For Sue Parisien, running for a judge position in the King County Superior Court is a natural progression.
After more than two decades of litigation, it makes sense to want to go “from an advocate to mutual decision-making,” says the senior trial attorney for Zurich North America and former assistant attorney general.
Parisien is running for judge position No. 42 in an attempt to unseat Judge Christopher A. Washington, who has been on the bench for eight years. Parisien ran for a judge position once before, in 2008, but lost to Tim Bradshaw.
“The person in this job now needs to be replaced,” Parisien says. “That’s why I’m running.”
On the 2012 Judicial Performance Evaluation, an extensive survey of judges by attorneys statewide, Judge Washington scored 2.74 out of 5 in legal decision making, with 22 percent of 44 respondents rating his decision-making procedures “unacceptable,” and 30 percent rating them “poor.” This puts Washington ninth from the bottom. (For comparison’s sake, Bradshaw’s rating is 4.09, and Supreme Court Justice Steven González’s is 4.33.)
Parisien cites her extensive trial law experience as key to her candidacy. Her opponents, Marianne Jones and David Ruzumna, are not as qualified, she says. “You have to have spent many years trying cases” to be a good judge, she says.
Parisien also touts her experience as an adjunct professor at the University of Washington School of Law. “To a certain extent judges are teachers,” she says. “That’s an extra piece I’m proud to bring.”
Governor Chris Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna have given her their blessings, and she won The Stranger’s endorsement.
Parisien has worked extensively with cases dealing with the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, and one of her goals as judge would be to better protect children.
“Sometimes these kids fall through the cracks,” she says. “I found many times when the court didn’t ask the right questions.”
One solution she’d like to bring to the table as judge is community and volunteer involvement. “I think that there is no question that the courts are completely overworked and understaffed,” she says. “The courts are going to have to rely more on community volunteers.”
A volunteer herself, Parisien is an active member of Temple Beth Am who regularly cooks for Teen Feed with her two daughters and her posse of 10 friends called “Sue’s crew.” “It’s really important to us,” she says.
Although between her children — one approaching Bat Mitzvah and the other a high school sophomore — their dog and her work, Parisien hasn’t got a lot of free time. But she does find time to advocate for breast cancer early detection, a disease she survived and has been free of for five years now.
As a “Check Your Boobies” facilitator, Parisien leads breast education parties to teach women how to self-check for lumps and talk about her experience. It’s a “laid back, non-threatening way to educate women in groups,” she says. “Daughters nag their mothers, mothers nag their mothers,” and so on. It’s all about making positive change.
“Judges are lucky,” she says, for that very reason. Parisien sees opportunity for making changes in the court system, especially to give more of a voice to disenfranchised kids.
“There are opportunities for everyone to do better,” she says.