Governor Chris Gregoire announced today that she is appointing respected King County Superior Court Judge Judge Steven González to the Supreme Court to succeed Gerry Alexander, who will be retiring from the bench at the end of the year.
The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, is the second Supreme Court vacancy that Gregoire has filled as governor.
(Previously, she appointed Debra Stephens in 2007. Stephens stood for a full term the next year and ultimately ran unopposed).
“I am proud to appoint Judge González to the state’s highest court,” Gregoire said in a statement announcing her decision. “He is a legal scholar with deep experience in court, both on the bench as a Superior Court judge and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney and Assistant City Attorney prosecuting cases of international terrorism, child prostitution and hate crimes. His experience with profoundly important issues, close study of the law and perspective as a trial court judge will make Judge González an excellent Supreme Court Justice.”
“It has been a great honor to serve on the Superior Court for the last ten years. I thank Governor Gregoire for the opportunity to now serve on the State Supreme Court,” González said. “I have known and admired Justice Alexander for twenty years, and it is a privilege to follow in his footsteps with his colleagues.”
González has an impressive resume. He practiced business and civil law with Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson for several years after earning his J.D. from the University of California Berkeley Law School in 1991. His public service began in 1996 when he became a trial attorney for the City of Seattle.
During the late 1990s, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for Western Washington. While there, he was instrumental in prosecuting a very high profile case that readers are no doubt familiar with, United States vs. Ressam.
In March of 2002, González was tapped by Gregoire’s predecessor, Governor Gary Locke, to serve on the Superior Court bench in King County. Voters retained González as a judge the following November, and later reelected him for a full term in 2004 and again in 2008. Now, at the age of forty-eight, he appears destined to be one of the state Supreme Court’s eight associate justices.
Chief Justice Barbara Madsen welcomed the appointment.
“Judge González is a highly regarded and experienced trial court judge, a former federal prosecutor and an acknowledged leader in improving access to justice for all in Washington,” Maden said in response to the news. “Judge González will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court and I am confident he will continue to serve the public with great energy and distinction.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine echoed Maden’s sentiments.
“Judge Steven González is a distinguished jurist who is deeply knowledgeable, open-minded, and fair,” Constantine said.
“He has served King County exceptionally well, ensuring access to justice for all, while understanding the racial disparities that still challenge our justice system. I am proud that he will be serving the entire state as a Supreme Court Justice.”
González has served on several boards and task forces during his time as a judge. Presently, he chairs the Washington State Access to Justice Board, and c0-chairs the Race and Criminal Justice System Task Force. He and colleague Mary Yu were recently recognized by the Washington State Bar Association as Outstanding Judges of the Year for their efforts to strengthen equal access to justice.
González will begin serving on the Supreme Court following the arrival of the new year, when outgoing Justice Gerry Alexander’s retirement will become effective. That will give him about a month and a half to prepare for his new duties.