court by Governor Inslee and was sworn in on October 16, 2015 and stood for and won election in 2016.
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.
David L. Petersen was born in 1969 and raised in Kennewick, Washington. After graduating from Kamiakin High School, he served in the U.S. Army for two years, stationed in South Korea. Judge Petersen continued his service in the Army National Guard for six more years while attending college and law school. Judge Petersen attended Columbia Basin College and graduated with a B.A. degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington. He completed law school at Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas.
Upon passing the Washington State Bar exam in 1997, he returned to the Tri-Cities to serve as a deputy prosecutor for Franklin County. After leaving the prosecutor’s office, Judge Petersen was a partner in two local law firms, as well as the owner of his own law firm. He served as judge for Pasco Municipal Court from 2011 to 2017. Judge Petersen was elected to the Benton Franklin County Superior Court in 2020 and was sworn-in on January 11, 2021.
Judge Petersen has been actively involved in his community since returning to the area in 1997. Most meaningful for him has been his service on the Benton Franklin Legal Aid Board of Directors, coaching the Mock Trial team at Tri-Cities Prep High School, and actively participating in his church.
Judge Petersen and his wife, Dena, have enjoyed living in and raising their three kids in the Tri-Cities area. They have been very active in youth sports over the years and enjoy spending time outdoors, waterskiing, hiking, camping, fishing and shooting.
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.
Commissioner Peterson retired in June 2021 after faithfully serving the citizens of Benton and Franklin Counties.
Darin R. Campbell was born in 1964 in Vancouver, Washington. His family moved frequently, and he attended schools Southwest Washington and the Tri-Cities. In 1983 he graduated from Kelso High School and enrolled in Washington State University. He studied market research analysis and obtained his B.A. in Business Administration in 1987. He obtained his law degree from the University of Puget Sound School of Law in 1991.
Commissioner Campbell worked in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office for over 12 years. He served in both the civil and criminal departments of the Prosecutor’s office. Commissioner Campbell then opened a private law office, focusing on juvenile law and child welfare cases for over 15 years.
In 2019 Commissioner Campbell was appointed to the bench as a Superior Court Commissioner. He presides over juvenile and domestic matters.
Arthur D. Klym was born in Portland, Oregon in 1952. He was raised in Cornelius, Oregon on a chicken farm. After high school graduation from Laurelwood Academy in Gaston, Oregon, he went on to Walla Walla College where he earned a B.A. in History in 1974. He attended Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Oregon and there earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1977.
For many years Art was active in community theater productions, previously served on the Board of The Richland Players, and is currently on the Board of The Rude Mechanicals, a Shakespeare Company. He was a founding Board member of both the Academy of Children’s Theatre and the Three Rivers Children’s Museum Foundation. He is a past President of the Benton-Franklin Counties Bar Association and the Walla Walla College Alumni Association. Since 2009 he has been a volunteer off-ice official at home games of the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans.
Diana N. Ruff was born in Richland, Washington seven minutes after her fraternal twin sister Katherine, to Lyman and Esther Powell. She attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, where she graduated magna cum laude with a double major in Political Science and Journalism. After college, she attended Marquette University School of Law in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for one year, but then transferred to and, in 2009, graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law.
After law school, Commissioner Ruff joined Allen Brecke Law Offices as an associate attorney handling litigation and negotiation of personal injury cases. She then joined the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in 2013 as a deputy prosecutor, where she focused on domestic violence, sexual assault, and internet crimes against children cases. After leaving the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office in 2018, she worked as a judge pro tem in Franklin County District Court and Pasco Municipal Court. In September 2020 she became an Administrative Law Judge for the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings. She was appointed as a Superior Court Commissioner for Benton and Franklin Counties in August 2021.
She has served on the City of Richland Parks and Recreation Commission (a commission that her mother was once Chairwoman of in the 1990s and which sparked her love of parks and recreation); City of Kennewick Parks and Recreation Commission; and Benton County Park Board. Commissioner Ruff also served on the Board of Directors for the CREHST (Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science and Technology) Museum for three years prior to the museum closing. Commissioner Ruff was active in the Benton Franklin Counties Bar Association, serving as Secretary/Treasurer, President of the Bar Association, and on the Board of Trustees.
Families are encouraged to provide additional biographical information and photographs. Submissions may be sent to email@example.com
August 23, 2021
Superior Court Statement On Appearances In Court In Light of Governor's Order to Mask
The Superior Court is withdrawing this prior general presumption of personal appearance at hearings to address concerns regarding the Delta variant of Covid-19. The Court’s order can be found HERE. In light of the Governor’s Order that all individuals who enter buildings wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, it is appropriate for individuals who can appear remotely to do so if they wish. The Courtrooms remain open to the public with capacity limits and the requirement of masking for all. In some criminal matters it is necessary to require the presence the Defendant or Respondent.. Those who wish the opportunity to appear remotely via WebEx must ensure that their connection is sufficient to be heard and/or seen, and that their appearance and behavior during a hearing is appropriate for the Courtroom.
Court's Response to Coronavirus Pandemic
En respuesta a la nueva pandemia de coronavirus (o COVID-19), nuestros servicios estaran limitados
Click HERE for the latest information concerning the Court's response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Effective September 1, 2021 - 2021 Superior Court
Local Court Rules
Click HERE for a description of the Ex Parte process.
The Courts will be closed for Labor Day on Monday, September 6, 2021.
Please refer to the Court Holiday Schedule to see changes to regular calendar.
Click HERE for information and attestation form.
Superior Court Administration Benton County Justice Center
7122 W Okanogan Pl
Kennewick, WA 99336
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