Walla Walla County judge to retire

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WALLA WALLA -- After what will be nearly a quarter of a century on the Walla Walla County Superior Court bench, Judge Donald W. Schacht has decided to call it quits early next year.

Schacht announced Thursday he will not be filing this month for re-election next fall, opting to retire after six terms in office. His final day will be in January at the end of his current four-year term.

Schacht's decision prompted a nearly immediate announcement from a local lawyer wanting to succeed him.

Richard Wernette said Thursday he intends to file for election to Schacht's post. Wernette ran unsuccessfully in 2008 against John Lohrmann for the county's other Superior Court judicial post.

Schacht, 65, told the Union-Bulletin he decided to step down because he doesn't want to commit to another four years.

"I have no intention of completing another term and I don't want to quit in the middle of a term," he said.

He first was elected in 1988 to succeed Judge James B. Mitchell the following year. When Schacht retires, his 24-year tenure will be the second-longest of any Superior Court judge in the history of Walla Walla County. Judge Albert Bradford served 25 years on the bench from 1951 to 1976.

Wernette, 52, has practiced law in Walla Walla since 1986. Currently a partner in the firm McAdams, Ponti, Wernette & Van Dorn, his practice emphasizes family and criminal law.

He has served as College Place Municipal Court judge for nine years, has been a Superior Court commissioner for seven and a District Court judge pro tem since 1991.

In a news release, Wernette cited his continued desire to serve the community, his judicial experience and demeanor, legal knowledge and public support as his reasons for seeking the Superior Court position.

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