Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Appointment to King County Superior Court
May 11, 2004
Thank you Judge Eadie for that kind introduction, and for convening court this noon hour. It is a pleasure to be here today. 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 King County to appoint a new Superior Court judge. 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. Our judges, who sustain that independence and integrity in the eyes of the public, receive too 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. 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.
Judges make possible the peaceful, orderly and rational resolution of disputes.
Disputes in our nation are not settled by violence, civil war, or the military, but through a system based on reasoned principles. Our courtrooms are the fair and neutral forums in which grievances may be heard and disagreements settled.
Therefore, our citizens deserve the best, brightest and hardest-working judges. Only through the appointment and election of quality judges can we build more respect for the judiciary, our judicial system, and our democracy.
When I started as Governor, I resolved to treat judicial appointments with the importance they deserve and to appoint only highly qualified judges. Because judges, once appointed, will serve for many years well beyond my terms as Governor.
Recently I saw a U.S. chamber of Commerce study that ranked Washington State judges in the top 5 in both competence and impartiality. Judges: This is a testament to all of you. You make us proud and confidant about justice in our state.
One of those judges who has helped Washington achieve such high distinction is Judge Donald Haley, who is retiring.
Judge Haley was appointed to the Superior Court bench in 1983 by Governor Spellman. He brought a very unique background to the court. He attended segregated schools in Louisiana, where his education was limited to trades and farming skills. He then came to Seattle and entered the University of Washington, where he received a more comprehensive education, including a law degree.
Judge Haley is active in the King County, Washington State and American Bar Associations. He served as chair of the National Conference of State Trial Judges, as well as many other important elected positions in the ABA. He has also been prominent in the Loren Miller Bar Association and the NAACP. And he has been a leader in the community on civil rights issues.
Judge Haley has been one of our most experienced judges and a leader on the bench. He has been a role model for many young attorneys
We greatly appreciate Judge Haley’s years on the Superior Court bench; we will miss his wisdom and leadership. I understand he plans to do a lot of gardening and return to his community activist roots.
We thank Judge Haley for his service to the court, King County, and the state of Washington.
Appoint Judge St. Clair
There were many excellent candidates to replace Judge Haley.
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.
For every vacancy, we consult with a lot of people:
· Members of the King County Bar Association
· Judges of the King County Superior Court and even the Supreme Court
· The Attorney General’s Office
· The King County Prosecutor
· And many others who have dealt with the candidates professionally.
But there was one candidate who had the just the right combination of expertise, intelligence and life experiences to fill this vacancy. Indeed, I wanted this person to apply sooner for a Superior Court position, but he always said the timing wasn’t right; that he had some unfinished tasks. But the timing is now right! So it is with great pleasure and honor that I hereby appoint Judge Wesley St. Clair to the King County Superior Court.
Judge St. Clair attended college at a wonderful school back east, Yale University. Although Yale is also my alma mater, I assure you this played no part in my decision to appoint Judge St. Clair! His undergraduate degree was in African History and Economics. He received his law degree from the University of Washington in 1982.
He began his legal career in the King County Prosecutor’s Office. This office has produced many outstanding judges, and even a governor. He was in the criminal division there for three years, handling prosecutions at all levels.
Judge St. Clair then opened his own solo law office in Bellevue. He then changed roles, handling criminal defense work. He also worked on the civil side, mostly handling personal injury cases. He then worked as a King County District Court Magistrate and Pro Tem Judge. He was appointed as a full-time district court judge in 1991.
Judge St. Clair is the presiding judge of the King County District Court. One of his colleagues on the district court described the role of presiding judge as “thankless.” During his tenure as presiding judge, the court has undergone a large and difficult transformation. But Judge St. Clair has been recognized as a remarkable leader during this tumultuous time.
He is very active on judicial administration issues. He has served on a number of King County Committees dealing with criminal justice issues. He was a long-serving member of the state Supreme Court Gender and Justice Commission. And he has been dedicated to domestic violence issues while working in the district court.
Judge St. Clair has proven experience as a judge. He has a varied background, having practiced both criminal and civil law. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers count him among the district court’s best judges. The King County Bar Association recognized him as the 2003 Judge of the Year. Clearly, he has the legal skills, the demeanor, and the experience to be a top-notch Superior Court judge.
Congratulations, Judge St. Clair, and welcome to the King County Superior Court.
Would you like to say a few words?
(Opportunity for Appointee to Speak)
Our judiciary represents a tremendous amount of talent, experience, and wisdom. I am pleased to be adding Wesley St. Clair to the Superior Court bench, a court that is so important to our citizens and our democratic form of government.
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