Supreme Court Justice Position 3 – Raquel Montoya-Lewis

Judicial Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: Raquel Montoya-Lewis
  • Position Sought: Supreme Court Justice Position 3 (Incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 22
  • Democrat: Unable to answer due to judicial election rules

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.

I have been a trial judge for 20 years. For the first 15 years of my judicial career, I served as a tribal court judge for multiple northwest tribes. For the five years prior to joining the Washington State Supreme Court, I served as a Superior Court judge for Whatcom County, where I heard felony criminal cases, civil trials of all kids, and presided over the Adult Felony Therapeutic Drug Court. In addition to my work as a trial judge, I was a tenured professor at Western Washington University. My academic and judicial careers have allowed me to bring together my education as a lawyer, and my education at the UW Graduate School of Social Work. I graduated from UW Law School in 1995 and have spent the entirety of my career in some form of public service.

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 have not work in either capacity. I was a law clerk in New Mexico at the Supreme Court for Justice Pamela B. Minzner immediately following law school. Since then I have been a professor, trial judge, and now Supreme Court justice.

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 have been a trial court judge for 20 years.

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

Judges must take the responsibility of access to justice as a personal commitment beyond their individual courtrooms. As leaders of a legal system that has brought trauma to communities, we represent a threat, and being well- intentioned, good-hearted people cannot be the answer to systemic trauma. Addressing this takes leadership and commitment to push past the uncomfortable truths around harm the legal system has caused. I seek to be such a leader from the bench. Justices must be cognizant of this history, and also rigorous in understanding the law as it has been and as it should be. We must be fair minded, thoughtful, and pragmatic.

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

I have been a national leader on addressing access to justice and becoming a member of the Washington State Supreme Court allows me to continue that work and impact all the citizens of Washington State. Serving on our state’s highest court is an incredible honor. Having a voice at the table for underrepresented communities will ensure a thoughtful review of the issues at hand. I intend to continue to be a leader on judicial decision-making, implicit bias, racial equity, trauma informed courts, and access to justice. I hope you’ll support this campaign and promote the principles of fair and impartial justice to voters across the state.

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

My campaign is co-chaired by Former Governors Chris Gregoire & Gary Locke, Colleen Echohawk, and Ron Ward, Esq. I have sought to engage a wide range of communities in my campaign and my endorsements include Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Debra Haaland, all the current WA Supreme Court justices, as well as retired justices. We have an active and engaged campaign committee and a large number of volunteers. We are actively engaged in this campaign and plan to be successful.


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?

This is an issue that is in front of the Wa State Supreme Court, so I cannot answer it.

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

This is an issue that is in front of the Wa State Supreme Court, so I cannot answer it.

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 an issue that is in front of the Wa State Supreme Court, so I cannot answer it.


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?

Before I began law school, I had never met a lawyer. The legal system was completely opaque to me. Though I studied hard in law school, I spent the entire time feeling that I was learning a new language in a new language— though I was learning in English, it was still a language I didn’t understand. It took years for me to feel fluent. As a trial judge, I thought about that every day I took the bench. The language the lawyers and I traded in often meant nothing to the parties and the public in my courtroom. As I have moved into my new position, the language and ideas have become more and more complex.

It is critical that we make our system more accessible by ensuring forms are widely available, explained in plain language. But it is also critical that we ensure judges are skilled in ensuring that they explain their rulings, that our rulings are adequately explained in the press, and that our systems move more quickly to resolving cases. Making our system more accessible is the responsibility of all of us who work within it—and ensuring that all our communities have representation at all levels.

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

The phrase Black Lives Matter is both a call to action and a simple plea to recognize the humanity of our black communities. As a country, we have denied the humanity of black and brown communities in countless ways. The impact of our criminal justice system on black communities has been extraordinarily disproportionate, demonstrating the need for a movement like BLM. BLM is the beginning of holding us accountable and demanding a fair and equitable society.

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

Judges must take on responsibilities that go beyond their individual courtroom. I seek to be such a leader from the bench because it is my responsibility to ensure the legal system is moving forward. I hope that our legal system can become more nimble and responsive as our society changes, though I am realistic given how slow the system has been to change over time. That slowness benefits the ideas of the past, however, and it resists the change that people like me represent. While I appreciate the importance of precedent and the ability of citizens and lawyers to predict outcomes in cases, precedent is often based upon assumptions that often go unchallenged. Challenging those assumptions is what some would consider “judicial activism.” As the first Native person on the Washington Supreme Court, it is my role to address those assumptions when I see them and to work for what the law should be, not just what it has been. I seek to engage all communities in understand our judicial system, by educating from my position, as well as writing opinions in a clear, transparent manner.


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

Printed Name: Raquel Montoya-Lewis

Date: 09/14/2020

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