King County Superior Court Judge — Position 47 – Judge Andrea Robertson

Judicial Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: Judge Andrea Robertson
  • Position Sought: King County Superior Court Judge — Position 47 (Incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 46
  • Democrat: Judges and judicial candidates are prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct from stating a party affiliation.

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 Spokane, graduating in 1992, and then graduated from Eastern Washington University in 1995 — summa cum laude — with a degree in pre-law after three years.

I attended the University of Washington School of Law and graduated in 1998, designated Order of the Barristers and a member of the Moot Court Honor Board, with awards for oral advocacy. I also participated in Street Law, teaching legal concepts and trial advocacy to students in an underserved public high school — Rainier Beach High School. I was also trained through the UW Mediation Clinic and conducted multiple mediations to reach successful resolutions. I was admitted to the Washington Bar at the age of 24.

On December 23, 2020, Governor Inslee appointed me to fill a vacant seat on the King County Superior Court bench, and what distinguishes me as I run for election to retain my seat, as required by law, is that I have spent my entire 22 year career as a trial lawyer in the courtroom. There is a great need for judges with extensive trial experience, and this need has only been exacerbated by the court shutdowns necessitated by the COVID pandemic. There are currently 6,000 pending criminal matters “backed up” (nearly twice the average) which will need to be addressed when it is finally safe to conduct jury trials again. There are also thousands of civil matters, and many hundreds of unfiled criminal cases. It will take the court years to work through this backlog, and therefore my extensive trial experience will be important. Additionally, there are many things the Superior Court must deal with even when the court is operating on a limited basis – child dependencies, mental health issues, domestic violence, juvenile matters, etc. It is essential that judges be adept at moving these matters through the court system quickly, efficiently, and fairly, and my experience in the courtroom is essential to those goals.

I worked primarily in criminal defense trial work for nearly 22 years before becoming a judge. I have appeared in courts in over 20 different counties in Washington to represent accused persons in criminal cases ranging from simple misdemeanors to complex violent felonies.

I have also represented victims of domestic violence and harassment in petitions for protection orders. I have taken part as plaintiffs’ counsel in two substantial class action lawsuits, one challenging the implementation of red light cameras throughout the area, and another challenging the Department of Licensing for assessing substantial fees in order for drivers to receive due process before the suspension of their driver’s licenses.

I have volunteered as a teacher and coach for high school students and practicing attorneys, in teaching trial advocacy techniques and public speaking. I have also been an instructor with University of Washington School of Law, teaching Advanced Trial Advocacy.

I have personally never been a union member; however, my father, who is a community college professor, has been a member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for over 20 years.

In 2016, I attended the Democratic Caucus in the 46th Legislative District. In 2008, it is my recollection that I attended the caucus as well. I am married and for the past 10 years, practiced law with my husband. We have two children and live in Seattle.

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.

I am currently a King County Superior Court judge.

From November 2010 to December 31, 2020, I was in practice with my spouse/law partner, operating Robertson Law, PLLC in Seattle, Washington. I have been lead counsel in hundreds criminal defense matters in district, municipal, juvenile, and superior courts throughout Washington, as well as ancillary civil proceedings. I provided representation in civil protection order proceedings (petitioner and respondent advocate). I was responsible for primary management of law office operations in our 2 attorney firm. I have been plaintiff co-counsel in two substantial class action lawsuits, one challenging the implementation of red light cameras throughout the area, and another challenging the Department of Licensing for assessing substantial fees in order for drivers to receive due process before the suspension of their driver’s licenses.

From December 2006 — November 2010, I was a trial attorney with the Law Office of Steve Rosen. I was lead counsel in hundreds of criminal defense matters: district, municipal, juvenile, superior courts throughout Washington. I was plaintiff co-counsel in a multi-defendant class action lawsuit related to “automated red light” infractions. When Steve Rosen became a full- time judge, my husband and I opened our own practice where I continue my trial practice and he focuses on appellate work.

From April 2002 – December 2006, I was a trial attorney with Fox Bowman & Duarte, PLLC in Bellevue. I was lead counsel in hundreds of criminal defense matters in all levels of the courts, including the State Supreme Court. The firm had a particular focus on DUI and other serious traffic offenses. I also briefed and argued dozens of appellate matters: Superior Courts, Court of Appeals, and State Supreme Court. In 2006, I argued before the State Supreme Court in a challenge related to the State Privacy Act.

From July 2000 — April 2002, I was a trial attorney with the Law Offices of Bradley Johnson in Seattle. I was lead counsel in hundreds of criminal defense matters for a variety of charges: district, municipal, juvenile, and superior courts throughout Washington.

From August 1998 – July 2000, I was a Public Defender for Snohomish County Public Defender Association. I was lead counsel in hundreds of criminal defense matters in Snohomish County district courts and some Superior Court matters. I learned how to manage very heavy caseloads. For approximately three months, I briefed and argued criminal appeals.

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?

%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 am currently a King County Superior Court judge, and have served in this role since December 31, 2020.

I was trained as a Judge Pro Tem approximately 5 years ago, and found it very informative and valuable. However, because the various courts require that a Judge Pro Tem discontinue appearing in those courts if they wish to serve as a Judge Pro Tem there, it was not feasible for me to give up substantial portions of my trial practice in order to serve as a Judge Pro Tem. Because my practice required that I be in courts across many jurisdictions virtually every day, I found it impossible to serve. Additionally, the Ethics Advisory Committee recently issued an opinion precluding criminal defense attorneys from serving as judges pro tem.

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

The most important qualifications for any judge or justice are legal competence and courtroom experience, tenacity, empathy, a strong work ethic, a steady and professional temperament, an ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations, and a strong passion for providing a forum for all to find access to justice. I see the judge’s role to be the eyes and ears of the entire judicial system – watching for inequities and injustice, and finding the means to bring them to light and preserve equal access to justice in both criminal and civil matters.

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

I aspired to become a judge for several years in order to have a greater impact and be a force for justice. However, my plans solidified in 2020 when a number of the sitting Superior Court judges approached me with their concern about the great number of experienced trial judges who have retired in recent years, and the court’s need for new judges with strong trial experience. Additionally, the COVID crisis and the subsequent closure of the courts will require the kind of experience I have, to help the court bring things to a new state of normal without a substantial “learning curve.” As I have almost 22 years of experience in courtrooms across Washington, with most of my practice taking place in King County, many thought I was well-suited for this role. I am passionate about access to a just and fair process in the court system, and want to take a greater role in finding that access, particularly during such a tumultuous time as this current health crisis. In this campaign to retain my seat, after appointment by the Governor, I plan to emphasize that courtroom experience has great value.

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

In 2020, I campaigned for an open seat on the King County Superior Court bench, and despite getting into the race 5 months after my opponent began campaigning, I was gratified by the significant number of endorsements I received and the nearly $80,000 I was able to raise. I worked extremely hard and more than 462,000 people in King County voted for me. I have already begun to build on that strong base of support and have over 100 trial court judges (including 50 of my bench mates) and hundreds of trial lawyers endorsing me. I have been rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified” by 5 independent Bar Associations. My current list of endorsers can be seen here: https://www.judgeandrearobertson.com/

I have retained a campaign manager/consultant who specializes in judicial campaigns and who has a very long track record of success, with over 40 successful judicial campaigns to her credit.

The style of campaigning will likely continue to be very different from years past, given the present health crisis. But I am confident that my message will be presented to the voting public, and I welcome the opportunity to meet with various endorsing associations and publications. In my last campaign, I was able to canvas nearly 8,000 homes with all the social distancing requirements in place.

 

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?

As a practicing lawyer, my partner and I spent thousands of dollars each year as part of our law firm operations to pay for access to public documents on behalf of clients who need these items to assess options and strategies in their legal matters. It would be of great benefit to the public to have access to public records for little to no cost. The transition to electronic records for many other public services can be used as a model for low to no-cost records retrieval options. The harm to pro se and low income litigants in paying per-page fees cannot be overlooked.

This comes with one important caveat. I feel strongly about the importance of preserving the option of sealing confidential medical and juvenile records from public view when these items can cause imminent serious harm to the subject of the records. The therapeutic benefits can be outweighed substantially by the stigma and harm that can be caused by easy access to records which show private data regarding vulnerable defendants, victims, and families. If items are sealed (meaning a high burden is met to a judge for prohibiting public access), these documents must remain inaccessible to the public.

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

The use of smartphones has made our world more connected and information readily accessible. But it creates a risk of improper influence on jurors who are expected to evaluate evidence and render credibility determinations based solely upon the evidence before them, without conducting independent research and fact-finding, as it creates a case outside of the court arena, where the parties have no opportunity to respond and explore claims made by outside sources.

It is critically important for judges to provide strong cautions to jurors about the need to remain isolated from news, social media, and extraneous influences while they are engaged in the important work of determining the facts and applying those determinations to the law to render a verdict. Requiring jurors to power off phones while in court should be an absolute minimum. Asking jurors to refrain from posting or communicating about cases on social media is equally important. And explaining carefully the reasons behind restricting access to outside influences is an important educational aspect of a judge’s duties in sitting on a trial proceeding. I believe most jurors may not have all the information needed to understand the importance and rationale behind restricting the use of smartphones, and the judge’s instructions will shed light on this issue.

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?

As any judge or trial attorney in criminal court knows, a “Judgment and Sentence” can include a laundry list of fees and assessments that the court can impose well beyond the basic fine. For decades, I counseled clients about the frightening financial costs that will likely be assessed at the end of resolving their cases.

As an attorney, I advocated against the imposition of non-mandatory fees when appropriate. And now as a judge, I am aware of the critical need for judges to conduct what is known as a “Blazina” independent analysis of the ability of defendants to pay for legal financial obligations. Overall: the enforcement of payment of some of these fees can effectively place a defendant in a debtor’s prison. I am deeply concerned about interest being accrued on restitution, which sometimes creates insurmountable debts for long periods of time well beyond the life of a case. I hope to have the opportunity to work within the system to work on more sustainable ways to fund our justice system.

Even more important is the careful application of RCW 29A.08.520, which permits a sentencing court to revoke a defendant’s voting rights due to failure to pay these obligations. This directly disenfranchises low income and marginalized populations from participating in our democracy.

While criminal defendants must certainly be held accountable for their actions, there are better ways than subjecting low income people to risk of financial ruin and the inability to escape the criminal system for a better life and a voice in our democracy.

As a practicing lawyer, I was plaintiff counsel in a large class action against the State DOL’s imposition of steep fees for certain individuals to receive procedural due process and an opportunity to be heard about the loss of a driver’s license.

 

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?

It is absolutely critical that each judge treat all parties fairly, and remain cognizant of the implicit bias and prejudices that work against marginalized individuals (as victims, criminal defendants, pro se litigants, and injured persons). All parties deserve their day in court, but that day presents unequal challenges to some, and a judge needs to be mindful of how those challenges can equate to an unequal application of justice.

Judges must also educate jurors about the power of their role, and the importance of providing fairness to all.

Greater access to therapeutic alternatives to traditional criminal proceedings provides true life-changing opportunities for individuals trapped in cycles related to addiction, poverty, and mental illness. Judges should advocate for the implementation of these alternatives among their colleagues and with policy-makers. This includes Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Family Treatment Court, etc.

I see the judge’s role to be the eyes and ears of the entire judicial system – watching for those inequities and finding means to bring them to light and preserve an equal access to justice in both criminal and civil matters.

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

Black Lives Matter is a movement and a moral statement. It sheds critical light on undeniable systemic racism and violence towards Black people, as well as racial inequality (particularly in the criminal justice system). In the coming years, it will be extremely important to me as a judge to be aware of these issues and do my utmost to eradicate as much of that inequality as I can in cases and matters before me. Racism, violence, and inequality are all undeniable problems and must be brought to the attention of those who do not suffer under these systemic limitations so they are addressed publicly.
I am proud to be part of a Superior Court bench which has made a unified statement in support of eradicating racism and bias in our justice system.

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

Both the criminal and civil process involve many unnecessary in-person appearances, which create financial hardships for economically challenged litigants, and the current health crisis has only underscored the possibilities that the system can be subject to reinvention and streamlining, via video and telephonic appearances, agreed orders and more collaboration between the parties. As a judge, I intend to participate fully in helping the courts implement new ways of managing cases in both the criminal and civil arena which should include opportunities to make the courts more open, available, and transparent. The new challenges of court by Zoom have provided us new and creative means to give public access to court proceedings. Our court is also constantly aware of the need for clarity and accessibility in forms and process. I have been deeply impressed (more now that I am working within the court) with the strides that have been made, and how much focus is placed on improvements in the future.

 


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

Printed Name: Judge Andrea Robertson

Date: 01/26/2021

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