Pierce County Superior Court – Diana Lynn Kiesel

Judicial Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name:  Diana Lynn Kiesel
  • Position Sought: Pierce County Superior Court (Non-incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 25th
  • Democrat: Non-partisan position

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.

1.1 Qualifications
I have been a Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner for 10 years. I preside over hundreds of civil and criminal cases. Our senior Judges are retiring. I would carry forward the institutional knowledge to the new Judges by having already worked on almost all Superior Court Committees, and several State Committees. My Committee work gave me intimate knowledge of the needs and challenges faced by our Court. I helped develop many court procedures, rules and governance issues. I served as Presiding Commissioner in 2012 and 2019. I taught at the state Judicial College. This College brings all the new Judges and Commissioners together for an intensive training in all areas of state law, and Federal and State Constitutional legal issues. I taught Ex Parte Procedures covering all civil areas of the law, and emphasizing the rule of law, due process, judicial demeanor, and the Code of Judicial Conduct.
I preside over every type of litigation heard by Judges, except jury trials. Superior Court Commissioners rotate every three months, except for every four years we serve at Juvenile Court for a one-year rotation. Superior Court Commissioners must be intimate with many areas of law including: criminal felony and civil commitment litigation at Western State Hospital; family law litigation including divorce, child support, visitation, relocation of children, parenting plans, intimate committed relationships, parentage/paternity, and non-parental custody; domestic violence; guardianship; probate; landlord-tenant; injunctive relief; vulnerable adult protection orders to protect aging citizens from financial, emotional and physical abuse; juvenile offender dockets relating to crimes committed by juveniles; at-risk-youth cases to assist parents trying to help their children with mental health, drug and truancy issues; and dependency litigation at Juvenile Court.
Prior to the appointment as a Superior Court Commissioner, I managed my law firm for over two decades. I practiced in many areas of law early in my career, later focusing on family law and guardianship complex litigation. I also served as a Mediator, Arbitrator, Pro Tem Commissioner, and investigator for the court (guardian ad litem) in family law cases and guardianship cases.
1.2 Education
I served in every position in the legal community except as a Judge. I attended ITT Peterson School of Business and received my Legal Secretary certification. I then worked in a law office and attended Pierce College at night and received my Associate Paralegal Degree. I continued to work in the same law office and finished my pre law education at University of Puget Sound where I received my Bachelor of Arts Degree. I continued to work in the same law firm and completed law school at University of Puget Sound School of Law, now called Seattle University School of Law. In the same law firm I worked as the receptionist, legal secretary, paralegal, intern and then associate attorney. My most valuable “education” was earned working for exceptional lawyers. I then left the firm and start my own firm.
1.3 Employment.
I am currently employed as a Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner since 2009.
I worked part time as a contract public defender at Western State hospital beginning in 1986. I learned to work with litigants and families dealing with mental health issues. I managed my own firm from 1984 to 2009 when I was appointed by the Superior Court Judges as a Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner. My early private practice included a general practice evolving to a more high conflict litigation practice focusing on family law issues and guardianships. I served as an Arbitrator on many civil law cases. The Judges also appointed me as a Special Master to resolve complex civil disputes.

1.4
Union Affiliation. I started dating my husband when he was an apprentice electrician with the IBEW Local 76 Union. He is a retired IBEW member after 45 years and we are still happily married.

1.5
Civil Activities.
I mentored legal support staff, law school interns and now law school externs throughout my career. I volunteered at the Pierce County Center for Dialog & Resolution from its inception having been first trained as a mediator in 1991. Also, I volunteered performing pro bono representation through the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. I was a strong member of the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association. I served in many capacities including Trustee, President of the Family Law Section twice, and I served on many committees for the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association, as well as for the Superior Court. I received the following awards while a practicing attorney:
• 2005 Family Law Attorney of the Year, Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association;
• 2006 Outstanding Service Award, Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association;
• 2008 Outstanding Service Award, Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association.

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 started my general practice law firm in 1984 and continued as the senior managing attorney until I was appointed to Pierce County Superior Court in 2009 as a Commissioner. I served as a public defense attorney in 1986 representing Respondents in civil commitment mental health proceedings. Superior Court Commissioner Paul M. Boyle selected me for this contract position. While in my private practice, I served as a Pro Tem Commissioner frequently until appointed to the position as a full-time Commissioner. Attorneys frequently hired me by agreement to mediate and arbitrated civil cases. In addition, the Superior Court appointed me as an investigator (guardian ad litem) and special master to help resolve complex issues.

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 served as a Pro Tem Commissioner since approximately 1990 until my appointment as a full-time Commissioner in 2009. See question 3 above for further explanation. Serving as a Pro Tem Commissioner allowed me to start as a full-time Commissioner with little training. Also, I honed my skills as an attorney while serving as a Pro Tem Commissioner. I learned to look at all legal issues neutrally and better counsel my clients.

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

A judicial officer must have experience, knowledge of the law, excellent judicial demeanor, respect for judicial ethics, respect for all litigants and attorneys, and active listening skills. I taught these principles at the Washington State Judicial College 2017 through 2019. I emphasized to new Commissioners and Judges that we are public servants.

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

There are two reasons I am running for Judge.
One, I can serve in Courts not available to Commissioners. Those courts would expand my opportunity to serve this community, and include criminal jury trial rotations, Family Court Judge, Juvenile Court Judge, and therapeutic courts such as Mental Health Court, Assisted Mental Health Outpatient Treatment, Family Recovery Court, Baby Court, and Felony Drug Court. I have the experience to serve as a Judge in these specialty courts due to the breadth of my legal and judicial experience
Two, I could chair major committees on the state and local level creating new paths to justice. I want to create and chair a technology committee improving access to the court system for litigants and jurors.
My campaign will focus on judicial ethics and educating the public about the role of a Judge to uphold the rule of law.

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

I hired an experienced Campaign Manager who successfully managed campaigns for two Judges on the Pierce County Superior Court in 2016. I have many attorneys, prior clients and friends willing to work on my campaign in various ways, including mailing brochures to their clients, placing signs in large firms, adding information about my campaign to their web pages and social media platforms, hosting fund raisers, and volunteering to doorbell. I have Judges supporting me from the Washington State Supreme Court, Court of Appeals Division II, Superior Court, Pierce County District Court, Municipal Courts and Tribal Court.

 

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?

I am on the Board of Tacoma pro Bono of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. I sat in the Ex Parte Department Superior Court last year for six months. Often I signed emergency restraining orders and custody orders. I advised the litigant that he or she had to make copies for the opposing party. Frequently they would state they had no money to pay for copies. I asked the Director of Tacoma Pro Bono to apply for a grant that would pay for a copier, supplies and paper for litigants if the court found the party indigent. Yes, I support minimizing financial barriers to justice and I will look for every avenue to accomplish this goal.

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

It is the duty of the court to make sure the jurors understand that a fair trial requires them to only consider information heard in the courtroom. We have juror orientation that discusses this issue in detail. The Washington juror handbook emphasizes phones cannot be used to seek information about the pending case in the courthouse or after court while serving as a juror.

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?

This is a complex issues. Filing fees are set by the Pierce County Clerk. Commissioners and Judges hear the filing fee waiver requests. If a litigant is indigent as defined by law, I waive the civil filing fee so that the litigant does not have a barrier to justice. I serve in Juvenile Court and requests are made to expunge juvenile records and reduce or eliminate court fines. Juvenile court fees and fines, except restitution to victims, may often be waived so that the young person can obtain his or her driver’s license. Further, the Court expunges minor offenses that would appear on background checks and be a barrier to many jobs and institutions of higher learning. Courts are ultimately funded by the state and local governments, and sometimes by grants. Many federal grants are available and as a Judge, I would urge our Bench to apply for grants to improve access to justice. Additionally, I support more Legal Financial Obligation Reconsideration Days, allowing persons to reduce or eliminate fines.

 

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?

The first barrier to helping these diverse communities is for Judges to understand the communities and constituents they serve. This is why five years ago I approached retiring Judge Frank Cuthbertson to create the Cultural Competency Committee. As the Presiding Judge he did create the Committee and I continue to serve as a member of that Committee. I facilitated numerous trainings to educate our Bench and built relationships with diverse communities. The last training occurred at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center. Executive Director Pritchard educated us on the Samoan culture and how best for our Court to serve the Samoan community. Dr. Carolyn West, Professor at University of Washington Tacoma, instructed us on issues of domestic violence and the severe impact on women of color. Dr. Gillian Dutton, Professor at Seattle University School of Law, instructed our Bench on issues related to implicit bias. These are just a few of the cultural competency trainings that occur because I had the passion to push for this invaluable Committee.

While campaigning, I meet a census worker and we discussed reaching people who do not speak English and who may not be counted in the census. I connected her with our Interpreter Services Department. Once our interpreters are educated on the census process, they can then participate in the 2020 Census.
I serve on the Tacoma ProBono Board, of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association, and we meet monthly. The purpose of Tacoma ProBono organization is to facilitate access to justice for all litigants.

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

Black Lives Matter addresses the issue of systemic racism. This issue was the topic of one of the trainings for our Bench through the Cultural Competency Committee. Judge Cuthbertson at an extended training for our Bench drilled down on implicit bias and how we must understand that our Court needs to find ways to address systemic racism and remove barriers to justice. As a Judge, I will urge our Bench to focus on systemic racism issues through more training opportunities.
To understand poverty and systemic racism, a Judicial Officer needs to experience the barriers to justice for many persons. I used some of my vacation to attend a Poverty Immersion course. This is a unique interactive experience that helps participants begin to understand what life is like for persons from diverse backgrounds living in poverty. I would urge our Superior Court Cultural Competency Committee to participate in a race, power and equity immersion program.

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

As an elected Judge I could Chair important committees such as the Cultural Competency Committee. I would be willing to hold community forums to address community concerns. I intend to teach Street Law at a high school annually. As a Judge, I would urge the formation of a technology committee to facilitate access to justice for litigants and provide necessary information to jurors. I will continue collaboration with JBLM Legal Office to collaborate and problem-solve access to justice issues for military families and Veterans.

 


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

Printed Name: Diana Kiesel

Date: 05/17/00

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