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.
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!