Washington State’s nine State Supreme Court justices will have a new leader as of this January: Steven González. The brilliant jurist, who authored last month’s decision emphatically striking down Tim Eyman’s blatantly unconstitutional Initiative 976, has been chosen by his colleagues to serve in the role, which is for a fixed term, unlike the position of Chief Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
González will take over from Justice Debra Stephens, who served out the remainder of Justice Mary Fairhurst’s term as Chief Justice. (The justices select a Chief Justice from amongst themselves in an internal election.)
“I am honored to be elected by my colleagues and I look forward to working with them and others on the important initiatives and decisions of this Court that touch the lives of everyone in Washington,” said Justice González in a statement.
“González has been a member of the Supreme Court since January 2012, and he was a King County Superior Court judge for ten years before joining the Supreme Court,” the Supreme Court’s press office notes.
“Before becoming a judge, Justice González was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Seattle, and a business law attorney in private practice.”
Voters have elected him to two full terms on the Supreme Court since he was appointed by Governor Chris Gregoire in 2011 to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Gerry Alexnader. Here’s a story about his appointment.
“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,” Gregoire said upon having chosen González.
That appointment ranks as one of Gregoire’s best decisions as governor.
Justice González is one of the finest legal minds that I know. His service on the Supreme Court has been absolutely exemplary. He is an outstanding justice, of the very highest caliber, and our team is thrilled to see him in this leadership role on the Court. It is truly a fitting recognition of his skills and abilities.
Appropriately, his colleagues seem just as delighted as we are.
Wrote Justice Mary Yu: “We have elected a new Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court and his name is Justice Steve González! He will be sworn in as Chief in January. I am so excited!”
“I’m proud to serve on this court with Justice González as our next Chief Justice,” wrote newly retained Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis.
Justice González has been part of every majority decision reached against an Eyman initiative since joining the Supreme Court, and authored an excellent concurring opinion in 2016 against Tim Eyman’s I‑1366.
He supported retired Justice Mary Fairhurst’s lead opinion striking down the death penalty in 2018, and just this week was part of a majority that struck down an old law barring farm workers from receiving overtime pay.
We know Steve González will be a great leader, spokesperson, and advocate for our judiciary in difficult times. Our best wishes to him as he begins his new role.