Supreme Court Justice, Position 1 – Mary Yu

Judicial Questionnaire 2022

Candidate Info


Candidate Name:     Mary Yu
Position Sought:     Supreme Court Justice, Position 1
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Incumbent
Home Legislative District:     43rd

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     Rhonda Salvesen 253-678-3842
Mailing Address:     P.O. Box 21961, Seattle, WA 98111
Phone:     +1206-669-1945

Part I – Candidate Background

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

I have served as a Justice on the Washington Supreme Court since 2014, and from 2000 to 2014 I served as trial court judge in King County Superior Court. I have an extensive record of service both on and off the bench, mentoring young attorneys, law clerks, and students; co-chairing the Court’s Minority and Justice Commission; chairing the Board for Judicial Administration’s Public Trust and Confidence Committee; teaching at Seattle University School of Law and serving as Jurist in Residence; and co-chairing the Washington State Bar Association/University of Washington Law School Leadership Institute.

I was raised in Bridgeport, a South Side neighborhood in Chicago, by immigrant parents; my mother came from Mexico and my father from China. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I received my B.A. from Dominican University, my M.A. in Religious Studies from Mundelein College of Loyola University in Chicago, and my J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I am seeking to continue my judicial service on the Washington Supreme Court because I believe I bring a unique perspective to the discussion that is necessary for good decision-making. I am firmly committed to continuing the good work of the Court in deciding cases fairly, issuing opinions in a timely manner, and promoting access to justice for all.

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

The most important qualifications and qualities for justices and judges are to: 1) be committed to studying the law and to be fully prepared for each case; 2) be a good listener; 3) work collaboratively with others; 4) be transparent and intellectually honest; and 5) have a willingness undertake critical work to help our courts address access to justice, racism and bias in our courts, and exploring alternatives to incarceration. I have been a judicial officer for 22 years and I have embraced these five enumerated qualities as my personal philosophy of how I should serve as a judge.

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

I am hoping to draw attention to our court’s obligation to promote access to justice for all; to eliminate racism from our court structures, and to reduce our trial courts’ reliance on fines and fees as a way to fund court operations.

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 continue to improve access through education and by advocacy through the Minority and Justice Commission.
I have co-chaired the Supreme Court’s Minority and Justice Commission for the least ten years. Our mission is to eradicate racial bias from our court system so that justice might be adjudicated in a neutral and fair manner. Our activities include the production of seminal studies on jury diversity, LFO’s and pre-trial release. Please see a comprehensive list of our educational activities at: Washington State Courts Washington Courts I am also the chair of the Board of Judicial Administration’s Public Trust and Confidence and Committee where our outreach is focused on civics education.

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 believe our state courts should be fully funded by the state general fund so that dependence on fines and fees from users can be eliminated. Judges are placed in difficult positions when they are forced to collect revenue to support court operations.

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

Although I am not in a trial courtroom, I do believe that there may be cases where restorative justice can play an important role in holding defendants accountable for behavior and for assisting a victim to be made whole and would support an increase in such practices However, restorative justice is not always appropriate in every case. I do believe that restorative justice practices, where appropriate can be a positive step for reducing the punitive aspects of our criminal justice system.

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

I have always supported judges being engaged in their community and I will continue to promote the idea that we are the best ambassadors for our branch. Our visibility in our communities will make us accessible and promote transparency. My work in the Court’s Commissions and the Public Trust and Confidence Committee will continue to foster these ideas.

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

Our courts can increase use of technology for hearings and develop a more flexible approach as to when hearings are scheduled. For example, we know that virtual appearances have reduced the hardship on working class litigants and their loss of work hours. I would support an ongoing increase in funding so that our trial courts might find ways to partner with local communities to ensure that technology tools are available to all users of our court system without regard to income.

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?

The issue of speedy trials is a very difficult question because many of the delays in criminal trials were due to the inability to proceed in person. I do not support forcing a criminal defendant to have their case heard without their consent in a virtual manner due to the important constitutional rights at stake. I do support a temporary increase in court budgets for the hiring of pro tem judges to assist with the backlog.

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

I am most proud of my work that relates to eliminating racism within the judicial branch as evidenced in some of the Court’s opinions that I have authored, my work with the Minority and Justice Commission, and our Court’s letter of June 4, 2020.
Our Court has recently issued several decisions that have changed the landscape on how we might better create a system of justice free of bias and racism. We have refined court procedures, changed rules regarding jury selection, and abolished the death penalty due to its disparate impact on Black men. I am proud to have been a member of a Court that has the courage and the will to make these kind of decisions.

Two opinions that I authored which I am particularly proud of are: State v Berhe, 193 Wn.2d 647 (2019) and In re Tarra Simmons, 190 Wn.2d 374 (2018). In Berhe the Court held that if there is a showing that racial bias was a factor in a jury’s verdict the court must hold an evidentiary hearing; that is the no impeachment rule of a jury verdict must yield in a case of juror bias. In the case of Tarra Simmons, the Court held that there is no categorical exclusion of a Bar applicant who has a criminal or substance abuse history. Eliminating criminal history as an automatic strike against a person wishing to become a lawyer helps create a more diverse bar that welcomes lived experiences of those that have direct knowledge of our criminal justice system. Both of these decisions reflect concrete steps towards systemic change.

As co-chair of the Supreme Court’s Minority and Justice Commission, I am most proud of my role in designing and implementing an annual symposium where the Court sets aside a day to study a topic related to race and the criminal justice system. We invite the public to join us, and the events are recorded and preserved on TVW for future use. We are the only Supreme Court in the nation that dedicates a day to learning about racial justice. To date, the topics have included: adolescent brain development, the challenges of reentry from prison, pre-trial reform, jury diversity, legal financial obligations (LFOs’), the use of artificial intelligence, and the increase in incarceration rates of women and girls.

Finally, in June of 2020, our Court issued a letter to the broader legal community calling upon all those who work in our branch, to take on the work necessary to eradicate racism in our lifetime. I am proud to have authored the letter which was signed by all nine Justices. The letter has been a source of inspiration for judges and court staff to become engaged in helping our system of justice become a more fair and bias free entity.

If re-elected, I will continue this work on eliminating racism with the hope of taking it to a deeper level in our courts and improving our procedures for delivering justice.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name     Mary Yu
Date (mm/dd/yy)     03/27/2022

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