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A seat on the state Supreme Court might go to someone from Pierce County

The governor could appoint someone from Pierce County to the Washington State Supreme Court later this year.

His office said this week that three of the 12 applicants for the seat held by retiring Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst have ties to the South Sound.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge G. Helen Whitener and University Place civil attorney Patrick Palace are both on the list, as is state Supreme Court law clerk Laura Anglin, who lives in Tacoma.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said his legal team will interview everyone within the next few weeks. He’s expected to announce his decision early next month.

“It’s an honor to even be considered,” Whitener told The News Tribune Thursday. “... Justice Fairhurst was just a trailblazer, and to even be in a position where I could get her seat is mind boggling. I’m going to give it my best shot and try to make Pierce County proud.”

Gov. Inslee appointed Whitener to the Pierce County Superior Court bench in 2015.

She had her own law firm in Pierce County and also has worked as a deputy prosecutor, public defender and administrative law judge.

Palace has a private practice in University Place.

“My candidacy is in large part to be able to bring access to the citizens of Washington who can’t afford a lawyer, desperately need legal services and don’t have anywhere to turn,” he told The News Tribune.

Palace said he’s “represented blue collar men and women who have have been injured on the job for a majority of my career.”

He’s a former president of the Washington State Bar Association, and he’s on the National Conference of Bar Presidents Executive Council.

Anglin has worked as a state Supreme Court clerk in Olympia for about two decades. She’s worked for Justices Charles Johnson, Phil Talmadge, Tom Chambers and Steven González.

“I love the work of the court,” Anglin told The Olympian. “I have been deeply immersed in the work for 20 years.”

Anglin is also an adjunct professor at Seattle University’s law school and has worked as state Senate counsel and for the Board of Tax Appeals.

Fairhurst recently announced that she’ll step down at the end of the year.

“In her ‘State of the Judiciary’ address in January, Fairhurst announced she was once again fighting cancer, a third round since initial diagnosis of colon cancer in 2008,” a Washington Courts press release about her retirement said last month. “Since then, she has continued to work while undergoing chemotherapy.”

The person Gov. Inslee appoints for the final year of Fairhurst’s term will run for election in 2020, the press release said.

“A magna cum laude graduate of Gonzaga Law School, she has the distinction of being the youngest ever president of the Washington State Bar Association,” the statement said. “Her election to the Court in 2002 also created the court’s first female majority.”

The other applicants for her seat are:

James Davenport, Buena

Judge Alex Ekstrom, Kennewick

Judge George Fearing, Richland

Jack Fiander, Yakima

Mary Gaston, Seattle

Judge Millie Judge, Everett

Jodi McDougall, Seattle

Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Bellingham

Judge Michael Price, Spokane

If Inslee chooses one of the three South Sounders for the seat, he or she wouldn’t be the only one of state’s nine Supreme Court justices from the area.

Justice Charles Johnson and Justice Barbara Madsen also live in Pierce County, according to their biographies on the Washington Courts website.

Justice Debra Stephens, of Spokane, will serve as the chief justice upon Fairhurst’s retirement, following a vote by the justices Wednesday.

She’ll be sworn in as the chief justice in January.

Stephens was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2008.

Staff writer Sara Gentzler contributed to this report.

Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.
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