Judicial Questionnaire 2022
Candidate Name: Barbara Madsen
Position Sought: Position 5 Washington State Supreme Court
Are you an incumbent for this position? Incumbent
Home Legislative District: 28th
Campaign Manager or Point of Contact: John Weibl
Mailing Address: 19550 International Blvd #103, Seattle 98188
Part I – Candidate Background
1. Please describe your qualifications, education, employment, past community and civic activity, as well as any other relevant experience.
I was elected as the third woman to serve on the Washington Supreme Court in 1992, and re-elected in 1998, 2004, 2010, and 2016. I served two terms as the 55th Chief Justice, from 2010-2017.
I am a native of Renton, and earned a BA from the University of Washington in 1974 and a J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1977. While at Gonzaga, I volunteered with Gonzaga’s University Legal Assistance Clinic and Spokane County Legal Services. After law school, I worked as a public defender in King and Snohomish counties. In 1982, I joined the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and was appointed Special Prosecutor in 1984. Mayor Charles Royer appointed me to the Seattle Municipal Court in 1988, where I served as Presiding Judge for two terms.
In 1998, I was appointed chair of the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and served in that role until 2016. The Commission, partnering with other community groups, succeeded in passing legislation banning the shackling of women prisoners during labor. The Commission has produced the Domestic Violence Manual for Judges, the Sexual Orientation Benchguide, the Sexual Offense Benchguide, and the Immigration Resource Guide for Judges, in partnership with the Minority and Justice Commission, as well as developing judicial education on a wide variety of gender issues and model policies designed to enhance the safety of victims of domestic violence. In 2001, I facilitated Washington’s first Glass Ceiling Study. In 2004, I co chaired the Crystal Brame Committee which secured legislation requiring all police agencies to adopt investigation protocol for police perpetrated domestic violence and sexual assault. In 2005, I helped establish the Initiative for Diversity, a program encouraging legal employers to commit to and implement organizational plans to increase diversity. I led development of a limited legal license technician program, the first in the nation, to address the critical justice gap for low and moderate income people. In 2013, I led the Supreme Court efforts to develop the Tribal State Court Consortium, encouraging and building partnerships among tribal and state judicial officers. In 2019, I was appointed co-chair of the Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care, in which stakeholders work to improve court processes, laws, regulations and policies so children can move safely and quickly into stable homes, through reunification with parents or through adoption. In 2020, I was appointed chair of the Judicial Information System Committee. The committee oversees information technology for Washington courts, automating and supporting the daily operations of the courts and maintaining a statewide network connecting the courts and partner criminal justice agencies to the JIS database.
2. What prompted you to run for this office?
I first ran for the Supreme Court after watching the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas. I was outraged at the treatment of Anita Hill by the Senate. It matched my experiences as a female attorney in Washington state. Because things can only change if all voices are represented, I decided to run a seat on the court. Since winning the election I have been part of a revolution in our justice system. The Supreme Court now sponsors a minority and justice commission, a gender and justice commission, which I chaired for 20 years, an access to justice committee, an interpreter commission and a commission on children in foster care, which I know chair. Through these efforts the judiciary in Washington is becoming a more fair institution. But, there is still much work to be done in the courts to eliminate bias in all its forms. I wish to continue this work because it truly matters to my community and all the people of Washington.
3. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?
A judge must be aware of their own biases, listen to the people who appear before them, have integrity and not bend to political pressure, work hard and care about the impact their decisions have on the people they serve.
4. What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?
Through my campaign I hope to make people aware of the work that is going on to improve our justice system in Washington. It is important for people to understand the impact that the judicial branch can have on their lives. There is a significant drop off in voter participation in judicial races. And yet, judges have so much influence over what happens to the people in our state.
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 was a part of establishing the access to justice committee, which has as its mission to make our system more accessible to everyone. Each year we sponsor a summit to bring together stakeholders to solve most pressing problems facing marginalized communities. I am working with our administrative offices to translate court forms into plain English and in multiple languages. As chair of the commission on children and foster care I have led efforts during Covid to make technology accessible to all litigants by drafting rules that ensure equal access. As chair of the judicial information system I am committed to making more remote opportunities for accessing the courts of our state.
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?
I have helped pass rules which allow for a waiver of fees based on several criteria. Additionally I authored opinions which ordered judges to consider ability to pay when imposing legal financial obligations as well as fines. As chair of the judicial information systems committee I have requested that general funds be made available to pay for court technology instead of traffic fees and fines. Courts are a constitutional right and should be funded from general funds.
3. Would you, if elected, bring restorative justice as a goal to your court room? * If yes, describe how that could look.
I do not serve in a trial court but I have been involved in bringing education programs to judges, including ways to make restorative justice a part every day judging. This can be accomplished through specialty courts such as drug courts, veterans courts, domestic violence courts and dependency courts. I would like to see much more use made of the specialty courts and specialized training for judges, which I have advocated for many times.
4. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?
The pandemic has opened new doors to access our courts. I have worked with my colleagues to develop protocols and protections for use of virtual platforms. To me, a key to understanding and using our courts is to make them more accessible to everyone through technology.
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 am working with my colleagues as we speak to ensure that virtual options will continue. It is important to hear from the professionals as well as those who are most affected, the litigants. We have set up a process for getting feedback and taking action through our rule making authority. I am excited to be a part of this development.
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?
Technology and virtual platforms will be critical in catching up with a backlog. The Supreme Court is working with courts across the state as well as lawyers and litigants to develop rules that will project due process rights as well as speed up access to the courts. As chair of the judicial information systems committee I am deeply involved in this effort.
7. What judicial reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals in our communities?
Last year our court became the first in the country to adopt a rule to reduce bias in jury selection. In addition I am part of a court wide committee exploring ways in which rules and procedures can be reformed in order to reduce race bias. As chair of the commission on children in foster care I am working with the Director of DCYF on ways to reduce the disproportionate number of children of color in the foster care system. One way we are doing this is to strengthen opportunities for families to become placements and be able to receive financial assistance.
By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name Barbara Madsen
Date (mm/dd/yy) 04/06/2020