Blaine man on ballot for state Court of Appeals judge
The battle for the State Court of Appeals has boiled down to two Whatcom County residents.
Blaine resident Jeff Teichert, a non-partisan candidate with major republican ties, will be challenging incumbent Judge Mary Kay Becker, a resident of Bellingham, for her seat on the Washington State appeals court. Becker, a former Whatcom County councilmember and a democratic state legislator has held the seat as presiding chief judge since 1994 and has been re-elected once in 2000.
Born in Provo, Utah, Teichert was the son of a traveling business manager for various organizations, living in states such as Wyoming, Wisconsin, California, Utah and Washington where his father was the manager of livestock operations for U&I Sugar company in Kennewick.
After graduating high school in Orem, Utah in 1985, he attended what was then known as Southern Utah College on a debate scholarship for one year. But growing up in a predominantly Mormon state influenced Teichert to take time off from school to be a full-time missionary for two years in Australia.
“It was probably the most defining experience of my adult life, I entered into the homes of thousands of people during that two-year period and met lots and lots of people from virtually every walk of life,” he said. “I just met people that in my ordinary life that I would not have met and I learned to have compassion for people in all kinds of circumstances.”
In September of 1988, he returned to college, attending what was then known as Utah Valley Community College and later transferred to Brigham Young University (BYU), where he graduated with his bachelor of science degree in family psychology, though Teichert said his goal was always to attend law school.
“I majored in psychology
and human relations and I don’t know if I had a particular
career reason to do it but I’m glad I did,” he
In 1990, he completed a summer internship for the federal circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. and later returned as a deputy clerk, where he was responsible for filing court documents and other administrative duties.
“It was a chance to watch how the court system operates,” he said. “That helped solidify my decision to go to law school.”
In 1991, he returned to BYU law school where he met his wife, then Juliann Burden, of Blaine. Juliann graduated from BYU in 1996 with her bachelor of arts degree in a foreign language and is currently working on a second bachelor of arts degree in fine arts from Western Washington University.
They were married in 1993 in Manti, Utah. The next year, Teichert graduated with his doctorate degree and interned at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Two years later, the couple moved to American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory, where Teichert worked as a judicial law clerk under chief justice Michael Kruse of the High Court of American Samoa.
After law school, Teichert said much of his legal career was dedicated to property rights and land use issues – especially in regards to environmental litigation.
From 1998 to 2000, Teichert worked for the Budd-Falen law firm in Wyoming, which represents industry clients in natural resource and environmental litigation. He also wrote leading amicus curiae brief for the U.S. Supreme Court in Public Lands Council v. Babbitt, a 2000 case where land rights advocates challenged the Taylor Grazing Act, which grants the secretary of the interior power to divide public rangelands.
When asked if he considers himself to be an environmentalist, Teichert said no.
“In practice, I have usually litigated on behalf of business,” he said. “I wouldn’t consider myself an environmentalist, but I would consider myself a conservationist. The thing I worry about sometimes is that arguments can be too simple. It’s easy to say I want clean air, or I want clean water because who doesn’t want those things?”
Teichert added that he considers himself more of an originalist rather than a strict constructionist with regards to interpreting the Constitution.
“My approach to constitutional interpretation begins with the premise that words have meaning,” he said. “My approach to statutory interpretation is the same.
“I don’t consider myself a strict constructionist because if I write a letter to you, it’s not speech that comes out of my mouth, and a strict constructionist might say that’s not protected because it’s not speech and it’s not press.
But I think it’s pretty clear that what was intended to be speech should be a little bit broader than what just comes out of your mouth.”
Teichert said he is working on his masters of laws degree from George Washington University with an emphasis on environmental law and legal history.
“It’s actually finished, but I need to polish up the footnotes and make sure they’re in the right form,” he said.
Teichert said he and his family moved to Blaine in 2001 when he and his wife decided to start a business law firm in Bellingham.
“We love Blaine,” he said. “We think it’s a great town; it’s close to the ocean, has a lot of recreational opportunities, nice people, and good schools. We had often thought about coming back here when we were thinking about starting a law firm. We could have gone anywhere so we thought why not go back to Whatcom County?”
“We also liked the fact that around here people know each other, the kids look out for each other, the teachers know who the kids are and want to know what’s become of them after they grow up. I think people let you have a chance around here.”
Teichert is endorsed by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), the Affordable Housing Coalition, the political arm of the BIAW, the Island County Republican party, the Whatcom County Republican party, representative Doug Erickson, former Whatcom County council candidate Gary Lysne, Whatcom County Council members Sam Crawford and Ward Nelson, and former U.S. senator and Washington state attorney general Slade Gorton.
For more information about Teichert’s campaign, visit his web site at www.JeffForJudge.com.