Letter: Being the district judge was a privilege of a lifetime


I am writing this letter to share with you that I intend to retire as Island County District Court judge effective May 31, 2024.

To say that I am proud of the eleven years I have spent on the bench would be an understatement. I feel honored to have been able to serve this island community I call home. I consider it the privilege of a lifetime, and an enriching, challenging and humbling experience. To the citizens of Island County, I say thank you for your confidence and for the opportunity.

To the many wonderful judicial, legal and law and justice colleagues and partners and government agencies I have had the privilege of working with, I express my admiration for your professionalism, your enthusiasm, your hard work over the years, and my thanks for your support.

Special thanks to the Island County commissioners, who have been supportive throughout my time on the bench, beginning with appointment to the bench in 2013, and for supporting District Court and our mission since then. With the help of the board, everyone coming to the court experiences modern courthouse security.

It was only with extensive support from the board and the county’s IT Department — and federal funding made available during the pandemic — that the Court now has a high-quality video conferencing system that will continue to serve the community for many years to come, saving our many visitors travel time and expense, and facilitating access to the court. Plans are currently underway to create a therapeutic court and to address badly needed county facilities. The courts could not function without strong support from the legislative branch, and in Island County I am pleased to report that District Court has received continuous support from our County Commissioners.

For many, District Court is the gateway to the legal system, a place where first impressions are formed. Although the cases heard in District Court are, by definition, less serious than those handled in Superior Court, the nature of the cases affect people greatly and in very personal ways. On the bench as at the front counter, on the phone (we still answer telephone calls, an increasingly rare practice), and in Probation, we have a lot of personal interaction with the folks with whom we come in contact. We see people under the stress of litigation, many here involuntarily, often at a low point in their lives. I am proud of this court and the many ways it serves those in need, be they victims of crime, victims of their own addiction, or those struggling with issues of physical or mental health. My goals have been that all find a receptive ear and leave feeling they have been heard, that judicial decisions are made based on the facts and the law, without favor, bias or an agenda, and that the public can remain confident in the integrity of the bench.

To Belinda, my wife and partner of almost 50 years, I am grateful for the emotional support and the space she has provide all these years. The demands of the job require a fair amount of both.

Finally, to the District Court staff, as you have heard me say before, none of this would be possible without you. One of the most important lessons I learned in law school was who the most important person in the courtroom is: the court clerk. I appreciate you and all that you do for the citizens of this community. Thank you very much.

Judge Bill Hawkins

Oak Harbor