Judicial Questionnaire 2022
Candidate Name: Angelica Williams
Position Sought: Pierce County Superior Court – Dept. 20
Are you an incumbent for this position? Incumbent
Home Legislative District: 26th Legislative District
Campaign Manager or Point of Contact: Jesse Williams
Mailing Address: PO Box 20655, Seattle, WA 98102
Part I – Candidate Background
1. Please describe your qualifications, education, employment, past community and civic activity, as well as any other relevant experience.
I am currently serving as a Pierce County Superior Court Judge, having recently been appointed by Governor Inslee. I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Washington School of Law.
My first job after law school was as a Benton County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. After two years, I returned to the South Sound and spent almost 13 years with the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, almost the entirety of which was in the Special Assault Unit (SAU) handling cases for murder, sexual assaults, domestic violence, and sexual and physical assault against children. I served the last 3 years as the SAU team leader and only left that position to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ultimately serving in the Terrorism & Violent Crime Unit
In recognition of my expertise in child abuse, I was asked to join the Washington Children’s Justice Task Force, where I had the opportunity to influence child abuse policy at the state level. Working with this multi-disciplinary task force, where the stakeholders frequently had competing interests, refined my collaboration and teamwork skills. While a judge must be a confident decision-maker, having the ability to work easily with every litigant who appears in that judge’s courtroom is an essential qualification. Additionally, my extensive trial experience and considerable work ethic make me ideally qualified to continue serving our community as a Pierce County Superior Court Judge.
2. What prompted you to run for this office?
My commitment to public service compels me to seek out opportunities where I can be useful and effective in my community. My work ethic, judicial temperament, and integrity as a career public servant will allow me to apply my legal skills to be a dedicated, impartial, and fair administer of justice. From my very first internship my 1L summer to this very day, I have dedicated the entirety of my professional career to public service.
Integrity and transparency are vital to increase public trust in our court system. Throughout my career as a prosecutor, I was always mindful of the power the position held – from deciding whether/what charges to file, to negotiating a resolution, to sentencing recommendations, and so many other decisions that impact everyday people. I always understood that I was typically dealing with people who were brought into the justice system against their will, often on their worst day. I can look back on my career and be proud that I always treated people compassionately while upholding the law. Those qualities are vital to being a successful judge.
My commitment to Pierce County is to uphold the law without regard to any opinion I may have. I will be efficient and transparent, but above all else, impartial and fair to all who appear before me.
3. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?
I believe that a judge must be impartial, kind, and efficient. I will be efficient and transparent, but above all else, impartial and fair to all who appear before me. I will always be kind and respectful and I will expect the same decorum from those in my courtroom. I will never forget that I serve my community. Even where I rule against a party, I will seek to ensure that this party feels heard and fairly treated and that they understand the decision I made. I will also work to improve access to justice, which is something that is necessary to democracy.
4. What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?
My priority is to improve access to justice by increasing efficiency and reducing costs to litigants such as by innovating courtroom procedures like expanding Zoom hearings, balancing the need for rehabilitation with accountability, and increased use of therapeutic courts that would reduce recidivism.
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?
A judge’s paramount duty is to ensure equal access to justice. Litigants must have ready and affordable access to the tools necessary to ensure a fair outcome on the merits of their issue. We cannot call our justice system fair if it treats people differently based on any identifier, be it socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation or any other historically marginalized class. We must always be willing to innovate and evolve as circumstances dictate. Pro bono legal services are an essential part of our court system. Many pro se litigants are not aware that pro bono legal services exist. It is incumbent upon me as a judge to make sure that my court staff and I are familiar with pro bono legal services so that we can provide contact information as necessary. In this way, we can facilitate and assist people without crossing a line into providing legal advice.
The most significant barriers to access to justice today are trust and resources. By trust, I mean that many people do not trust law enforcement, prosecutor’s officers, or the courts to act impartially. I frequently heard jurors express negative experiences family members had, either in civil or criminal court proceedings. Many believed that the poor results happened because they could not afford private attorneys. I am a staunch supporter of our public defenders, who serve critical roles in safeguarding constitutional rights. I do not believe that retaining a private attorney means you will receive better representation, but this misplaced belief is also emblematic of the distrust in the justice system that affects access to justice. We need a system in which people believe they will get a fair shake, from the law enforcement investigation to prosecutorial review, to final disposition, at every stage of the justice system. I am committed to ensuring every litigant who appears before me is treated fairly, compassionately, and given an opportunity to be heard.
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?
No. Practically speaking, non-mandatory court costs are almost never imposed in light of State v. Blazina. Aside from a Crime Victim Penalty Assessment and a DNA collection fee upon first felony conviction, most judges are waiving almost all discretionary court costs, to include recoupment for Department of Assigned Counsel. Courts certainly should not be funded primarily by court fees – and it is the legislature’s decision how to fund the rest.
3. Would you, if elected, bring restorative justice as a goal to your court room? * If yes, describe how that could look.
I support the principles of restorative justice and will work toward that goal. My colleagues on the bench are already having conversations about restorative justice. I’ve read books and articles on some programs arising from the Brooklyn D.A.’s office (Project Redirect and Youth and Congregation in Partnership). These programs are not perfect, but they can be a starting point for discussions on alternatives to incarceration, where appropriate and lawful.
4. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?
Judges are public servants tasked with making impartial decisions grounded in the law. Ensuring litigants have procedural fairness – that is, an opportunity to really be heard, is essential to a court system that is open, transparent and responsive. Increasing collaboration with community stakeholders will increase the community’s sense of ownership and/or investment in their Court.
5. What are your thoughts on how our courts could permanently incorporate the growing virtual options after the need of the pandemic has passed?
In terms of technology, the pandemic changed the way we did business. The idea of virtual appearances, while not universally lauded, should continue to be implemented where appropriate. Litigants in the justice system do not just spend money; time is equally valuable, especially for those who will miss paychecks or struggle finding childcare if they need to spend half a day (or more) waiting in court for their case to be heard. Appearing virtually can be of assistance in these situations, but not everybody has equal access to technology. Having this dialogue, and the willingness to evolve procedures is essential to improving access to justice.
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?
In Pierce County there is currently a significant backlog of criminal cases awaiting trial. For many of these cases, defendants are incarcerated. While the pandemic contributed to the increased delay, we must work to eliminate the backlog. Ensuring attorneys return to the courtroom (for criminal cases) will be an essential part of eliminating the backlog. It is much easier to procrastinate on resolving a case if you do not have to answer in person to a judge.
7. What judicial reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals in our communities?
While the Judicial Canon of Ethics prohibits me from addressing the broader legislative policy issues at stake in this question, I can answer it within the narrow scope of the administration of the judiciary. One part of that would be bail reform. The federal system does not have monetary bail. Pre-trial release is decided based on an individual’s danger to the community and likelihood of non-appearance. Removing monetary bail from the equation is a step toward equalizing the playing field. Restorative justice programs are also alternatives to confinement that can achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals. As I said above, a judge’s paramount duty is to ensure equal access to justice. I am fully committed to ensuring equal protection under the law to all. I fully support judicial reforms that work toward this goal within the confines of upholding the law.
By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name Angelica Williams
Date (mm/dd/yy) 05/02/2022