Washington Supreme Court Justice Wiggins to retire, governor to select replacement

Justice Charles Wiggins
Photo credit: Charles Wiggins

Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles K. Wiggins is retiring at the end of March 2020. In a prepared statement, Wiggins said he wished to spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and his family.

Wiggins was elected to the state supreme court in 2010 and re-elected in 2016. He was previously a Division 2 judge of the Washington Court of Appeals and served as a pro tem judge in the Jefferson County and King County superior courts and as a pro tem district court judge in Kitsap County. He also worked in private practice. Wiggins earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, where he graduated magna cum laude. He served in the Army Military Intelligence Corps for four years after graduating from Princeton. During that time, he obtained his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Hawaii. He then obtained his J.D. from Duke Law School in 1976.

In the event of a midterm vacancy, selection of state supreme court justices in Washington occurs through gubernatorial appointment. Wiggins’ replacement will be Governor Jay Inslee’s (D) third nominee to the nine-member court. Newly appointed justices serve until the next general election, at which point they may run to serve for the remainder of the predecessor’s term. Wiggins’ seat will appear on the ballot in a nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020. Candidates will run to finish the last two years of his term, set to expire on January 8, 2023.

The nine justices of the supreme court compete in contested elections without reference to party affiliation and must run for re-election when their terms expire. Supreme court justices serve for six years.

The Washington State Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. It currently includes the following justices:

• Charles Johnson – Elected in 1990
• Barbara Madsen – Elected in 1992
• Susan Owens – Elected in 2000
• Charlie Wiggins – Elected in 2010
• Sheryl Gordon McCloud – Elected in 2012
• Steven Gonzalez – Appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire (D)
• Debra Stephens – Appointed by Gov. Gregoire
• Raquel Montoya-Lewis – Appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee (D)
• Mary Yu – Appointed by Gov. Inslee

In 2020, there have been six supreme court vacancies in five of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Three vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. The other three are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement.

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Additional reading:
State supreme court vacancies, 2020
Washington State Supreme Court
Charlie Wiggins
Judicial selection in Washington