Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Farewell, readers... and thanks to my friends at the Northwest Progressive Institute

As NPI reported last week, the King County Council appointed me to a newly created judgeship in the King County District Court. I was appointed on February 22nd, will be sworn in on March 4th, and will take the bench on March 8th.

I want to take this opportunity to say goodbye to NPI's loyal readers... and NPI's staff, who are truly a dedicated group.

It has been an honor and a pleasure to be a Fellow.

The Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from being members of organizations that, like NPI, advocate for or against initiatives, referenda, or legislation. That is why I gave notice that I would resign my fellowship with NPI, even while the appointment process was still unfolding. Before I go, though, I'd like to share with you an insider’s perspective on how one gets appointed.

Whenever a judicial opening on the King County District Court arises, the King County Council makes the appointment.

The new judge then stands for election in the next election cycle. In my case, it just so happens that all District Court judges will stand for election this fall.

The appointment process begins with an application for judicial rating with one or more of the six King County bar associations that conduct ratings.

Any applicant who receives at least one “Exceptionally Well Qualified” rating is referred to the Council. The ratings apply to candidates for election as well as applicants for appointment.

The six bar associations reflect the composition of the entire legal community in King County. Alphabetically they are: The Joint Asian Judicial Evaluation Committee (multiple bar associations representing various Asian ethnicities), King County Bar Association (general cross-section), Latino/a Bar Association, Loren Miller Bar Association (members of African descent), Q-Law (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered), and Washington Women Lawyers.

The rating application asks for all manner of information regarding an applicant’s professional life. This includes the names of opposing counsel and judges, as well as accomplishments and professional references. My application reached fifty pages.

Each bar association’s judicial evaluation committee checks as many references as possible before conducting applicant interviews.

A typical interview lasts twenty to thirty minutes, during which the committee peppers the applicant with questions.

There are anywhere from three to twelve interviewers. After the interview, the committee discusses the applicant’s qualifications and applies a standard that is essentially the same for all associations. The possible ratings are: exceptionally well qualified, well qualified, qualified, not qualified and not rated.

I received “exceptionally well qualified” from all six bar associations. Though that is not unheard of it is a rare occurrence. In my situation two applicants received four “exceptionally well qualified” and two “well qualified” ratings. The ratings are based on a applicant’s specific qualifications; applicants are not rated against one another. For example, all applicants for a particular position could all receive the same rating.

The committee recommends a rating to the bar association’s board, which can accept the recommendation and issue the rating, or reject the recommendation and issue a “not rated” rating.

Ratings last for eighteen to thirty six months, depending on the bar association.

The bar associations notify the King County Bar Association of their ratings. The KCBA refers the names of all applicants who receive at least one “exceptionally well qualified” rating, but must submit at least three applicants to the Council; those who are rated “well qualified” may be referred if necessary to reach the three-applicant minimum. The King County Council makes the appointment decision.

They do so based on the bar rating application, references and other information, and an interview conducted by the Committee of the Whole.

Once the applicants are referred an unofficial process begins.

Applicants gather letters of recommendation, provide additional materials, and attempt to schedule interviews with each of the Councilmembers.

In my case, I submitted a packet of information to each Councilmember. The packet contained a summary of my qualifications, a list of references, my detailed curriculum vitae, copies of my rating letters, and copies of letters of recommendation. I was able to meet with three Councilmembers and staff members for two other Councilmembers.

When all of the materials are in, the Council sets a meeting of the Committee of the Whole to interview applicants. Once the interviews are concluded, the COW goes into Executive Session to discuss the applicants, and makes a recommendation to the Council, who vote on a motion to appoint.

The interview consists of a two-minute opening statement, four questions that are the same for all applicants, and a two-minute closing. There are no follow-up questions, and the applicants do not know the questions in advance.

Applicants are called in alphabetical order by last name. Those waiting their turn are sequestered so they cannot obtain an unfair advantage.

The hearings are video-taped and accessible at King County's website. Just search for the February 22nd meeting of the Committee of the whole. I am the first interviewee, about ten minutes or so into the video.

One must be sworn in before taking the bench. I’ll be having a ceremony on March 4th, and take the bench on March 8th.

In between I’ll be filling out Public Disclosure Commission forms, ordering a robe, and clearing out my office. It has been quite a ride.


Blogger Daniel said...

Thank you Mike for all your hard work and dedication to NPI. I know you will make a great judge. It has truly been an honor to work with you over this past year.

March 1, 2010 10:46 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Mike, we're going to miss you tremendously, but we couldn't be prouder of your appointment to the District Court bench. I will always remember the fun we had at the State and National Conventions in '08. Those were good times!

Take care and serve the people of King County well.

March 1, 2010 11:01 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

After watching the video I can see why they appointed you to this important position. Your dedication to public service should be an example to others who aspire to serve and to make a difference in their communities.
Public service IS HONORABLE. Those that say otherwise, would rather sit on the sidelines and complain.

Congratulations Judge Finkle. Your contributions will be missed by all of us at NPI. May you always be a fair and impartial jurist.

March 2, 2010 7:58 AM  
Blogger OneLiberalVoice said...


March 2, 2010 11:09 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Mike, congratulations on reaching this important step in your career in the justice system. I hope that you find the work to be rewarding and I know your talents and perspective will serve the district court well.

March 3, 2010 10:13 AM  

Post a Comment

By posting a comment, you agree to be bound by the Northwest Progressive Institute's Comments Policy, which may be updated at our discretion.

<< Home