Pierce County Superior Court #4 – Rebecca K. Reeder

Judicial Questionnaire 2022

Candidate Info


Candidate Name:     Rebecca K. Reeder
Position Sought:     Pierce County Superior Court #4
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Non-incumbent
Home Legislative District:     28th

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     John Winkler
Website     www.rebeccaforjudge.com
Facebook     www.facebook.com/rebecca.reeder.for.judge

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please describe your qualifications, education, employment, past community and civic activity, as well as any other relevant experience.

My post-secondary education can be summarized as follows:
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
B.A. earned in Business Administration June 1992
Concentration: Finance

Seattle University School of Law, Tacoma, WA
J.D. earned in May 1995, cum laude

I have received extensive training through the Pierce County Superior Court and other organizations in my almost 30 year career.

During law school, I held 3 separate internships. Since graduating from law school, I have worked for 2 primary employers. Most notably at Alliance Law Group (ALG) for the past 24 years. My employment history since joining ALG is as follows:

Alliance Law Group, PS, University Place, WA
Attorney: June 2000 to present. Managing partner since 11/2010
Attorney Responsibilities: Maintains full caseload which involves court appearances before Superior Court Commissioners & Judges, preparation of motions, supporting declarations and memorandums, orders, and other pleadings related to practice. Attends motions, mediations, trials, depositions, client meetings, etc. Produces correspondence, discovery requests, maintains close contact with clients, opposing counsel and the court. Private mediator for parties involved in litigation.

Pierce County Superior Court, Tacoma, WA
Pro Tem Court Commissioner: 2002 to present

I have also received extensive training over the years in areas of law that are routinely handled by Superior Court Judges. As a pro tem Court Commissioner, I rule on cases in numerous areas that Judges in Superior Court must be well versed in as part of their role on the bench. I have ruled on the following types of cases filed with the Pierce County Superior Court:
• Family law dealing with any number of topics to include spousal support, restraining orders, child custody, ordering evaluations and reviewing the same (such as mental health, drug/alcohol, and anger management), appointment of guardian ad litems, enforcement of prenuptial and post nuptial agreements, appointment of special masters, third party custody cases (nka minor guardianship), de facto parentage, insurance issues, occupation of homes, etc.
• Paternity cases (child support, residential schedules, genetic testing, motions for summary judgment, name change requests, back child support, etc.)
• Child Support to include post-secondary or college support
• Contempt cases which can involve jail sentences
• Guardianship hearings
• Probate cases with and without wills
• TEDRA actions
• Minor Settlements of injury cases
• Approving structured settlements and early withdrawals from the same
• Collection actions to include supplemental proceedings
• Unlawful Detainer actions (evictions)
• Ex Parte docket
• Specific types of real estate cases
• Civil Protection Orders to include domestic violence orders of protection, sexual assault orders of protection, anti-harassment orders, vulnerable adult orders
• Becca Bill / truancy docket (ReMann Hall)

Pierce County Superior Court, Tacoma, WA
Arbitrator on cases assigned to me by the court: 2008 to present
Responsibilities: Take testimony, review evidence and rule on cases assigned to me as the arbitrator with the ability to award up to $100,000 in damages.

In addition, I have an extensive history of community service both in the legal and non-legal sectors. In fact, I was the 2023 recipient of the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association Marilyn Holzmann Humanitarian Award due to my community service in the legal community. The award reads: “For devotion to the welfare of human beings striving to alleviate pain and suffering and for other philanthropic endeavors”.

My current community service is as follows:

1. YWCA Pierce County board member at large

2. Tacoma Pierce Co Bar Association Family Law Section – President Elect

3. Tacomaprobono Community Lawyers: I am also currently working with Tacomaprobono Community Lawyers where I volunteer at their pop-up clinics and provide consultations and give legal advice to their clients at their in house clinics.

4. Sexual Assault Protection orders (SAPOs): I am appointed to represent parties seeking sexual assault protection orders through trial through the Pierce County Superior Court on a volunteer basis. Attorneys are appointed to represent Petitioners when the responding party has private counsel in order to level the playing field.

5. Department of Assigned Counsel: I represent children that are placed in foster care primarily between the age of 11-18 on a voluntary basis through the Department of Assigned Counsel. I advocate for them based on their stated wishes about plans for returning home, potential termination of their parent’s rights, new foster care placements, their education and medical care, etc.

Additional history of service:
• Center for Dialog & Resolution (fka Pierce County Center for Dispute
• Resolution), Volunteer Mediator
• Clover Park Technical College Foundation, board member & member of scholarship committee
• Junior League of Tacoma – Active member & board member
• Steilacoom School District – classroom volunteer 5 hours per week every Friday for years
• TPCBA Board – Trustee
• TPCBA Family Law Board – Trustee
• TPCBA Young Lawyers Division – Board member: Secretary, Treasurer, President & Past President
• Volunteer Legal Services – Theater Benefit Committee (fundraising)
• Youth soccer & baseball coach for multiple years

There are other endeavors I have participated in to support my community to include volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Tacoma Rescue Mission, Mock trials, I adopt a family each year at Christmas, frequent donor to Locks of Love, etc.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I am seeking this office because I love the law. Just as I thoroughly enjoy sitting on the bench and presiding over all types of cases for the past 22+ years and helping people resolve their legal matters. I also enjoy meeting people in my community and interacting with them. Just as I have spent years protecting others, in particular children. Sitting on the bench will allow me to take my strong protective instinct and protect and help more people in the community. Just as giving back to the community is important to me as I get so much back personally when I engage in these endeavors.

I know how lucky I am to be a part of this profession. So now after nearly 30 years as an attorney, I want to pursue my service to the community in a different capacity by serving as a Superior Court Judge. I want to take all my passion and experience to the bench and help even more people than I did over the years as a private attorney. Giving back and community service are important values to me, and serving as a judge is the best way I can think of for me to do that. Given my experience serving on the bench in Pierce County Superior Court for the past 22+ years, I am in a position to hit the ground running on the first day.

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

Socrates aptly described the most important qualifications of a good judge: “Four things belong to a judge: To hear courteously; to answer wisely; to consider soberly; and to decide impartially.”

In addition to having a law degree, I further break that down as follows:

Hear courteously: A good judicial temperament is the hallmark of a good judge. They must be calm and patient. Respectful. Approachable. They must possess the ability to listen.

Answer wisely: They must have be thoughtful and good communicators. They must be compassionate and sensitive to people. They must possess cultural awareness and tolerance. They must have humility and be willing to learn new things and be corrected when appropriate. They must use common sense.

Consider soberly: Beyond intelligence, they must be hard workers. They must familiarize themselves with the law and carry it out appropriately. They must be prepared.

Decide impartially: They must have judicial Integrity and not be influenced by the identity, race, gender, political status, wealth or relationship of the party or lawyer before them. Simply put this is not doing what a judge knows to be wrong. They must be above politics. They must have legal courage, which is difficult in that often judges must do what the law requires even though the course the judge must follow is not the popular one.

4. What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?

The most significant priority for me in my campaign is addressing access to justice.

The first issue to address is pro se litigants. There are so many pro se litigants within our judicial system. I have firsthand knowledge of their needs and concerns from my volunteer work at Tacomaprobono Community Lawyers and seeing litigants when I am on the bench. Solutions would be to make it more user friendly for them and/or provide them with more assistance through pro bono programs and attorneys, through legal shield organizations, courthouse facilitators, qualified paralegals or LLLTs, legal interns, law students, law school advocacy programs, legal advocates, etc. We need to develop comprehensive legal aid programs that cater to the specific needs of different communities. By bridging the gap between legal assistance and affordability, these organizations offer a lifeline to individuals in need.

We need to simplify confusing paperwork. One solution would be posting tutorials on the court website with step by step instructions on how to a) file for divorce, b) how to get a restraining order c) how to file for probate d) how to get an agreed or disputed court order signed by a judge, etc. Just as people need to know simply where to locate the forms.
There are significant language barriers that affect parties’ access to the courts. Just as individuals from historically oppressed communities may face systemic biases and discrimination, further hindering their access to justice. Judicial officers to include candidates need to interact with members of each community in their area to better understand what biases other people see and face on a daily basis. A more diverse understanding of cultural norms by judicial officers will help mitigate bias and better serve the needs of all individuals.

We need to address ensuring fair trials. Part of that requires better case management for attorneys working for the Department of Assigned Counsel or other pro bono programs to ensure they can properly represent ALL of their clients to the best of their ability. Limits on caseloads are necessary.

We could increase the ability to attend hearings via zoom whenever possible to meet the needs of parties that have no childcare, no time off work, no transportation, because they are caring for a loved one, because they moved out of state, etc.
We need to improve alternative dispute resolution options. That will allow parties to avoid trial and the immense cost associated with that. We have non-profit centers helping with that. We need the court to provide more ADR opportunities as well. One idea would be to have one judicial officer in Pierce County to serve as a full-time mediator on a rotating basis. I fully believe a judge could resolve more cases as a mediator than through trials before them. If you allocate either a half day to a day to each case that would take several days to try AND you can settle it, you will be using a judicial officer’s time more effectively and efficiently. This would also help move through the backlog of cases on our docket.

Part II – 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?

I will work to improve access to justice as follows:

Based on my experience and observations, here are three issues I would like to work on to increase access to justice as a judge right away.

A. I have been handling cases at ReMann Hall (juvenile court) since before the pandemic. I have primarily worked in dependency (when a child is removed from their home and placed in another suitable living environment) or termination cases (parents are losing their parental rights). There are several hearings on every case throughout the year. Many parents are losing their children on a temporary basis because they do not have suitable housing, often they are unemployed with limited financial resources, some are incarcerated and not available to care for their children, many parents have substance abuse issues, the list as to what contributed to their children being removed from their care is long. Before the pandemic, many parents were not making it to their court hearings or meetings with their social workers and attorneys such as permanency placement meetings. They were not making it to hearings because they did not have reliable transportation. Many did not have enough money for bus fare or they live too far away to depend on public transportation. Many do not have housing, so obtaining transportation is not a priority. Many are in new jobs and do not have the time off to attend a hearing or simply cannot afford to take the time off for said hearing. There are those that do not attend because they have substance abuse issues. Even though they may lose their children for their non-participation, they are not attending the hearing for one reason or another.

When the pandemic started, the court hearings started to occur via Zoom. The court found the participation level of the parents skyrocketed. If parties did not have reliable transportation, most had Wi-Fi or access to Wi-Fi to attend the hearing. If they had a new job, they could usually take a 5-10 minute break to participate in the hearing. In the recent past, ReMann Hall has returned to in person hearings. I understand why all-day trials should occur in person. But I do wonder why 5-10 minute hearings that occur as frequently as monthly are mandated to be in person given the reduction in participation that occurred almost immediately. Other Superior Court departments have remained open with appearances via Zoom. Given the population that is served at ReMann Hall, I would like to see more Zoom hearings. If “return to home” is clearly the goal in each case, Zoom appearances would be permissible whenever possible.

B. Most everyone I know has reliable transportation. However, the more I work with the general population, the more I have come to realize that this is a luxury that not everyone shares. That affects their ability to hold a job, care for their children, and attend court for their hearings. This became so evident to me while working at ReMann Hall. I would like to work with Pierce Transit, possibly with a grant, to secure reduced cost bus fare for any party traveling to court. This would include anyone facing criminal charges, eviction hearings, anyone with a court hearing. I believe this would be a win-win. The court would have more parties attending their necessary hearings. Pierce Transit would gain additional riders that would not otherwise be on the bus, which in turn increases their revenue. Currently jurors are receiving bus passes so the County has worked with Pierce Transit in the past.

We need litigants to attend their hearings. If not, the costs of the justice system increase. By way of an example, if a litigant misses a particular criminal hearing, a bench warrant is often issued for their failure to appear. This in turn increases the workload of law enforcement when these individuals are pulled over or apprehended on their outstanding warrant. This in turn increases the workload of everyone in the local jail to process them, feed them, get them to their court hearing escorted by more law enforcement officers, only for the court to process them and quash the warrant. All a complete and utter waste of resources better spent elsewhere. All because they missed their hearing because they did not have reliable transportation.

C. Another issue that affects the courts are cases with pro bono attorneys. They would be most helpful to people that do not understand the American legal system. There are a number of absolutely amazing attorneys working for non-profit organizations and the Department of Assigned Counsel who provide free legal services to parties that financially qualify. Just as there are a number of amazing attorneys that are volunteering their time to assist with these cases. But they are often overworked, underpaid and their programs are often underfunded. Quite frankly, we need more pro bono attorneys. Many of these organizations employ or utilize a wide range of attorneys from rather inexperienced to very experienced. I would like to see more free trainings offered to pro bono attorneys, particularly less experienced ones, to maximize the quality of their service. The court could definitely assist in this area.

There may also be grants available to assist with training. Just as I would approach “for profit” organizations that provide attorney trainings (called CLEs) and ask that they offer reduced or no cost attendance opportunities at training seminars for pro bono attorneys. Given that these trainings are often being conducted via Zoom post-COVID, there is limited cost to their attendance if a set number of scholarships are given. Each attorney in Washington State must complete 45 hours of training every 3 years, which can be expensive.

I would also like to see these pro bono attorneys get priority time settings when their cases are heard by the judge. The morning docket/calendar often starts at 9:00 am. But there may be 10-20 cases scheduled at 9:00 am. I would like to prioritize cases to be heard earlier on the docket when there is a volunteer attorney or pro bono attorney on a case. Otherwise, they may be sitting in the courtroom until noon waiting for their case to be called. Having their hearings heard earlier will give them more time in the office to serve the rest of their clients. Just as I would like to allow pro bono attorneys to appear via Zoom whenever possible. They can then handle other matters in the office while waiting for their case to be called if a priority time slot is not possible. This will encourage more attorneys to volunteer for cases if these cases take up less of their time. There is certainly the need for additional attorneys to accept more pro bono cases, so I would like to take better care of them.
Just a few weeks ago I held a family law legal clinic at Tacomaprobono. One of the clients in attendance stated that English was not her first language and she did not understand why the court had failed to finalize her case when in fact the court gave her specific reasons why her orders were not signed. In my view, her issues were easy to remedy. But she was absolutely lost. I proceeded to make copies of her final orders, I got a red pen and I wrote on the papers what changes she needed to make to them. We discussed each change individually. Had she not received help, she would have been stuck. So having more people available to answer simple questions goes a long way with people that may not understand the American legal system.

2. 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?

Before the ruling on State v. Blazina, the court absolutely was relying too much on court fees to cover their operating costs. Pre-Blazina, the failure to pay court fees, fines, and other costs could land a person in jail simply because they are too poor to pay them. However, in March 2015 Washington State Supreme Court mandated a change in that regard. The court ruling held that RCW 10.01.160(3) requires the record to reflect that the sentencing judge made an individualized inquiry into the defendant's current and future ability to pay before the court imposes LFOs. This inquiry also requires the court to consider important factors, such as incarceration and a defendant's other debts, including restitution, when determining a defendant's ability to pay. The state Supreme Court’s directive was that lower court’s not impose fees on indigent litigants, no matter how desperate a locality may be to subsidize its courts by charging fees to people who use its services.

I suspect more work needs to be done, but the Washington State Supreme Court mandated a sweeping change in this area and was a leader among other states in handling this issue.

3. Would you, if elected, bring restorative justice as a goal to your court room? * If yes, describe how that could look.

Absolutely. I know so many victims feel invisible or not heard by the criminal justice system. The beauty of restorative justice is it aims to repair the harm done to victims. It also involves the offenders taking responsibility for their actions, understanding what they have done and attempt to make amends. It also discourages the offender from causing further harm to others.

It generally involves a dialog between the victim and offender. It allows the victim to detail the lingering impact of the incident, whether that be PTSD responses which would include flashbacks, nightmares and other triggers, physical healing, trust issues, the list goes on. The dialog needs to be tailored around the victim and their wishes, particularly if they are still healing from trauma. That may involve third party participants to facilitate the dialog. It may involve mental health professionals, conflict resolution professionals, parenting coaches, and the like. I would love to incorporate a therapy dog in the courtroom to make victims and children more comfortable in the courtroom and during these processes as well.

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

A judge cannot forget that they are a public servant with responsibilities to the public. A blend of transparency, accountability, and expertise must be found in order to have a fair and effective judiciary. Transparency within the legal system is crucial for enhancing public trust and understanding. A transparent judiciary reduces the fear of biased rulings. Pierce County Superior Court tries to be as transparent as possible. For the most part, we have open courtrooms. Most cases are reviewable by the public as are rulings and orders of the court. (There are exceptions to this for cases dealing with children as are certain confidential records related to income and health sealed from public view.) We utilize a jury system on numerous types of cases so our peers are often deciding these very important issues. We allow litigants to “disqualify” or remove one judge in each case provided it is done before they make any rulings. In Pierce County Superior Court, the system is currently set up to mandate that balance so we do not have a rogue judge hearing our cases.

We must work toward ensuring all judges take any blindfold off that they may be wearing to mask what has occurred and/or is occurring toward historically oppressed communities. That involves education, education and more education. Formal education in judicial college. Getting out into the communities and talking to people. Holding town hall meetings for citizens to voice concerns and/or praise changes that have occurred. Collaborate with the community. Look for the next big idea, large or small. Advocate for change. Then it is not enough that only judges are educated. Prosecutors need to be educated. Law enforcement. First responders. Defense counsel. Private counsel. All stakeholders must be educated. I would happily spearhead efforts to do this in collaboration of a number of our amazing minority bar associations, Washington Women Lawyers, community service groups, judges in neighboring counties, etc. We all win when the court’s approval rating is up.

5. What are your thoughts on how our courts could permanently incorporate the growing virtual options after the need of the pandemic has passed?

I welcome more appearances via zoom for a number of the reasons already discussed. I understand that there are drawbacks. This creates more work on staff. It causes delays due to technology issues with questions “can you hear me?” or “please turn on your camera” over and over. The main concern I have to more zoom proceedings is it is harder to assess credibility via zoom rather than in person. It is harder to assess whether or not a person is being coached or being given answers to questions in their room when we cannot see inside the room. It is harder to assess if someone is under the influence of substances. We can certainly work around these issues as overall, handling things via zoom as more pros than cons.

I have been involved in more than once case where Zoom significantly helped me and/or my client. Examples: A trial was continued in April 2022. The judge really wanted the trial to commence in May 2022 as it involved children and significant mental health issues, but I was scheduled to be out of the country. I was given permission to appear at trial via Zoom when trials were all being held in person. Just as in June 2022, I had a high conflict case set for trial. I was diagnosed with Covid a few days before trial was to commence. The Judge accommodated me and allowed everyone to appear via zoom thereby getting closure for this family. Just as I was on vacation in September 2022, and the opposing party filed a new case and wanted to stop all residential time between my client and their children based on false allegations. I was able to appear via zoom and point out the inconsistencies in the opposing parties’ request and maintain my client’s residential time. My client probably would have not been able to make these arguments without legal assistance. Justice would not have likely occurred in court had I not been able to appear via Zoom.

Just as the costs of expert testimony would be lowered if experts can appear via zoom. Now the doctor hired on your medical malpractice case would be able to block out a smaller portion of their day to testify if they no longer need to commute. My office has also had cases with experts that lived out of state. It is very expensive to pay for your expert to fly to Pierce County, plus add lodging, transportation and meals. The litigation costs for that expert would be a fraction if they are allowed to testify from their home state instead of traveling to Washington to testify. Again far more pros than cons.

6. Justice delayed is justice denied, what are your thoughts on how to catch up on the current backlog of cases awaiting trail? Additionally what changes to the current court system would you implement to insure speedy justice?

This has been an issue in Superior Court since I started practicing. To answer both questions, the first thing we need is more prosecuting attorneys and defense counsel to include DAC and pro bono attorneys to handle all of the criminal work. I believe we have sufficient attorneys available to catch up on the civil work. Just as we need more judicial officers to hear the cases. The State has already authorized an additional 2 judges in Pierce County, but the County Council has not agreed to fund these positions due to financial constraints. So that funding needs to come through. Or we need a grant or some other funding to hire pro tem judges to assist with these cases. I am rather confident we could get a number of retired judges to handle cases for a week or two so we can engage in a trial blitz. We could utilize the courtrooms of the judges on recess, every time they are on recess. Right now when judges are on recess, their courtroom sits empty and no cases are moving through. Pro tem judges can help.

We could encourage parties to stipulate to the use of a pro tem judge to be paid at the pro tem rate. Right now the parties have no assurance that trial will start on the date scheduled. If a pro tem is hired, they would have certainty that they would start as scheduled. So even if they had to pay for the judicial officer, it may save them money in additional prep time if their case is moved once or twice. The parties would then stipulate to using a particular Judge. I envision this for civil trials only and not felony criminal cases.

7. What judicial reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals in our communities?

I am not sure we can do anything as impactful as the abolishment of the death penalty in 2010 in Washington State. That was long overdue as a necessary judicial reform. Going forward, there is always more that can be done. We can start by hiring good judges from varied backgrounds. Judges that have significant professional and life experiences. Then educate them. Not just about the law either. About diversity. About cultural norms. I have learned the most about equity and inclusion from my extensive travels and from talking to people in those communities. People at work. People at a pro bono clinic. Parties that appear before me. Open forums.

I would repeat my sentiments from paragraph #4 that apply here as well:

We must work toward ensuring all judges take any blindfold off that they may be wearing to mask what has occurred and/or is occurring toward historically oppressed communities. That involves education, education and more education. Formal education in judicial college. Getting out into the communities and talking to people. Holding town hall meetings for citizens to voice concerns and/or praise changes that have occurred. Collaborate with the community. Look for the next big idea, large or small. Advocate for change. Then it is not enough that only judges are educated. Prosecutors need to be educated. Law enforcement. First responders. Defense counsel. Private counsel. All stakeholders must be educated.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name     Rebecca K. Reeder
Date (mm/dd/yy)     04/15/2024

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