G. Helen Whitener to take Pierce County Superior Court seat

Gov. Jay Inslee has chosen G. Helen Whitener for a seat on the Pierce County Superior Court bench, the Governor’s Office announced Tuesday.

Whitener will start her term this month, replacing Judge John McCarthy, who is retiring after 18 years with the court.

“Helen has dedicated her career to serving the people of Pierce County and is highly regarded for her expertise and dedication to her work,” Inslee said. “Her tremendous work as a judicial officer, prosecutor and defense attorney will make her an exceptional addition to the bench.”

Whitener had a private law practice in Lakewood and Tacoma from 2005 to 2013, dealing with criminal defense, civil contracts and small-business issues.

She now is on the state Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, where she oversees appeals of decisions made by state Department of Labor & Industries administrative law judges.

Among Whitener’s high-profile clients when she was a defense attorney was LaTanya Clemmons, the sister of Maurice Clemmons, the man who shot and killed four Lakewood police officers in 2009.

Whitener represented LaTanya Clemmons during trial on charges that she helped her brother’s getaway driver. A jury found her guilty, and an appeals court later overturned that conviction.

Whitener has worked in both prosecution and defense, as well as a judicial officer. She was a deputy prosecutor for Island County and a public defender in Pierce County.

She ran unsuccessfully for a Pierce County Superior Court judgeship in 2012. She was defeated by Stan Rumbaugh.

Whitener was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago and came to the United States to attend college.

She graduated with a bachelor of business administration degree from City University in New York and earned her law degree from Seattle University.

She’s part of the Pierce County Minority Bar Association and the Tacoma Black Collective.