King County Superior Court, Pos. 13 – Hillary Madsen

Judicial Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: Hillary Madsen
  • Position Sought: King County Superior Court, Pos. 13
  • Home Legislative District: 43
  • Democrat: Not allowed to answer this question

Campaign Information

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

I attended public schools in Seattle and Tacoma, earned a B.A. in Geography and International Studies with a minor in Latin American Studies from the University of Washington, and then a J.D. from Seattle University School of Law. I began my legal career as a corporate attorney. I moved into public service, becoming a civil legal aid attorney (when I belonged to a union), and now I represent children and youth in foster care and families in crisis in a small, woman-owned law firm in northeast Seattle. I have volunteered extensively in the community, including two terms as chair of the 43rd Legislative District Democrats organization. Currently, I serve on the board of the Children’s Alliance, mentor with two prison-based community organizations, and serve pro bono as conflict counsel for the FIRST clinic, a pilot project in Snohomish County aimed at diverting families from the foster care system.

2. What law firms or public law offices (i.e. King County Prosecutor’s Office) have you worked for? Have you served as a prosecutor or a public defender? Please include dates, and title for each position that you have held, as well as areas of law practiced.

2019 – Present. Law Offices of Mackenzie Sorich (Attorney). Represent children and youth in foster care on state and county contracts. Advocate for families in child welfare, adoption, divorce, child custody and other family law proceedings. First-chair bench trial experience.

2014-2019. Columbia Legal Services (Staff Attorney). Represented low-income, at-risk, homeless and foster children and youth and people incarcerated in Washington jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers. Focused on legislation and appellate litigation with appearances in Division One and Division Two as well as preparing briefs for federal district court and the State Supreme Court.

2013-2014. Law Office of Hillary Madsen (Solo Practitioner). Represented King County Family Law CASA and King County Dependency CASA to assist children in high risk family situations.

2013. King County Prosecuting Attorneys’ Office (Fellow). Completed 3-month fellowship with the Felony Trial Unit to prosecute criminal matters, including jury trials for assault.

2011-2013. Skellenger Bender (Associate Attorney). Represented engineering and architectural firms in civil litigation in state and federal courts; professional negligence; breach of contract; and commercial disputes. Prepared motions and research for criminal defense in federal district court.

2007-2010. Oles, Morrison, Rinker & Baker (Associate Attorney, Law Clerk). Represented general contractors in civil litigation and state and federal courts; breach of contract; government procurement; small business and OMWBE certification; negligence; and commercial disputes. First-chair experience in federal administrative proceedings and a state workers compensation matter.

2006. Washington State Supreme Court (Extern). Extern for retired Chief Justice Gerry Alexander. Drafted materials relating to personal restraint petitions, special bar discipline proceedings, and circulating judicial opinions.

3. Have you ever served as a mediator or arbitrator? (If so, please describe your experiences.) If you are an incumbent, do you perform settlement conferences?


4. Have you been a judge pro-tem? If so, what was that experience like? What did you learn from it?

I started training as a pro tem judge in Tukwila Municipal Court with Judge Kimberly Walden. I have learned from Judge Walden’s judicial philosophy; I appreciate how she approaches each case by considering what can be done to ensure each litigant’s first time in court is their last time in court.

5. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?

I believe the most important quality in a judge is empathy. As President Barak Obama once said: “justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.” I have represented people facing discrimination and struggling with poverty. I appreciate the barriers to full participation in the legal system. I know from personal experience that buses run late, supervisors refuse to give time off, and childcare falls through. Our legislature works hard to draft and pass laws for everyone; our Constitution and laws must be followed by everyone and applied with fairness to everyone.

6. What prompted you to run for this office? What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?

To create a healthy community, we must create a legal system that works for everyone. Our current system works well for judges and lawyers and those who can afford to use it. It does not work well for working people, single parents, people of color, immigrants, people who are disabled or those who struggle with English. As a judge I will be best positioned to advocate for progress in our legal system, I am committed to seeing and hearing from people who have been marginalized, and I have the diversity of experiences our court needs.

7. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

I am seeking endorsements from progressive organizations, the legislative district Democrats organizations, unions and newspapers. I have actively engaged in fundraising with the second highest campaign account of the existing judicial candidates and incumbents.


Part II – Position-specific

1. Do you support making it easier for Washingtonians who are not members of the bar to access public records, particularly at the Superior/District court levels, where per-page fees are charged?


2. Do you have any thoughts on how our courts should address the growing use of smartphones during court proceedings, particularly by jurors?

Yes. While a trial is taking place, everyone needs to give the proceedings their undivided attention from the judge, to the attorneys, witnesses, court reporter, and jurors. The same is true during jury deliberations. While devices can be turned off, or even collected from jurors during the day, a significant challenge arises when jurors go home at night. Jurors reading the news, performing their own internet research, or even discussing proceedings over social media has resulted in mistrials across the country. It is important for jurors to understand the incredible trust being placed in them so judges have a special role in making sure instructions (and consequences) are clear.

3. Is Washington relying too much on court fees to cover the cost of operating our judicial system? How do you believe our courts should be funded?

Our courts are inadequately funded, often local courts are forced to cover their own operating expenses by imposing fees on system users. Unfortunately, often the people who need our courts the most, can least afford to access our courts. I would prefer a funding model that starts with the state funding courts with local support, and then imposing court fees only as a last resort.


Part III – Access to Justice

1. If elected, how will you work to improve access to justice, particularly for communities and constituencies that do not understand the American legal system?

At Columbia Legal Services, I was responsible for investigating conditions at the Northwest Detention Center, and reviewing claims of medical neglect and property theft. I also volunteer with the Latino Development Organization at Monroe where I continue to witness significant language and cultural barriers prisoners confront in accessing the legal system. As a member of the bench, I believe judges have a role to enhance access to justice. First, a judge holds a unique responsibility as the ultimate safeguard of due process. This unique responsibility requires judges to take personal responsibility to make sure litigants understand their rights and obligations and everyone is accorded procedural fairness. Next, judges have opportunity to examine the system to determine where system can be changed to address bias. The Superior Court Judges Association and special Commissions provide opportunities for judges to improve our system and laws. Judges must enhance equal access to justice through promoting a culture of respect and inclusion. Finally, judges must actively recognize, acknowledge and address bias in themselves, others and our legal institutions.

2. What does the phrase Black Lives Matter mean to you as a judicial candidate?

Racism is the most significant barrier to access to justice today. The racist underpinnings of our nation from the days of our founding and the massacres of indigenous people to the forced enslavement of Black Africans, the drafting of our Constitution in 1787, the Naturalization Act of 1790, reconstruction and segregation, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese Americans, red-lining, and mass incarceration continue to manifest themselves in our legal structures. I have seen how our system of crime and punishment upholds oppression without keeping our communities safe in my work with prisoners, especially African-American and Latinx prisoners, who are legally prohibited to vote, organize, seek protection from labor laws, and who are purposefully excluded from federal and state funding for legal aid, health insurance, social security and other public benefits and who, when re-entering society, may legally be discriminated against in housing and employment decisions while being forced to pay cumbersome legal debt. As a former legal aid attorney, I am also familiar with the plight of people who cannot afford legal services or quality legal services. To me, the phrase Black Lives Matter is a call to remember the impact of bias — individually as a judge making decisions and institutionally as an administrator of the legal system.

3. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?

Oftentimes our legal system overemphasizes personal appearances; I would like to see better use of technology so we can save people time and money whenever hearings are required. King County is moving in this direction with limiting oral arguments in certain matters, but we can go farther. I would also like to see technology used to remind people of upcoming hearings and make rescheduling hearings easier. Outside of technology, I would like to see greater emphasis on re-entry, restorative justice, and timelines to permanency for children and youth in foster care. I want to continue with specialty courts and take the lessons we have learned from our specialty courts to improve outcomes for everyone. I also believe we can do a better job collecting data, tracking outcomes, and soliciting reviews from people who use and have been impacted by the court system.


By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name: Hillary Madsen

Date: 04/25/2020

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