Stephens sworn in on state’s high court

OLYMPIA — Debra Stephens was officially installed Monday as the newest member of Washington’s Supreme Court, quoting a bit of Western wisdom as she pledged to work tirelessly for equal justice.

“I always am reminded of the cowboy poet who said, ‘The courts are the place where the smallest dog can lift its leg against the highest tree,’ ” Stephens said, drawing guffaws from the court chambers.

Stephens, 42, of Spokane, ceremonially took the bench Monday as the first woman to serve from Eastern Washington and the first justice from east of the Cascades since former Chief Justice Richard Guy of Spokane retired in 2000.

Stephens also is the first high-court justice appointed by Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire, who named Stephens to the post last month. She replaces retiring Justice Bobbe Bridge, keeping a gender balance of five men and four women.

To keep the seat, Stephens will have to run for election in November.

Stephens, a 1993 Gonzaga Law School graduate, has limited judicial experience.

Gregoire appointed her in April to the Division III Court of Appeals, serving Spokane and the northeastern counties.

Before that, Stephens was in private practice specializing in appellate law, tallying 100-plus appearances before the state Supreme Court.

By Curt Woodward, Seattle Times, January 18, 2008

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