Judge Marshall Ferguson’s Investiture Remarks

Welcome.  It is so wonderful and overwhelming to see everyone from the different parts of my life here in this room together.  I feel like George Bailey at the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, when all of his family, friends, and colleagues from disparate parts of his life come together and fill his house with love and joy.  You should not interpret this as a coded request for a large basket of money.  Uncle Billy did not lose the Court’s bank deposit; we’re doing fine.

I want to first offer a few words of thanks.  Thank you all so much for being here.  This is a very special occasion and it means a lot to me to see you all here.

Thank you to my family, some of whom have traveled across the country to be here.

To my sister Kathryn: thank you for robing up and judging out with me.  After all these years, it’s nice that we’ll finally be able to have conversations about fashion.

Thanks to my extended family from Lopez Island, for braving ferries, I-5, and downtown traffic to be here.  We’ve shared so many big moments in life and I’m glad to have you here at this one.

Thank you to my friends, and to my colleagues – new and old – from the bench, from the bar, and from my old law firm of Williams Kastner.  It’s Friday, you’ve all got families and jobs, and I really appreciate you being here.

Thank you to my new bailiff, Kiese Wilburn, who has been generous and patient introducing me to my new universe.

To Judge Linda Coburn, for whom I was a judge pro tem up in Edmonds Municipal Court.  Thank you for the opportunities, for everything you taught me, and for nudging me when I needed a nudge.

Thank you Rob for your kind words, but also for your 11 years of mentorship, for giving up time with your family to teach me, for giving me chance when you easily could’ve given up on me, and for providing me opportunities not just to succeed, but to fail and learn from failing.  As much as I used to resent you hounding me over split infinitives, I owe you so much and I thank you.

And, a special thank you to my parents, Paul and Susan, for a lifetime of love and guidance, and for the sacrifices that you’ve made as parents for me and for my nine other siblings.

And most importantly, thank you to my wife Sarah and my daughters, Hannah and Julia.  You are my sunshine, my sweetness, my joy.  Thank you for being you; you each touch my heart in special ways.  Thank you for your love and for putting up with my recent attempts to adjudicate household disputes.

And there are many more of you whom I’d like to thank individually over drinks and food after this, so I really hope you’ll join me at the reception.

I’ve heard it said many times: Seattle is a small town.  In many ways, it is.  Certainly in the professional sense, the Seattle legal community still feels like a small town.  You might not know everyone, but you know a lot of the names or faces.  You run into colleagues on the sidewalk.  The other day, I was thinking of a law school classmate while riding the bus, and I saw him walking down the street about a minutes later.  Seattle is still small enough that those sorts of things aren’t unheard of.  Seattle is small enough that judges here still can have an impact in the ways that a judge in a smaller community can.  I know a little bit about small communities.  I’m lucky to be able to say that I went to high school on Lopez Island, WA.  My parents still have a place there and my family still has close friends there.  Twenty years ago in 1998, I was a Rule 9 attorney-intern in Friday Harbor with the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office.  I handled the weekly District Court criminal docket there before a terrific judge.

I remember many things about this judge and the impact that he had on the community’s sense of justice and fairness.  Most everyone believed that, no matter what your background, no matter how much money you made or didn’t make, you’d get a fair shake from this judge.  I remember coming back from court one day and asking my father about this judge.  My father first spent about 45 seconds disparaging this judge’s political party: “They’re a bunch of filthy, lying, no-good…rutza-frutza.”  Then he stopped, and said, “But you know Marsh, he runs a good District Court.  I’ll give him that.  He’s prepared, he’s thorough, he listens, and above all he’s fair.”  That was extremely high praise from my father.  This judge passed away in 2009, but I’ll never forget what he provided to our small community up in San Juan County: confidence in the justice system.  And a kind of peace of mind: if my kid gets arrested, the judge will treat him/her fairly and with dignity.  If I have a legal dispute with my neighbor and I lose, I’ll accept the result because the judge was well prepared and gave me a reasonable opportunity to be heard.  That judge’s name was John Linde.  Judge John Linde swore me in as a lawyer in 1999.  He was a superb role model for me as a judicial officer.  Now, in 2018, I have the honor of working alongside his sister, Judge Barbara Linde, who is a judge in this court.

I’ve seen from her example, and from the example of the other judges here, that a King County Superior Court Judge can have the same impact in this county as Judge John Linde had in San Juan County.  A judge here can impart that confidence in the justice system, on both a community level and an individual level.  In the mere three months that I’ve been doing this job, I’ve seen the weight melt off of someone’s shoulders when they’ve had their day in court.  When they’ve been heard.  The big day they’ve been waiting for weeks or months has finally arrived, and the judge has ruled.  Maybe they’ve won.  Or they’ve lost.  They’ve obtained justice.  Or perhaps they’ve been sentenced and they’re taking a first step down a path toward accountability or maybe even redemption.  That weight, that burden, can only be lifted when that person knows that they’ve had a real chance to speak their piece, make their case, and when they know that they’ve been treated fairly and with dignity.  That confidence in the courts and in judges is just as vital to a large community as it is to a small town.  Certainly, we’ve seen in other parts of this nation, the corrosive effects upon a community when a court system is misused as simply a revenue-generator or as an engine for mass incarceration.

Having a sound, fair court system takes an incredible amount of work by a lot of dedicated people, from judges and lawyers, to bailiffs, clerks, administrators, and other courthouse staff.  I’m proud and privileged to be a part of that, and am grateful that my legal acumen, such as it is, might be of service to the people of this city, this county, our great State of Washington, and our nation from whom I’ve received so much.

I’d like to end by again saying thank you.  I means so much to see all of you here and I’m so grateful.  Thank you again for coming and please join me at the reception.

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