By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Secretary, teacher, or nurse.
Being a woman, these were the only choices that counselors gave Marcine Anderson when she graduated from an Oregon high school in a small town in 1973.
Although admirable professions, Anderson was destined to do more.
On Friday, March 12, Anderson will be sworn in as a King County District Court Judge in the Shoreline Division. The 55-year-old will be the first Asian American and woman appointed to the Shoreline District Court.
Becoming a judge was not a dream of Anderson’s when she was growing up. A Japanese American, she grew up in a small logging town near Eugene, Ore. As an 18-year-old preparing to go to college, Anderson was invited to an event in Eugene. The speaker at the event was Helen Frye, a local federal district court judge.
Anderson recalls how impressed she was with Judge Frye and how she enjoyed her job. Frye was the first female judge appointed to the Oregon Circuit Courts.
After listening to Frye, Anderson did not meet another attorney for another 5 years. “It (Judge Frye’s speech) didn’t guide my whole life,” Anderson said. But it did affect her.
Growing up, Anderson’s parents did not push her to become an attorney. “There was never any pressure,” Anderson said. “They just wanted me to always do my best.”
Anderson earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Certificate in Ethnic Studies from the University of Oregon in 1977. After graduating, Anderson worked for several years prior to going to law school. “I always knew I wanted to do something else,” Anderson said in regards to her decision to go to law school.
Anderson sent out applications to law schools in Boston, New York, and Seattle (Anderson applied to the University of Puget Sound, now known as Seattle University). She decided to move to Boston to attend Suffolk University Law School. “It was the big adventure, and I wanted to try something. Boston was a great place to go to law school.” Anderson graduated from law school in 1984 where she made the dean’s list.
After law school, Anderson practiced law in Boston for 6 years. But Anderson wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of moving to Seattle. “It is a beautiful area,” Anderson said. She took the Washington State Bar exam in order to practice law in Seattle. She became a member of the Washington State Bar in 1990.
Anderson spent time in private practice before working for the King County Prosecutor’s Office Civil Division, where she was a senior deputy prosecuting attorney and advised the county on technology issues.
Since 1997, she served as judge pro temporare (substitute judge) in the Municipal Court of Seattle and the King County District Court.
Anderson has volunteered her legal knowledge and services with many community organizations including the Japanese American Citizens League, the International District Legal Clinic, and the Northwest Women’s Law Center in Seattle. In 2004, Anderson became the first Asian American to serve on the Board of Governors in the Washington State Bar Association’s (WSBA) 115-year history. The governance of the WSBA is vested in its 14-person board of governors.
As Anderson prepares to become the first Asian American female judge in Shoreline, she believes that there is a need for diversity in the judiciary. “There is always a need for diversity,” Anderson said. “There are many places [in the country] where there are no Asian Americans on the bench.” She believes that this area is lucky to have so much diversity.
In 2008, Anderson won the WSBA’s Excellence in Diversity Award. The award is given to a person that has made a significant contribution to diversity in the legal profession’s employment of ethnic minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.
From a humble upbringing, Anderson offered practical advice for young people wanting to follow in her footsteps. “Stay in school,” Anderson said. She preached the value of education in any career choice. She stated, “[If] I can do this, so can you.”
“I had no expectation [of becoming a judge]. I feel so honored and blessed to be where I am. There was nothing in my background that would indicate that I would make it here.” She added, “Dream big.”
Anderson was appointed to the bench on Feb. 22 after a detailed screening process with various community bar associations and the King County Council. The position was established by the King County Council in order to address increasing district court case loads. The court handles more than 21,000 cases a year, which include traffic infractions, certain civil matters, and misdemeanor criminal offenses. The Shoreline District Court serves the cities of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, and Kenmore.
Anderson will be sworn-in during a formal ceremony by Washington State Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens at the courthouse in Shoreline. Anderson’s appointment will be short-lived as the position will be open for election this November. Anderson stated that she will run in November. ♦
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.