Inslee appoints Judge G. Helen Whitener to the Washington State Supreme Court

Pierce County Superior Court Judge and state Supreme Court justice appointee G. Helen Whitener photographed in Gov. Jay Inslee’s office Monday. (Office of the Governor Photo)

Gov. Jay Inslee today announced the appointment of Judge G. Helen Whitener to the Washington State Supreme Court. She replaces Justice Charles Wiggins, who retired from the bench last month.

Whitener has been a judicial officer since 2013. From 2013 to 2015, she served as a judge on the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. Inslee then appointed her to the Pierce County Superior Court in 2015, where she has worked as a judge for over five years, retaining her seat in a 2015 election and winning re-election to a full term in 2016. Before becoming a judge, Whitener litigated criminal cases for 14 years as both a prosecutor and defense attorney.

Whitener is known for her commitment to justice and equity. She serves as co-chair of the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission and as a member of the Civil Legal Aid Oversight Committee. She continues to garner recognition for her work to advance the cause of justice. Last year, Whitener was awarded the Washington State Bar Association’s C.Z. Smith Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award, the King County Washington Women Lawyers President Award, the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association’s Diversity Award and the Seattle University School of Law’s Woman of the Year Award.

“Judge Whitener inspires lawyers and non-lawyers alike with her relentless work to raise awareness for matters of race, justice and equity,” Inslee said. “She is tireless in her commitment to building a justice system that works for all, and as a Supreme Court justice, she will have an even greater platform to promote justice for everyone in Washington state. I am very pleased to appoint her to this bench and I look forward to her many contributions to our state for years to come.”

Whitener is originally from Trinidad and moved to the United States as a teenager to attend college. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Baruch College in New York and her law degree from Seattle University School of Law.

“Judge Whitener is an outstanding choice for our highest court. In a field of outstanding candidates, she stood out as a dynamic and exciting jurist who would add to the talent and perspectives of our Supreme Court. Lawyers and citizens who have tried cases in her court uniformly rave about her work ethic, insights, and her ability to help advance the concept of justice for all in our state. During a very challenging time, this is a real bright and shining moment for justice in our state,” said John Allison, Spokane attorney, and president, Washington State Association for Justice.

“On behalf of the state bar and as a practicing lawyer, I am thrilled Judge Whitener will be serving the people of Washington on the Supreme Court,” said Washington State Bar President Rajeev Majumdar.

“Last fall, she received the bar’s Excellence in Diversity APEX Award, our highest honor for someone in the legal community dedicated to championing diversity and justice. That’s because Judge Whitener is a tenacious, fearless, and compassionate advocate of human rights for all, and she has opened pathways and opportunities for many communities,” Majumdar continued. “While many know her for her work in Pierce County, I can personally attest to her traveling statewide to inspire and mentor youth from underrepresented backgrounds into the legal profession. Now the entire state will benefit from her human-centered and dignified pursuit of justice.”

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