COOS BAY — Rick Inokuchi has always gravitated to studies that made him think and work to understand the reasoning.

That's one of the reasons why he is so enthusiastic to enter the race for District 15's soon-to-be-vacant circuit court judge position.

When all his friends went into either vocational studies or computers, he elected for philosophy, which in turn led him to the law.

“My undergraduate degree is in philosophy and that's not really marketable, but the law is kind of the same thing,” Inokuchi said. “You do a lot of reading, a lot of thinking and try and figure stuff out.”

It didn't take long to lead him on the path to law school.

In fact, it took him only a term into graduate school to realize what his passion was for.

“I decided, like they teach you in high school, to do something you're interested in and you like,” Inokuchi said. “I was working on my MBA for one quarter, and it was just the most boring stuff and couldn't stand it. While I was doing that, I took a business law course, which was the only interesting course I had.”

After starting at the Merced County Public Defender's Office in 1987, Inokuchi moved up to the South Coast a year later and has been here ever since.

Coming from a low-middle-class farming family in San Jose, Inokuchi is in his element.

The first of his family to go to college, he's a tireless worker, starting his day at 5 a.m. to make the commute to Curry County, where he primarily practices, just so he can be there when the jail opens at 7 a.m.

Learning and observing from his experiences in the public defender's office, private practice and as a court appointed attorney, Inokuchi has always tried think about the decisions judges make.

"It's not like every theft case goes to jail," Inokuchi said. "There are certain factors that make cases better and worse than others."

Likening the judge to a parent, Inokuchi said judges bear the responsibility of finding the right way to reform a person and realizing there are services outside of the jail to get people the help they need.

"As a parent, you're trying to mold the behavior of your children or change it if they are doing the wrong thing," Inokuchi said. "As the judge, you're trying to mold it, change it, or you're trying to decide something among the quarreling children, and the judge has the power in sentencing to make different services available."

The thought process is what differentiates Inokuchi, something that's not lost on people that meet him.

"I might be wrong, but I'm different than most lawyers in town, or at least that's what people tell me," Inokuchi said.

But it's that philosophy, from reasoning to explanation, that excites him about the possibilities. 

"It's interesting work and there's a lot of responsibility," Inokuchi said. "It'll force you to think and the position is the one part I don't do now."

Reporter Devan Patel can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or by email at Follow him on Twitter: @DevanJPatel.