Justice Steve Gonzalez asks a question during the McCleary case (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)
Justice Steve Gonzalez asks a question during the McCleary case (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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.

Justice Steve Gonzalez asks a question during the McCleary case (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)
Jus­tice Steve Gon­za­lez asks a ques­tion dur­ing the McCleary case (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“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.

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.

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