The Honorable Debra L. Stephens was appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court effective January 1, 2008, and subsequently elected to a six-year term. She previously served as a judge for Division Three of the Court of Appeals, having been appointed and later elected unopposed in 2007. Justice Stephens is a native of Spokane, Washington, where she practiced law until taking the bench.
Justice Stephens is firmly committed to public service and community involvement. She served for over a decade on the Board of Directors of the Orchard Prairie School District No. 123, and was also a board member of the Spokane Valley Rotary Club. She has served as both a Deacon and Elder of Millwood Community Presbyterian Church; a member of the Sacred Heart Children’s Foundation “Joshua’s Hugs” fundraising circle; a Community Board Advisor for People for Environmental Action & Community Health (PEACH), an organization committed to the development of sustainable agriculture and local safe foods; a founding member and volunteer mentor for the Upward Bound Program, providing guidance to at-risk high school students; and a volunteer mentor for Gonzaga University undergraduate and graduate students. She has been a strong advocate for pro bono legal services, and was a volunteer supervising attorney at Gonzaga’s University Legal Assistance clinic. On the Supreme Court she currently serves on the Appellate Court Education, Court Budget, Personnel, and Strategic Planning Committees. She also is the Washington State Chair of ASTAR (Advanced Science & Technology Adjudication Resource Center), Co-Chair of the National Advisory Board of the National Courts Science Institute, a successor organization to ASTAR, and serves on the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission.
Justice Stephens entered law school when her daughter was just five weeks old. Upon graduation from law school, Justice Stephens served as a Staff Attorney for the Honorable Fred L. Van Sickle, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington from 1993-95. Her subsequent legal work focused on appellate practice, with over 125 appearances in the Washington Supreme Court, in addition to appearances in the Washington Court of Appeals, Idaho Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and as counsel of record in the United States Supreme Court. From August 1995 until April 2007, she helped coordinate the Amicus Curiae Program of the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association Foundation, the longest standing institutional “friend of the court” program in the State. She also taught as an adjunct professor at Gonzaga University School of Law, in areas including Federal and State Constitutional Law, Community Property, Appellate Advocacy, and Legal Research & Writing. In addition, she was a contributing author to the Washington Appellate Practice Deskbook, and a prolific writer and speaker at continuing legal education programs.
Justice Stephens is the first judge from Division Three of the Court of Appeals to serve on the Washington State Supreme Court and the first woman from Eastern Washington to do so. She grew up in Spokane, graduating from West Valley High School, which inducted her into its alumni “Hall of Fame” in 2012. She graduated from Gonzaga University, and taught Speech Communications and coached the debate team at Spokane Falls Community College before entering law school. She attended Gonzaga University School of Law as a Thomas More Scholar, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1993.
Justice Stephens and her husband, Craig, have been married since 1989, and have two children. The family enjoys skiing, golfing, singing around the campfire and spending time on the Snake River.