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April 29, 2004

Message from the Governor

This week I had the honor of addressing our state’s Superior Court judges at their annual Spring Program. It’s been a good opportunity to reflect on how proud I am of Washington’s judges, and how important they are to our society.

Governor Locke and his judicial appointments

Our state’s judiciary has been proclaimed among the top five in the United States in competence. As governor, I have appointed 54 of the best-qualified Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Superior Court judges in Washington state history. Nearly half of these judicial appointments have been women. More than 20 percent have been people of color.

At the Superior Court level alone, I’ve appointed 48 exceptional candidates to the bench. All but one of these Superior Court judicial appointees have been retained by voters despite spirited, contested races. This is a testament to their outstanding qualifications, their integrity, and the great job they’re doing on the bench.

I have often been asked why I devote so much time and care to judicial appointments. The answer is: because I must—it’s too important not to.

Quote of the Week
“I am very proud of our state’s judiciary. The quality of our Superior Court and other judges has never been higher. And I suspect the challenges have never been greater. But [our judges] are equal to the task.”
—Governor Locke, April 26, 2004

As a prosecutor and lawyer practicing in Superior Court over the years, I witnessed first hand the profound difference that good judges make—in the courtroom and in our society.

When I became Governor, I resolved to treat judicial appointments with the importance they deserve and to appoint highly qualified judges. This is especially critical because the judges I appoint will serve for many years beyond my time as Governor.

So we developed a thorough, open process to select appointments to the Court. It may seem mundane, but the details have made for great outcomes.

Our legal counsel interviews every single applicant who applies. We make countless reference phone calls—to current judges at all levels, to local bar associations and specialty bar associations, to attorneys who have practiced with the applicant, to the local prosecutor and the public defender’s office. We typically select three or four finalists for each vacancy. I spend at least an hour interviewing each one.

When I make an appointment, I also travel to the county seat or courtroom to announce to the court and the local community in person my selection. This isn’t always easy, and it takes some time. But it confers upon the appointment the formality and solemnity that being selected as a Superior Court Judge merits.

I remember a conversation I had once with a retiring judge to thank him for his 20 years of service and to get his thoughts on the candidates interested in succeeding him. He told me that he learned he was becoming a judge in a simpler fashion than my practice of in-person visits to the county seat. The Office of the Governor simply telephoned him and told him he was being appointed based on his written application—without an interview or any other contact.

The process should honor the importance of judges to our society. The cases our judges preside over and the rulings they render are monumental and life-altering to the parties before them.

Judges are essential to an effective democratic government and society. They lead a legal system that sets us apart from other countries. One that protects the rights of political, religious and ethnic minorities. One that values equality and fair treatment. One that balances society’s needs and rules. Judges are often the voice of reason and conscience when others have lost both.

Judges make possible the peaceful, orderly and rational resolution of disputes.

Peaceful because disputes are not settled by violence, but by discussion and reason based on law. Our courtrooms are the fair and neutral forums in which grievances may be heard and disagreements settled.

Orderly because our legal system is well-defined, methodical and known or knowable to all. It is public and accessible. It can be learned and understood. It is not arbitrary but purposeful. And while outcomes may not be predictable, the process and systems themselves are stable, predictable and consistent. Judges preserve and protect order in our courts and in our legal system.

And rational because our system of jurisprudence is founded on well-defined principles. These principles are derived from a vast body of legal knowledge and authority. And while American jurisprudence is profoundly well-developed as a discipline, it is also humane and alive, responsive to changing ideas—and a changing world.

Our judges deserve our respect and gratitude. In the fair and efficient administration of justice, in upholding the independence of the judiciary, and in serving our judicial branch of government, their great work is critical to democracy.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

Governor's Priorities
News Highlights

Honoring Fallen Workers
On April 28, Governor Locke joined the Department of Labor and Industries and labor and business leaders in honoring the memory of nearly 100 Washington workers who died from job-related injuries or illnesses in 2003. “As we gather to mourn, to reflect, and to honor today, let us also rededicate ourselves to making every workplace in our state safer and healthier,” the Governor said. “Let’s do all we can to protect every worker. Let’s strive to do our best to reach a someday when there are no fallen workers to mourn.” The ceremony, Washington’s official Worker Memorial Day commemoration, was one of many held in communities across the nation. The centerpiece of the ceremony was a reading of the names of workers who died, accompanied by ceremonial bell tolling.

Boosting Salmon Recovery
The Governor congratulated the Hatchery Scientific Review Group on the release of its final report on reforming salmon hatcheries in Puget Sound and coastal Washington on April 23. “Hatchery reform is a critical piece of salmon recovery,” the Governor said. “More than 70 percent of salmon and steelhead caught in Puget Sound are hatchery fish. Our hatcheries must complement what we are doing with habitat protection and restoration.” The report marks the culmination of four years of intensive scientific inquiry, examination and recommendations for reform of the Puget Sound and coastal Washington hatchery system. “I applaud the Hatchery Scientific Review Group, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Treaty Tribal governments, federal agency partners, and Long Live the Kings for their leadership and dedication to this project,” the Governor said. “This report will be the blueprint for future investments in the state hatchery systems.”

Washington Wine to China
Governor Locke’s most recent trade mission to China reaped further benefits as a major shipment of Washington wines to China was announced April 27. “This is further proof that our trade missions yield results. They create jobs for Washington workers and opportunities for Washington businesses and farmers,” the Governor said.  This is also further proof that our award-winning Washington wines are among the world’s best.” China Pacific Group, a Seattle-based corporation, owns Richland Hills Cellars in the Yakima Valley. The company shipped a 20-ft. chilled container of Richland Hills wines from the Port of Tacoma to the Port of Tianjin in China. The amount of wine in the container is roughly 700 cases, or about 8,400 bottles. It’s the company’s first shipment of Washington wines to China.

A History Making Celebration
Governor Locke has declared May 3-9 as Historic Preservation Week in the state of Washington. The Governor is encouraging all citizens to participate in community activities throughout the state. Local organizations are hosting tours of historic places and sponsoring educational and entertaining events. The Governor is especially proud of the efforts of state employees who are working to restore the splendor of the State Capitol, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Washington State Historic Preservation Officer's awards will be presented Thursday, May 6, in Tacoma. The full list of this year's award winners is available at

Upcoming Events
5/3: Judicial Announcement, Seattle
5/3: Governor’s Quality Awards, Lacey
5/5: Public Service Recognition Week, Olympia
5/5: Washington State Patrol Memorial Ceremony, Shelton
5/6: Asian Pacific American Institute on Congressional Studies Banquet, Washington, D.C.
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