Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Appointment to Pierce County Superior Court
January 31, 2003

Thank you Judge Orlando for that kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be here today.

I appreciate all of you taking time out of your busy schedules to attend todayís announcement. Especially since I understand that many of you have another obligation at 2pm for Judge Leightonís swearing in ceremony.

Before I begin with the official business, I want to take a moment to recognize the passing of one of Pierce Countyís most prominent judges.

Judge Bertil Edward Johnson died Monday at the age of 101. He began serving the Superior Court in 1951. As both a judge and a private citizen, Judge Johnson made a tremendous impact on the community. He was the kind of judge, and person, who we should all strive to emulate.

And now on to the official business. Today I have the privilege of coming to Pierce County to appoint a new judge.

I am here personally to pay tribute to the vital role that judges and the court system play in our society. As a lawyer and former deputy prosecutor, the appointment of judges is something I take very, very seriously.

I have a deep and abiding commitment to the independence and integrity of the judicial branch of our government.

And itís our judges, more than anyone else, who sustain that independence and integrity in the eyes of the public. Yet they receive very little recognition. There is too little understanding of the complex decisions they must make everyday.

I strongly believe that our judges are among our stateís everyday heroes. Their work is so very important, because they preside over cases that are monumental to the individuals before the court. Marriage dissolutions, child custody, personal injuries, business disputes, and criminal cases are life altering to the people before the courts.

Therefore, our citizens deserve the best, brightest and hardest-working judges. Only through the appointment of quality judges can we build more respect for the judiciary, our judicial system, and our democracy.

That is why we looked long and hard for individuals with demonstrated leadership ability and skills to adapt to the wide variety of demands placed on a Superior Court judge.

But before I announce our new appointee, I would like to say a few words about Judge Terry Sebring, who is retiring. Unfortunately, Judge Sebring isnít here today. Apparently, he is vacationing in Arizona. Getting out of the Northwest this time of year is a very astute move, indicative of the common sense he employed as a judge!

Judge Sebring has been a Superior Court judge since 1990. He has heard hundreds of cases, and he has also been very involved in the administrative functions of the court.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as a deputy prosecutor, Legal Counsel to Governor Booth Gardner, and as the Administrative Officer for the Pierce County Executive.
We greatly appreciate Judge Sebringís years on the bench; he will be missed.

The search to replace Judge Sebring was grueling and competitive. There were over a dozen excellent candidates, making this a very difficult but satisfying decision.

First and foremost, we needed someone with unquestionably solid legal skills and experience. Someone with the temperament and wisdom to bring efficient, understandable justice to the people.

Choosing from the talented pool of candidates was hard. We consulted with a lot of people:

∑ Leaders and members of the Pierce County Bar Association
∑ Judges of the Superior, Appeals, and Supreme Court
∑ The Attorney General
∑ The Pierce County Prosecutor and the Public Defenders
∑ And many others who have dealt with the candidates professionally.

Many people whose opinions I respect very much called me. Each of the candidates had different strengths and different backgrounds.

There was one candidate who had the just the right combination of experience, intelligence and life experiences to fill this vacancy.

It is with great pleasure and honor that I hereby appoint Judge Ronald Culpepper to the Pierce County Superior Court.

Ron is a native of Pierce County. He attended the University of Washington for both his undergraduate and legal education, and he was admitted to the Washington bar in 1976.

Ron has over 25 years of experience in the legal system. After law school, he began in private practice, with an emphasis in family law, bankruptcy, and personal injury.

He then worked for ten years in sole private practice here in Tacoma. In 1987, he became a Pierce County District Court Judge. He has made thousands of decisions as a judge over the past 15 Ĺ years. He has also had judicial experience as a Superior Court Commissioner and Arbitrator.

Ron has served on various committees of the District and Municipal Court Judges Association. He was one of the founders of the Greater Puget Sound Domestic Violence Conference. And he has helped with many community organizations, including the Eastside Boys and Girls Club and the Cub Scouts.

Ron has been a great asset to the District Court bench. Among other positive characteristics, he has displayed great patience with pro se litigants. Clearly, he has the legal skills, the demeanor, and the experience to be a top-notch Superior Court judge.

Congratulations, Judge Culpepper, and welcome to the Pierce County Superior Court.

Would you like to say a few words?

(Opportunity for Appointee to Speak)

Thank you.

The Pierce County Superior Court represents a tremendous amount of talent, experience, and wisdom. I am pleased to be adding Ron Culpepper to a branch of government that is so important to our democratic system.

Thank you.

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