Washington Supreme Court Pos 6 – G. Helen Whitener

Judicial Questionnaire 2022

Candidate Info


Candidate Name:     G. Helen Whitener
Position Sought:     Washington Supreme Court Pos 6
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Incumbent
Home Legislative District:     27th

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     Lynn Rainey
Mailing Address:     PO Box 23037, Seattle, WA 98102
Phone:     +12532223673
Email:     keepwhitenerforjustice@gmail.com
Website     www.keepjusticewhitener.com
Facebook     Justice G. Helen Whitener
Twitter     N/A

Part I – Candidate Background

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

Washington State Supreme Court Justice: April 2020-Present
Pierce County Superior Court Judge: Feb 2015-April 2020
Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals Judge: Sep 2013-Jan 2015
Law Firm of Whitener Rainey Writt PS. Feb 2005 – Sep. 2013
Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney: Aug 2003-Feb 2005
Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel: Mar 2001-Aug 2003
Island County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney: Feb 2000-Mar 2001
I have an extensive and consistent history of extra-judicial activities.
In 2017, then Judge Whitener initiated WA state’s first Color of Justice program in Pierce County. It is now held three times a year throughout the state. My extra-judicial activities have been recognized by the legal and non-legal communities with the following awards
• American Bar Association Stonewall Award, 2022
• International Association of LGBTQ (IALBTQ) Judges President’s Award, 2020 and 2021
• Public Official of the Year, Evergreen State College Master of Public Administration Program, 2021
• Western Region National Black Law Students Association Judge of the Year, 2021
• 400 Years of African American History Commission Distinguished 400 Awardee, 2020
• Washington Women Lawyer’s Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst Passing the Torch Award, 2020
From 2016-2020 I have taught a “Street Law” civics class at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. Today I am a regular speaker in classrooms from elementary school to judicial college.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I was appointed April 2020 to the Supreme Court by Governor Inslee. The appointment was received after a rigorous vetting process involving multiple applicants from around the state. In November 2020 I ran (to complete the remaining 2 years of retired Justice Wiggins’ term) and was resoundingly elected by the people of Washington to retain my seat. This year I am running for a full six-year term.

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

I believe the most important qualifications are the same for both positions, that is to be knowledgeable, to be impartial, and to make well-reasoned decisions based on the rule of law. I also believe a judge or justice should be dedicated to learning and improving the legal system. I hit the ground running in April 2020 and since that time I have authored 15 majority opinions and 4 dissents. I have considered 291 Petitions for Review, 223 Motions, and 9 Transfer/Retain Petitions.

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

• Continuing to ensure equitable and respectful treatment of all who appear before our courts
• Continuing to educate the public about the third branch of government through my extra-judicial activities
• Protecting access to our courts and access to justice for all citizens and to
• Respect the rule of law

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 currently serve on the Office of Civil Legal Aid Oversight Committee (OCLA), an entity dedicated to serving the needs of the economically disadvantaged. I am the Appellate Court Representative on the WA State Interpreter’s Commission. I Chair the Disciplinary Committee maintaining language access in our courts. I also Chair the Annual Conference Committee where I oversee the education of all judicial officers in the state. I am a former co-chair of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission as well as a former chair and co-chair of the Washington State Superior Court Judges’ Association (SCJA) – Equity and Fairness Committee. I am also on the executive board of the IALGBT Judges and I am a judicial member of the Washington Women Lawyers.

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?

Under the judicial canons, I am unable to discuss opinions about issues that may come before the court. These issues have and are likely to continue to come before this court.

During my tenure as co-chair of the Minority and Justice Commission, the commission’s work focused on addressing changes to how the court addresses legal/financial obligations (LFOs). In 2019, while I was on the Pierce County Superior Court bench, the court held its first LFO reconsideration day to address the baggage of LFOs.

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

As a Supreme Court Justice, I no longer exercise discretion in a single-judge courtroom. On June 4th after the killing of George Floyd, the Justices on the Court issued a mandate to all in the legal field regarding dismantling the court-made legal barriers to justice. See: http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/publicUpload/Supreme%20Court%20News/Judiciary%20Legal%20Community%20SIGNED%20060420.pdf

Under the judicial canons, I am unable to discuss opinions about issues that may come before the court. These issues have and are likely to continue to come before this court.

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

My entire judicial career has been about making the judiciary reflective of the people it serves. Building trust and confidence requires transparency and accountability. That has been the focus of my extra-judicial work. Education and accountability are KEY. Changing the judiciary by adding new perspectives AND educating judges so they can see a different perspective makes the entire system more responsive.

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 encourage the use of technology in our courts. Technology is one area that has allowed the legislature and the judiciary to address disproportionalities embedded in our current system. Technology has allowed others to make the case for change as problems can be seen in real time making it difficult to discredit the information. But we must not let it cloud our judgement. EVERYBODY does not have a smart phone and EVERYBODY is not plugged into the internet. We must make provisions for those on the other side of the digital divide.

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?

Creating and drafting of court rules that impede access to our courts. Making decisions grounded in the law through my marginalized lens.

Under the judicial canons, I am unable to discuss opinions about issues that may come before the court. These issues have and are likely to continue to come before this court.

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

I continue to teach at professional educational seminars on Implicit and Explicit Bias, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Judicial Philosophy, Sexual Orientation and the Legal Profession, Judicial Ethics, Overcoming Intolerance, and Diversity in the Law.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name     G. Helen Whitener
Date (mm/dd/yy)     03/21/2022

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