Justice Steve Gonzalez is a father and husband and has a long and distinguished career serving the people of the state of Washington. He was appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court in January, 2012 and won a statewide election in August, 2012 with over 60% of the vote. Before joining the Supreme Court, Steve served for ten years as a trial judge on the King County Superior Court hearing criminal, civil, juvenile, and family law cases.
Prior to joining the court in King County, Steve practiced both criminal and civil law. He was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Western District of Washington, a Domestic Violence Prosecutor for the City of Seattle, and an Associate in the Business Law Department at the Seattle law firm Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson. He earned his B.A. with Honors in East Asian Studies from Pitzer College and his J.D. from U.C. Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) where he was the Technical Editor of La Raza Law Journal.
Every bar association and organization that has rated Steve to date has found him either Exceptionally Well Qualified or Well Qualified for the Supreme Court. He was honored to receive the Outstanding Judge of the Year Award from the Washington State Bar Association in 2011. Steve has received broad support from hundreds of endorsers from across Washington State. Click here for a full list of endorsements.
Steve is proud of the diverse experience he brings to the Supreme Court. In his role as a Justice, Superior Court Judge, Federal Prosecutor, local Domestic Violence Prosecutor, and civil lawyer, he has worked to keep the doors of justice open to all Washingtonians.
Governor Christine Gregoire appointed Steve to the Washington State Supreme Court in January, 2012 to replace retired Justice Gerry Alexander. That August, Justice Gonzalez defended his seat in a statewide election, winning over 60% of the vote. Before joining the Supreme Court, Steve served for ten years as a trial judge on the King County Superior Court hearing criminal, civil, juvenile, and family law cases. Steve was appointed to the bench by Governor Locke in 2002. He won a contested election the same year and was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.
As an Assistant United States Attorney, Steve was part of the team that successfully prosecuted the international terrorism case U.S. v. Ressam, for which he received two Department of Justice awards: the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service and the Director’s Award for Superior Performance. He also prosecuted organized crime cases and served as the Hate Crimes Prosecution Coordinator. After September 11, he lectured on international terrorism prosecution to U.S. Attorneys in Washington D.C.
While working in private practice, Steve gained significant civil and business law experience, including acquisitions, mergers, land use, intellectual property, commercial litigation, and contract negotiation. He regularly provided pro bono representation to people who could not afford to pay for a lawyer. Steve continues to be a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education seminars.
Steve has received numerous awards throughout his career, including “Judge of the Year” awards from the Washington State Bar Association, the Washington Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and the Asian Bar Association of Washington in 2011. He also received the Exceptional Member Award from the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington in 2011 and the Vanguard Award from the King County Chapter of Washington Women Lawyers in 2009.
Steve earned his B.A. with Honors in East Asian Studies from Pitzer College and his J.D. from U.C. Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) where he was the Technical Editor of the La Raza Law Journal. As a part of his undergraduate degree, Steve studied at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan and at Nanjing University in China. Before law school, he did graduate work in Economics at Hokkaido University on a scholarship from Rotary International. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2011 where he gave the commencement address.
Steve is passionate about providing open access to the justice system for all. He was appointed by the Supreme Court, and served for seven years, on the Washington State Access to Justice Board, including the last two years as its Chair. He is a mentor to students through the Future of the Law Institute and many other organizations.
Steve speaks Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish. He lives in Seattle with his wife Michelle, an Assistant Dean at the University of Washington School of Law, and their two sons.
Justice Gonzalez has been rated either Exceptionally Well Qualified or Well Qualified for the State Supreme Court by every bar association and organization that has rated him to date:
- Cardozo Law Society – Exceptionally Well Qualified;
- Joint Asian Bar Associations Judicial Evaluation Committee – Exceptionally Well Qualified;
- Justice for Washington – Well Qualified
- King County Bar Association – Exceptionally Well Qualified
- King County Correctional Officers Guild - Exceptionally Well Qualified;
- Latina/o Bar Association – Exceptionally Well Qualified;
- Loren Miller Bar Association – Exceptionally Well Qualified;
- QLaw – Exceptionally Well Qualified;
- Seattle Metropolitan Evaluation Committee (“SEAMEC”) – Highly Recommended
- Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Committee – Exceptionally Well Qualified;
- Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys – Well Qualified; and
- Washington Women Lawyers – Well Qualified
Justice Gonzalez is active in judicial administration, including service as:
- Former Co-Chair of Washington State Board of Judicial Administration Court Security Committee;
- Chair of the Interpreter Committee for King County Superior Court;
- Co-Chair of the Pro Se Committee for King County Superior Court;
- Former Chair of King County Superior Court Security Committee;
- Prior service on the Personnel Committee, Courts and Community Committee, and Technology Committee for King County Superior Court;
- Prior service on the Washington State Bar Association Court Improvement Committee; and
- Coordinated the successful adoption and implementation in 2008 of a policy not to allow enforcement of civil immigration warrants in King County Superior Court, including meetings to gain the cooperation of the King County Executive and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officials.
Justice Gonzalez has substantial experience in international legal issues, including the following:
- Prosecuted international terrorism case: U.S. v. Ressam;
- Taught trial advocacy in Venezuela and Argentina for the Office of Prosecutorial Development and Training while these countries were contemplating a shift from an inquisitorial to an accusatorial system of criminal justice;
- Prosecuted Asian and Russian Organized Crime cases;
- Lectured to visiting Japanese legal scholars regarding jury trials in anticipation of the new Japanese jury system;
- Lectured in Mexico at the Invitation of the Consul General regarding international terrorism prosecutions and investigations;
- Obtained evidence from Canada through dozens of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Requests processed through the Department of Justice;
- Attended Cross-Border Conference on Terrorism in Montreal;
- Lectured on international terrorism prosecution to U.S. Attorneys in Washington D.C. after September 11;
- Traveled to Canada and France to conduct depositions and interviews of suspects and witnesses involved in international terrorism; and
- Obtained evidence from France with letters rogatory submitted to the Chief Investigating Magistrate for Terrorism in Paris.
His international experience includes studies at Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan on a Rotary International scholarship in the Graduate Division, Economics Department. All of his classes were in Japanese. He conducted research on Japanese trade law and unofficial trade barriers. He studied advanced Japanese at International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan. He won First Place in the Rotary Foundation Speech Contest delivered in Japanese. He studied Chinese history and language at Nanjing University, and spent his sophomore year at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.
Justice Gonzalez also has significant civil and business law experience:
In addition to his substantial criminal law experience, Judge Gonzalez gained significant civil experience while in private practice, including acquisitions, mergers, securities offerings, entity formation, project finance, land use, ADA compliance, business immigration, intellectual property protection and transfer, dispute resolution, contract negotiation and drafting, commercial litigation and partnership disputes.
Justice Gonzalez has always been very involved in the community and is committed to justice. His involvement spans his legal career, including:
- Former Executive Committee Member and Chair of the Washington State Access to Justice Board (Washington State Supreme Court appointment);
- Co-Founder and Former Co-Chair of the Race and the Criminal Justice System Task Force;
- Founding Member of the Initiative for Diversity;
- Former Hate Crimes Prosecution Coordinator for the Western District of Washington where he charged offenders with hate crimes including arson and attempted murder;
- Former Pro Bono Attorney for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (In one case he represented a family from the PRC in a successful political asylum application after involvement in protests. In another, he obtained a waiver of the written portion of the citizenship test for an elderly applicant with a learning disability.);
- Board Member for El Centro de la Raza from 1996 to 2006;
- Current Steering Committee Member for the Puget Sound Area Minority Job Fair;
- 1996 Leadership Tomorrow Graduate;
- Participant and Mentor in the Future of the Law Institute; and
- Former Chair of the Judicial Evaluation Committee for the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington.
Justice Gonzalez has received recognition for his work, including the following:
- 2011 Career Achievement Award from the Washington Chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
- 2011 Judge of the Year Award from the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) Washington Chapter.
- 2011 Judge of the Year Award from the Asian Bar Association of Washington.
- 2011 Outstanding Judge of the Year Award from the Washington State Bar Association.
- 2011 Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Gonzaga Law School, for Public Service.
- 2010 Exceptional Member Award from the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington.
- 2009 Latino Judge of the Year from the National Hispanic Bar Association, awarded in New Mexico.
- 2009 Vanguard Award from the King County Chapter of Washington Women Lawyers.
- 2008 Distinguished Alumni from the 1980’s Recognition from Pitzer College.
- 2002 U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, awarded in Washington D.C. The highest award available for an Assistant United States Attorney.
- 2001 Latina/o Bar Association of Washington Outstanding Lawyer of the Year Award.
- April, 2001 One Week Time Off Award and Performance Award from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for work, including trial in Los Angeles, in U.S. v. Ressam, CR99-666C.
- 2001 Director’s Award for Superior Performance from the U.S. Department of Justice.
- 2000 Recognized by the U.S. DOJ for Substantially Exceeding Expectations.
- September 26, 1999 Recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice for Sustained Performance, including the case of U.S. v. Luu, CR98-736C, a nine defendant case involving a foreign language wire tap and forfeiture to the United States of approximately $2 million in criminal proceeds.
- April 5, 1999 Special Act Award from the U.S. Department of Justice for work on U.S. v. Bourbonni, et al., CR98-386(WD)C; CR98-385C; CR98-403C; and CR98-435C.
Justice Gonzalez is a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education seminars for lawyers, judges and others. Below are some examples:
- Transition to the Bench, Lectured at the January 2011 Washington State Judicial College regarding court and personal security and the transition to judicial status.
- Racial Bias in the Justice System, May, 2011 Superior Court Judges Conference Plenary Presentation on Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System with professors from Gonzaga and Seattle University Schools of Law.
- Immigration Issues in State Courts, May, 2011 Superior Court Judges Conference Moderated Plenary Presentation on Immigration Issues in State Courts.
- The Criminal Justice System for Social Workers, Provide annual training at Antioch University through Seattle Jobs Initiative since 2003 for case managers regarding conditions of supervision in Superior Court, restoration of civil rights after conviction, legal financial obligations, and the criminal justice system in Washington.
- Cultural Competency: Ensuring Justice for Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Cultures, Organized and moderated a panel discussion for the 51st Washington Judicial Conference in Spokane, Washington in the Fall of 2008.
- The Importance of Pro Bono Publico, Master of Ceremonies for King County Bar Association Community Legal Services Volunteer Recognition Event, November 20, 2008, at Benaroya Hall.
- Considering a Judicial Career: Do I need both civil and criminal experience? Panelist at the Third Annual Statewide Diversity Conference May 30, 2008.
- Poetry in Law, Provided multi-lingual poetry reading relevant to the practice of poverty law to attendees at the Annual Access to Justice Conference in Vancouver, Washington in 2008.
- The Police and the Community: Building Bridges of Understanding and Collaboration, Guest Speaker with Bellevue Police Chief at a community event presented by Eastside Conversations on Race and Culture Sponsored by City of Bellevue, September 17, 2008.
- Jury Trial Seminar for Japanese Scholars, Lectured to visiting scholars from Japan regarding best practices for jury selection, sponsored by the Japan-America Society and the Consul General of Japan, June 14, 2007.
- The Secrets of Good Trial Advocacy, Lectured to the Council of Laws, December 14, 2006.
- History and Independence, Keynote Speaker to inmates at the Special Offender Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex for the Hispanic Heritage Celebration, September 24, 2006.
- Modern Discovery: New Rules, New Approaches, Lectured on discovery at WSBA CLE, October 26, 2006.
- Latinos on the Bench, Panelist at the 10th Annual National Latina/o Law Students Association Conference, October 14, 2006.
- Tort Law Update, Lectured on evidentiary issues at the annual WSTLA CLE at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center on November 4, 2005.
- A Post 9/11 World, Panelist for WSTLA Diversity Round Table discussion regarding cultural competency, racial stereotypes in jury selection, use of interpreters and access to justice, May 5, 2005.
- Insider Secrets from Newer Judges, Panelist at CLE with U.S. District Court Judge Robart regarding motions practice, December, 16, 2004.
- Thy Liberty in Law, Guest Lecturer at the annual Pitzer College Atherton Dinner attended by professors, students and alumni of the college on November 29, 2004.
- Prosecution of a Terrorism Case, Delivered variations of this lecture regarding the Ressam case to the Washington State Latina Bar Association, Pitzer College students, AUSA’s from across the United States, University of Washington Students, and others from 2003 to 2008.