Holman named to District Court bench

Steve Holman -
Steve Holman
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Kate Carruthers is among those who may seek his old post at Municipal Court.

From drunk drivers to spouse abusers to meth addicts, Judge Steve Holman has heard 16 years’ worth of the island’s grittiest stories in his Rolling Bay courthouse.

Now Holman’s poised to take on the entire county’s grit.

“It’s been a real honor to have been judge here so long,” Holman said after Kitsap County commissioners unanimously chose Holman as the county’s fourth District Court judge on Monday. “But this new position is a great opportunity and it feels incredibly good.”

Holman will be sworn in March 1 at the courthouse in Port Orchard.

Local pro-tem judges will fill in for Holman at Bainbridge Island Municipal Court until Mayor Darlene Kordonowy appoints a replacement.

Island attorney Kate Carruthers is among the hopefuls lining up to succeed Holman on the local bench, while attorney and City Councilman Bob Scales, who previously expressed interest in the post, said late Friday that he has decided not to apply.

Because Hol­man has served as Municipal Court judge since the island was incorporated in 1991, Kordonowy and her staff will craft a new set of criteria for judge selection.

City administrator Mary Jo Briggs expects the court will have a new judge by mid-April.

“We’re sorry, we’ll miss him,” Briggs said. “He was the best of the best.”

Holman said a strong pool of candidates have expressed interest in his former job, including two attorneys who have served the court as pro-tem judges.

“It’s not easy to let go, but I know really good people are going to fill in,” he said.

Kitsap County commissioners and most of the county’s legal fraternities regard Holman as a natural fit for the District Court position.

Holman has served for many years as the county’s District Court commissioner, a job he held alongside his part-time Bainbridge Municipal Court judgeship.

As a commissioner, Holman filled in for District Court judges on small claims cases and traffic infractions.

“I also did that for 16 years and it gave me a taste of what I’ll now be doing full time,” he said.

Holman said he’s excited about the range of cases he’ll tackle, including civil cases, which are excluded from the municipal court docket.

“In this new position, I’ll see a lot of different cases,” he said. “It will be very diverse and more interesting. I’ve wanted this a long time.”

Holman, who recently built a new house in Eagledale, said he and his family will continue to live on the island while he commutes daily to Port Orchard.

“I love Bainbridge Island,” he said. “I’m way too attached to leave. I’ve been here since 1978, both my kids were born on Bainbridge and I really feel a strong sense of community here. I won’t get to ride my bike to work anymore, but I’ll take the hour-long commute if it means I can stay here.”

Holman was born on Staten Island and raised in Wisconsin and California. He earned a degree in sociology from the University of California in San Diego then studied law at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.

Shortly after graduating in 1977, Holman helped a friend move to a farmhouse on Bainbridge Island.

“I fell in love with this place then and knew I wanted to stay,” he said.

Holman moved to the island within a year and hung his attorney’s shingle at a law firm in Silverdale. He also served as Kitsap County Prosecutor for two years in the early ’80s. In 1990, he donned the municipal court’s black robe.

“Living and working here has been a dream,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed holding court in Rolling Bay. It’s just beautiful there, right next to Bay Hay and Feed, and I’ve had a great staff that was really good to work with.

“I’ve seen the city go from the town of Winslow to a much larger court with many more cases and a more professional operation.”

While it won’t be easy to pass on a gavel he’s held for 16 years, Holman said he’s ready to embrace a new level of responsibility.

“Emotionally, it’s not easy to leave, but everything changes,” he said.

The change will come easier for him, he said, knowing the island’s court will remain in capable hands. Close associates including attorneys Kate Carruthers of Bainbridge and Ed Wolfe of Bremerton have expressed interest in the position, Holman said.

“It’s true,” said Carruthers, who confirmed Thursday that she plans to apply for the judgeship. “I believe the municipal court system is an opportunity to help people take advantage of resources that can change their lives.”

Car­ruthers said the numerous times she’s filled in for Holman have been “very gratifying,” especially when she witnessed people change course for the better.

“It’s wonderful to see people become better citizens and turn their lives around,” she said.

Wolfe could not be reached for comment, while Scales, who confirmed Friday that he has discussed the job with Kordonowy, said he will not in fact apply.

“I don’t want any appearance at all of anything that’s not on the up and up,” said Scales, who would have to leave the council if appointed and be confirmed by his peers. “Even though it would be all on the up and up, it’s too complicated given the position I’m in to be applying for this position.”

Kordonowy said she’ll have an outline for selecting a new judge by the end of next week.

“Judge Holman was such a terrific person for the island and the city,” she said. “We should all spend time congratulating him.”

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