OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Steven Gonzalez was sworn in as the Washington State Supreme Court's newest justice Monday.
Gonzalez was appointed to the state's high court by Gov. Christine Gregoire in November and is the first justice of Mexican heritage to serve on the bench since its formation in 1889.
Gonzalez was first appointed as a judge to the King County Superior Court bench in March 2002 and voters elected him that fall. He was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.
From 1997 to 2002, Gonzalez was an assistant U.S. attorney in the state's Western District.
He also worked in the City of Seattle Attorney's Office from 1996 to 1997 as a trial attorney in the domestic violence unit.
Before that, he practiced business and civil law with the firm Hillis Clark Martin and Peterson from 1991 to 1996.
"Judge Gonzalez is a highly regarded and experienced trial court judge, a former federal prosecutor and an acknowledged leader in improving access to justice for all in Washington," Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen said earlier this month.
"Judge Gonzalez will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court and I am confident he will continue to serve the public with great energy and distinction."
Gonzalez earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkley's law school and was admitted to the Washington State Bar in 1991.
He graduated from Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges, with an undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies.
In addition, last May he was awarded an honorary doctorate of law from the Gonzaga University Law School, where he gave the commencement address.
Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg praised the "historic" appointment in a statement Monday.
"The interests of justice are best served when judges reflect the broader society. Lack of diversity on the bench can cause unintended 'group think' among judges, leading to blind spots in the delivery of justice, and it can cause distrust among minority communities," he said.
"With the appointment of Justice Gonzalez, the state of Washington has taken an important step by broadening the makeup of its Supreme Court."
Justice at Stake describes itself as a nonpartisan national partnership working to keep courts fair, impartial and free from special-interest and partisan agendas.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.