Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Tri-County Superior Court Appointment
July 24, 2003
Thank you Judge Baker for that kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be here today. Mary Selecky, secretary of the Department of Health and a Colville native, is unable to join us today but wanted me to pass along her best wishes.
I appreciate all of you taking time out of your busy schedules to attend today’s announcement.
Today I have the privilege of coming to Colville to appoint a new Superior Court judge to serve Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties. This has been a hectic week for me, so I am happy to come to the relative tranquility of Northeast Washington. This is a beautiful part of our state.
I am happy to be here to recognize 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. Yet our judges, who sustain that independence and integrity in the eyes of the public 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 state’s everyday heroes. Their work is so very important, because they preside over cases that are monumental to the individuals before the court. Divorces, 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.
In order to maintain this high quality, we look long and hard for individuals with demonstrated leadership ability and skills to adapt to the wide demands placed on a Superior Court judge.
Before I announce our new appointee, I would like to say a few words about Judge Larry Kristianson, who is retiring from the Superior Court.
Judge Kristianson worked in private practice from 1972 to 1977, and was elected to the District Court in 1975. He was appointed to the Tri- County Superior Court by Gov. Spellman in 1982.
He has been a strong leader in this comparatively small district. I understand that early in Judge Kristianson’s career, he was constantly making a circuit from Loon Lake to Chewelah to Colville to hear cases. One day he forgot his keys and had to hold court on the hood of his car! Judge Kristianson has come a long way since these humble beginnings.
We greatly appreciate Judge Kristianson’s years on the Superior Court bench; he will be missed. But he will be helping out as a commissioner and a judge pro-tem, so he won’t be completely leaving the judicial system. But I am sure he will be making time to spend with his new grandson, Garrett. We thank Judge Kristianson for his service to the Tri County Superior Court.
Appoint Al Nielson
The search to replace Judge Kristianson was grueling and competitive. There were many 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 regarding this appointee. 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. So it is with great pleasure and honor that I hereby appoint Al Nielson to the Tri County Judicial District Superior Court.
Al attended the University of Utah for his undergraduate education.
Al has over 20 years of experience in the legal system. He began his career in private practice in 1980. He focused on real estate, family law, criminal defense, and probate as an associate and then sole practitioner. Al was elected Ferry County prosecuting attorney in 1983. He served as the sole attorney in the office for his first 11 years on the job, so he gained experience in many different types of law. Holding office in a smaller county has many advantages. Al was able to work in a variety of areas, both criminal and civil, while Ferry County Prosecutor.
He then moved to Stevens County in 1998. He has been the chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, engaging in felony trial practice among his many other duties.
Al has also been active in community efforts. He is a board member for the Colville Food and Resource Center and the Colville City Public Library. He is committed to justice for the underprivileged, doing pro bono work, even as a prosecutor.
Al has received tremendous support from attorneys and judges throughout the region. He has been described as a “workhorse who is always prepared.” He is known for his integrity and professionalism. Those who have worked with him have expressed the opinion that he will be a dedicated and fair judge. Clearly, he has the legal skills, the demeanor, and the experience to be a top-notch judge.
Congratulations, Al, and welcome to the Tri County Judicial District Superior Court.