New Justice Helen G. Whitener
New Justice Helen G. Whitener (Courtesy photo)

Retir­ing Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court Jus­tice Char­lie Wig­gins has a successor.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee today appoint­ed Pierce Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge G. Helen Whiten­er to fill the vacan­cy left by Wig­gins’ depar­ture. Whiten­er is a dis­tin­guished jurist who has been hon­ored by the Wash­ing­ton State Bar Asso­ci­a­tion, the Wash­ing­ton Woman Lawyers, the Seat­tle Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law, the Taco­ma-Pierce Coun­ty Bar Asso­ci­a­tion, and the Wash­ing­ton Women Lawyers.

“Judge Whiten­er inspires lawyers and non-lawyers alike with her relent­less work to raise aware­ness for mat­ters of race, jus­tice and equi­ty,” Inslee said. “She is tire­less in her com­mit­ment to build­ing a jus­tice sys­tem that works for all, and as a Supreme Court jus­tice, she will have an even greater plat­form to pro­mote jus­tice for every­one in Wash­ing­ton state. I am very pleased to appoint her to this bench and I look for­ward to her many con­tri­bu­tions to our state for years to come.”

Pri­or to her appoint­ment to the Supe­ri­or Court bench, Judge Whiten­er served on the Wash­ing­ton State Board of Indus­tri­al Insur­ance Appeals and on the Taco­ma munic­i­pal court. She has expe­ri­ence as both a pros­e­cu­tor and a defense attor­ney, which will delight the legal com­mu­ni­ty and serve her well on the Supreme Court.

New Justice Helen Whitener
New Jus­tice Helen Whiten­er (Cour­tesy photo)

Incom­ing Jus­tice Whiten­er earned her J.D. from Seat­tle Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in 1998. She also holds a bach­e­lor’s degree in busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion from Baruch Col­lege, City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York, earned in 1988.

“Judge Whiten­er is very active local­ly, nation­al­ly, and inter­na­tion­al­ly and speaks often on human rights, access to jus­tice, and the rights and respon­si­bil­i­ty of the judi­cia­ry in ensur­ing the rights of all that appear before the court to basic dig­ni­ty and respect in judi­cial pro­ceed­ings,” her web­site explains.

“She is co-chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Minor­i­ty and Jus­tice Com­mis­sion and serves on the Board of Direc­tors of the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of LGBT Judges (IALGBTJ). Judge Whiten­er is also a mem­ber of the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Women Judges (IAWJ), the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Women Judges (NAWJ) and the Amer­i­can Judges Asso­ci­a­tion (AJA),” the biog­ra­phy goes to say.

And that’s not all! “In 2017 she was appoint­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court to the Office of Civ­il Legal Aid Over­sight Com­mit­tee (OCLA). She is a for­mer chair and co-chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Supe­ri­or Court Judges’ Asso­ci­a­tion (SCJA) – Equi­ty and Fair­ness Com­mit­tee. Judge Whiten­er is also a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton Women Lawyers and is a judi­cial mem­ber of the Advi­so­ry Coun­cil for the QLaw Asso­ci­a­tion of Washington.”

It looks like Gov­er­nor Inslee has once again hit a home run and picked a superb new Supreme Court Jus­tice for Wash­ing­ton State. A few months ago, he tapped Judge Raquel Mon­toya-Lewis to serve as Jus­tice Mary Fairhurst’s suc­ces­sor. Now, Judge G. Helen Whiten­er will suc­ceed Jus­tice Char­lie Wiggins.

The Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court will now have sev­en female jus­tices, includ­ing a black woman, an Asian Amer­i­can woman and a Native Amer­i­can woman, which is incred­i­ble. I believe this is the most diverse State Supreme Court in the coun­try and in the his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States of America.

For at least the new few months, the Court’s ros­ter will be as follows:

  • Chief Jus­tice Debra Stephens
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice Bar­bara Madsen
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice Susan Owens
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice Steven Gonzalez
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice Sheryl Gor­don McCloud
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice Mary Yu
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice Charles Johnson
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice Raquel Montoya-Lewis
  • Asso­ciate Jus­tice G. Helen Whitener

Oth­er courts around the coun­try are dom­i­nat­ed by white men, includ­ing many of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety per­sua­sion. Not the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court.

This is a court that tru­ly reflects the state that it serves.

We extend our con­grat­u­la­tions to Jus­tice Whiten­er. We look for­ward to see­ing her join the Court and assume her new duties along­side our oth­er justices.

Great choice, Gov­er­nor Inslee!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts