Latino Judge Makes History in Washington State

A Latino was appointed to the state's top court in Washington.

King Country Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez was appointed by Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire to serve on the State Supreme Court.

Gonzalez will be the second Hispanic justice to ever serve on the state’s high court, said court spokeswoman Wendy Ferrell.

Gonzalez will replace Justice Gerry Alexander, who retires at the end of the year due to mandatory retirement laws.

“He is a legal scholar with deep experience in court, both on the bench as a Superior Court judge and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney and Assistant City Attorney prosecuting cases of international terrorism, child prostitution and hate crimes,” Gregoire said Tuesday. “His experience with profoundly important issues, close study of the law and perspective as a trial court judge will make Judge Gonzalez an excellent Supreme Court Justice.”

Charles Z. Smith, who was the state’s first ethnic minority on the court, was appointed in 1988 and served until 2002 when he stepped down after reaching the state’s mandatory retirement age of 75. Smith is an African-American of Cuban descent.

Gonzalez was appointed to the King County Superior Court in March 2002 and was elected by voters later that same year. He was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.

Prior to his time on the court, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the state’s western district. From 1996 to 1997, he worked as a trial attorney in the domestic violence unit for the City of Seattle.

Gonzalez serves as the chairman of the Washington State Access to Justice Board and also is a co-chairman of the Race and Criminal Justice System Task Force.

He received his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley’s law school and was admitted to the Washington state bar in 1991. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Michelle Gonzalez, who is the assistant dean at the University of Washington Law School, and their two children.

His term on the court will begin in January.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

Follow us on
Like us at