Judicial Questionnaire 2022
Candidate Name: Judge Meng Li Che
Position Sought: Washington Court of Appeals Judge — Div. II
Are you an incumbent for this position? Incumbent
Home Legislative District: 27
Campaign Manager or Point of Contact: Mary Ann Ottinger
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 27113, Seattle, WA 98165
Website judgemengliche.com (not yet active)
Part I – Candidate Background
1. Please describe your qualifications, education, employment, past community and civic activity, as well as any other relevant experience.
In 1997, I graduated from University of San Diego with a business degree. I moved back to WA and in 2001, I graduated from Seattle University School of Law. I temporarily moved to CA and sat for the CA summer bar and passed. I then moved back to WA and sat for the WA winter bar exam and passed. In 2002, I started my legal career as a public defense attorney in Pierce County. I worked in Pierce County District Court for two years then moved to Pierce County Superior Court for five years. As a public defense attorney, I worked with a high volume of indigent clients charged with both misdemeanor and felony crimes. Shortly thereafter, I moved to the WA Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA) as an Industrial Appeals Judge (IAJ). Most appeals focused on workers’ compensation or work place safety appeals. I conducted scheduling conferences, held hearings, and issued Proposed Decision & Orders. Our hearings were like other trial courts with a court reporter and interpreters. Nearly all cases had at least one expert, if not multiple experts testifying. The rules that applied in Superior Court applied at the BIIA.
After two years as a hearing judge, I was promoted to be a review/mediation judge. In that position, I mediated disputes and performed appellate review functions, which included reviewing the hearing records and decisions by hearing judges. I prepared memoranda and draft Decision and Orders for the three-member board. Each position required me to research the law, review transcripts and depositions, along with work with lawyers, self-represented parties, and court personnel. Thereafter, I was promoted to Assistant Chief Industrial Appeals Judge, which I held for approximately eight years. I supervised IAJs and staff, managed programs like Mediation and Claim Settlement Agreements, and led projects. I trained new judges at both the hearing and review/mediation levels. I was responsible for developing the skill level of more senior judges. I also was responsible for the management of regional offices, including Tacoma/Lakewood, Spokane, and Yakima.
In December 2022, I was appointed by Governor Inslee as a judge on the Washington Court of Appeals, Division II. The Court of Appeals makes decisions in panels of three judges. Since I’ve been in office, I have worked with my chambers staff to prepare memoranda and draft opinions. I’ve also sat for oral arguments, participated in conference with two other judges, and have issued decisions.
In my civic life, I have been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Broadway Center (now Tacoma Arts Live) and I have been an active Fellow and Senior Fellow of the Tacoma Pierce County American Leadership Forum. Currently, I maintain volunteer continue to serve work in my church’s children’s ministry program and maintain my participation in the Hon. Robert J. Bryan American Inn of Court. I have been involved in both these activities for many years.
2. What prompted you to run for this office?
I believe in public service and the betterment of the legal profession. I believe we need experienced and hard-working individuals in these positions. The Court of Appeals is the work-horse for the appellate process.
3. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?
Minimally, I believe judges should have the heart to serve the public; believe in and act with a desire to provide access to the courts; fairness; competence; integrity; impartiality; independence; and professionalism.
4. What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?
Competence and professionalism, among others. I’m looking forward to growing in my judicial career, and I look forward to teaching it to others as I have done in my last position. We have many new judges across all levels of courts across the state. Our work is based upon bedrock principles that we follow the law and prior decisions. WA has changed course in some of its prior decisions while looking through a lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access to courts. I believe my experiences are relevant to those discussions and decisions.
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?
The Court of Appeals has less direct contact with litigants by volume than the trial courts. The Court of Appeals reviews decisions made in the lower courts and determines if the decisions followed the law or should be reversed. Occasionally, the Court of Appeals hears oral argument in support of or in opposition to the parties’ appeal(s). The Court of Appeals allows parties to appear via remote access and can provide interpreters, as needed. I am on a court committee to develop a Language Access Plan for both the Court of Appeals along with the WA Supreme Court. We may consider increasing our scope of work after the completion of the Language Access Plan for the WA appellate courts.
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 understand some members of the WA Supreme Court are working with constituents to stop or reduce covering court operations through court fees. How courts should be funded should be determined only after discussion with constituent groups and individuals. This is not a question with an easy answer as court funding will have to come from somewhere, if no longer funded by court fees.
3. Would you, if elected, bring restorative justice as a goal to your court room? * If yes, describe how that could look.
In the appellate court context, the application of restorative justice is likely limited. The Court of Appeals acts in panels of three judges. The panel would have to agree to use this concept in certain situations. The Rules of Appellate Procedure allow the parties or the court to initiate a conference to attempt to resolve the case without oral argument and panel decision. Restorative justice may occur at this option of the appellate process. I do not necessarily see where this would occur in the oral argument setting. Also, much of the appellate process involves a written decision by the court affirming, reversing, dismissing, or remanding another court’s decision.
4. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?
I am statutorily required to issue decisions within a certain time frame. I would work to ensure that I do not use the entire time frame unless under unusual circumstances. Justice delayed is justice denied.
The Court of Appeals is working through a backlog of cases based on the volume of work generated by the counties in Division II. Due to the pandemic, our court is making considerable headway in much of the backlog. The Court of Appeals is working with the other Divisions to ensure that an equal number of cases are being taken among the Divisions. This ensures that work is more evenly distributed and no individual Division is working at higher capacity while another Division is working below capacity. We are looking at current practices in our Division and comparing them to the other Divisions to determine whether we should continue our practices or adopt new practices.
5. What are your thoughts on how our courts could permanently incorporate the growing virtual options after the need of the pandemic has passed?
Virtual appearance options are here to stay. Virtual participation in Court of Appeals oral arguments has demonstrated its utility. However, this incorporation should not limit options to also appear in person as virtual options are not the best option for all people. This can be incorporated into the Rules of Appellate Procedure, if not already done.
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?
All levels of courts are experiencing the impacts of continued cases and impacts to staffing. Sometimes courts are ready to proceed with trial, including having a jury available, but courts are unable to proceed because there are not enough attorneys to take the cases to trial. There are many factors that go into this equation. One issue is money, another is leadership, and yet another is community will. To be clear, those are not the only factors. The courts need sufficient monies to pay for the justice system, including juror compensation, competitive attorney wages, corrections, probation, IT/IS, and other integral partners in the justice system. Trial courts and the Court of Appeals may need to hire Pro Tem Judges to work through the backlog. Other options may include alternative dispute resolution options, which can be offered or implemented at all levels. Of course, that option requires funding as well. Other options involve restructuring and review of current processes for redundancy.
7. What judicial reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals in our communities?
I believe in continued training for judges and employees with the goal of achieving greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals. I believe courts need to develop plans to identify ways to increase greater equity and inclusion of BIPOC individuals and then identify steps to implement their proposed plans. I believe courts should periodically review their performance to determine if goals are being met or if new goals need to be set.
By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name Judge Meng Li Che
Date (mm/dd/yy) 02/01/2023