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Judge Hancock does double duty after tragedy

Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock has the challenging task of filling in as interim judge in another county while continuing his judicial duties in Coupeville.

What makes it even more emotionally difficult is that Hancock is temporarily replacing one of his dearest friends. San Juan Superior Court Judge John Linde, 62, died Dec. 3 while snorkeling in Hawaii.

“I knew him well,” Hancock said. “He was a long time friend and colleague and I’m having a hard time dealing with his untimely death.”

The state Supreme Court appointed Hancock to perform judicial duties in San Juan Superior Court until Gov. Christine Gregoire appoints a successor. The position will be on the ballot next fall.

Hancock said Chief Justice Gerry Alexander called and asked him if he was willing to serve on an interim basis in San Juan; Hancock agreed.

Hancock is the obvious choice. He served as a Superior Court judge in both Island and San Juan counties from 1989 to 2008. Then the state Legislature divide the district, giving San Juan County its own judicial district.

Hancock said he first met Linde more than 30 years ago during a murder trial in San Juan County. Hancock was a deputy prosecutor and Linde was the defense attorney.

“We immediately developed a mutual respect and admiration,” Hancock said.

The two men and their two families have remained close ever since.

“He was a colleague and friend,” Hancock said. “He was like a brother to me. I just really miss him a lot.”

Hancock said he plans to spend a day each week in San Juan County, though trials could change that. He has the authority to appoint pro-tem judges to fill in.

Beginning next month, the workload in Island County will increase for Hancock and fellow Judge Vickie Churchill. County budget cuts forced them to layoff the court commissioner, which means the judges will have to pick up a full day of work behind the bench.

Hancock pointed out that the “Judicial Needs Estimates” report by the state Administrative Office for the Courts says that Island County has a need for 2.57 judges in Superior Court. With the cuts, they are down to just two.

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