Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court
July 15, 2004

Thank you Judge Wynne for that kind introduction. And thank you for convening court today on such short notice. I appreciate all of you taking time out of your busy schedules to attend today’s announcement.

While the circumstances that bring me here today are heartbreaking, I am nonetheless privileged to be here to appoint a new Superior Court judge.

Before I announce my appointment, I would like to say a few words about the late Judge Charlie French.

Judge French was the second judicial appointment I made as governor, back in 1997. I was pleased to appoint him to a new Superior Court position.

Judge French represented exactly the qualities I always look for when making a judicial appointment.

He was incredibly hard working. He was highly regarded in the legal community. And he had a great temperament for a judge. He was kind and understanding toward those who appeared before him.

I know it was a thrill for Judge French to follow in the footsteps of his father. Charlie’s great work on the bench made his father proud.

I saw Judge French at the Superior Court Judges Conference at Semiahmoo near Blaine just two-and-a-half months ago. I appreciated the opportunity to see him and stand next to him in a photo of all my judicial appointees. I was impressed at the pace he was maintaining despite his illness.

Judge French was a tremendous contributor to both the Snohomish County bench and to the community; he will be sorely missed. My sincerest condolences go out to his wife Diane, his sons Nick and Lucas, and his father, Judge Stuart French. We thank them for sharing Charlie with us. He left a wonderful legacy in Snohomish County.

As a lawyer and former deputy prosecutor, the appointment of judges is something I take very, very seriously.

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. Most cases are never appealed, so our superior court judges get it right the first time. So it is critical that we have quality superior court judges making good decisions in our judicial system.

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 are heard and disagreements settled peacefully, in an orderly fashion, and based on rules and principles developed and accepted over decades if not hundreds of years.

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 became Governor, I resolved to treat judicial appointments with the importance they deserve and to appoint only highly qualified individuals. Because judges, once appointed, typically serve for many years well beyond the years of a governor.

I believe our judges here in Washington state rank among the best in the nation. Judges: you make us proud and confident about justice in our state.

There were many excellent candidates to replace Judge French. I relied on the strong pool that applied when I appointed Judge Dwyer earlier this year.

Choosing from that talented pool of candidates was hard – very hard. We consulted with a lot of people during that interview process:

· Members of the Snohomish County Bar Association
· Judges of the Snohomish County Superior Court
· The Attorney General’s Office
· The county prosecutors office
· And many others who have dealt with the candidates professionally.

We have also heard from some others interested parties in the last few days.

Each of the candidates had different strengths and different backgrounds. Choosing from the candidates for this vacancy was very, very difficult. It is with great pleasure and honor that I hereby appoint Michael Downes to the Snohomish County Superior Court.

Michael was born and raised in Massachusetts. He attended the University of Texas-El Paso as an undergraduate, and then made his way to Washington to finish his BA at Western Washington University.

He received his law degree from the University of Puget Sound (now Seattle University) Law School. He began his legal career in the King County Prosecutors Office, an office that has produced many outstanding judges, and even a governor.

Michael then moved north to begin working in the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office. He worked his way up the ladder there, and currently serves as Assistant Chief Criminal Deputy.
Michael has 21 years experience litigating cases in court. He has prosecuted all levels of offenses. He has tried many Superior Court jury trials and appeared in thousands of hearings. His trial experience ranges from misdemeanors to multiple-count, multiple-defendant aggravated murder trials. Recently, he handled the prosecutions in the heinous murder of Rachel Burkheimer, a very complex case with multiple defendants and trials. He has also served as a Hearing Officer for several state Bar Association disciplinary and disability hearings.

Michael is also very involved in the community. He is a member of the Rotary Club and a former member of the United Way of Snohomish County board of directors.

Michael is an extremely well-regarded and experienced lawyer. He has been a leader in the prosecutor’s office. Colleagues of his that we consulted reported that he has unimpeachable integrity, and that he always displays good judgment. He has real-world experience that comes from working in a variety of different occupations before becoming a lawyer. And he is very down to earth with good “people skills.” Clearly, he has the legal skills, the demeanor, and the life experiences to be a top-notch Superior Court judge.

Congratulations, Michael, and welcome to the Snohomish County Superior Court.

Our judiciary represents a tremendous amount of talent, experience, and wisdom. I am pleased to be adding Michael Downes to the Superior Court bench, a court that is so important to our citizens and our democracy.

Thank you.

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