Let's throw a big party to celebrate a judge whose entire legal career has been focused on working tirelessly to improve the administration of justice - that's what attorneys who practice family law in King County did for Judge Kimberley Prochnau, who retired from the Superior Court bench at the end of February. And what a well-deserved celebration it was, with 150 attorneys and judges responding to the invitation to honor Judge Prochnau's career.
"I never saw a committee I didn't want to join!" So said Kim to me one day with a chuckle, and I love teasing her with that quote. To me, it captures one of her finest qualities - finding fun and joy in everything she does, whether it be working tenaciously and collaboratively to improve how the justice system works (even if it means attending innumerable committee meetings, something she really does enjoy), taking a well-planned European vacation, or spending wonderful times with her family.
And of course, those who work with Kim or appear before her also quickly perceive her keen intelligence, legal analytical ability, willingness to take on and accomplish difficult tasks, and her calm and respectful demeanor.
Retired Judge Jim Doerty remembers when he and Kim had their commissioner hiring interviews with the judges on the same day, back in 1994. "The first occasion I ever met her was pacing around nervously outside the conference room. (That would be me doing the nervous pacing.) Kim was as calm and cheerful and upbeat as nobody about to be grilled by 30 judges en banc should be. In the many years of toil and grind in the often sad trenches of family law and juvenile court, I noticed that her calm, cheerfulness and can-do attitude never wavered."
"Girl loves to dance and she loves a good story." Her good friend and fellow judicial officer, retired Commissioner Eric Watness, believes this is a fitting metaphor for how Kim lives her life. Why? "Dancing requires lots of moves, physical innovation by ad-libbing the song and getting in and doing the job for the fun of it. And life is about making new stories. Both notions aptly describe Kimberley Prochnau."
Commissioner Watness should know. To his delight, he spent time commuting with Kim from Seattle to the RJC talking about cases they had encountered, court administration policies and any issue du jour, including what was going on in their personal lives.
Retired Judge George Mattson describes the opportunity he had to really get to know Kim and he sings her praises. "The time we were assigned to adjoining courtrooms gave me the opportunity to develop a pretty good idea about Kim's abilities as a judicial officer, in terms of knowledge, and just getting a fix on whether I thought she had a good 'judicial disposition,' a concept hard to define, but after a while you know it when you see it. As a commissioner she had developed the ability to consume large quantities of case materials quickly, which I believe really gives a future judge a leg up when it comes to becoming a judge.
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