Former Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander was honored with the 2012 Charles A. Goldmark Distinguished Service Award on February 24 at the 26th annual luncheon benefiting the Legal Foundation of Washington.
Only a constitutionally required retirement could move Alexander to leave his beloved Temple of Justice. But now in private practice at Bean, Gentry, Wheeler, Peternell, he will be able to serve the public good with the same grace and kindness that he has shown the state's people during his four decades as a jurist.
In his acceptance remarks, referring to the Washington State Bar Association's contribution of $1.5 million from its reserves to help bridge the gap in civil legal aid funding, Alexander said, "In my view, what the bar did then was in the finest tradition of the legal profession. Borrowing from Sir Winston Churchill, I would say that this was the bar's finest hour.
"Now, some will say that because Washington state's bar is a mandatory bar, it should not be engaging in such activities and should, instead, limit itself to its mandatory obligation to administer the discipline and admissions system. Indeed, there is a referendum before the bar membership now which, if passed, would prevent the bar from doing much more than what it is mandated to do. Speaking for myself, I disagree with those who would clip the bar's wings in this way.
"The Washington State Bar Association is and should be more than a department of licenses. It is an association of lawyers and the only professional organization (to which) all lawyers must belong. In my view, it is entirely appropriate for the bar to promote principles like equality in the courts, a legal system that is 'accessible to all,' and public understanding of the respect for our legal system. Those are not just my ideas, but are denominated purposes in the Washington State Bar Association, as set forth in General Rule 12.1."
Justice Alexander then described how one of his first acts after retiring from the Supreme Court was to transfer his membership from "Judicial" to "Active," plunking down the additional dues "proudly because I was becoming active again in an association which has stood firm, as it should, for the principle that justice is not just for some but for all."
In his remarks introducing Alexander, Justice Steven González, who filled Alexander's seat on the bench in January, acknowledged the passage and relativity of time. He noted Alexander's service as a Superior Court judge for Thurston and Mason counties and a Court of Appeals judge before joining the Supreme Court, where he served as chief justice longer than any other in our state's history. Justice González recalled that for 18 years Alexander served the Court's mission, championing judicial independence, access to justice and open courts.
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