Relationships within justice system | Lost Coast Outpost | Humboldt County

Voter asks Steven Steward, Ben McLaughlin

1 ^

Relationships within justice system

Do you currently have any personal relationships with anyone currently seated as a judge in Humboldt? If yes, how will you navigate that personal relationship in the judicial system?

— Voter


Steven Steward

No. I do not have a personal relationship with anyone currently seated as a judge in Humboldt.  I have appeared before our local judges, on a daily basis, for many years.  I have always maintained the utmost professionalism in the courtroom and believe that any judge that I have appeared before would say that I am an honest and fair litigator with a steady, compassionate and unbiased temperament.  

Ben McLaughlin

Yes, I do. 

Over the past 15 years I’ve worked here in Humboldt, I became friends with several attorneys who later went on to become judges—Larry Killoran, Kaleb Cockrum, and Greg Elvine-Kreis.   I also am lucky enough to be in a long-term relationship with Judge Kelly Neel.  Kelly and I live together and have a child, Emily (also 2 cats and 4 Chesapeakes).

With respect to how I would navigate my professional relationship with Kelly, there are rules in place to avoid potential conflicts.  As is the case now, I would not discuss particulars of on-going cases with Kelly.  In fact, at least as I understand it, judges do not discuss on-going cases among themselves.  This is because, in the event a conflict arises, any discussions could be considered ex parte communications—speaking about a case without all parties present—which are strictly prohibited.  I take the rules of court very seriously and that certainly wouldn’t change, if I’m elected.

My relationships with the other judges I mentioned are cordial and friendly, but are limited to the courthouse.  I’ve never socialized with Judge Killoran, Cockrum, or Elvine-Kreis, though I was a supporter of the former.  My former support of Judge Killoran wouldn’t cause me any concern.  Judge Killoran actually presided over 2 or 3 of my most recent trials and treated me just as he would any other attorney.

I hope this answers your question, which is a good and fair question to ask.  If you want any further follow-up, please email me at either or  To date, I’ve personally responded to all the emails I’ve received.