By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Justice Steven Gonzalez was recently appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court, the state’s highest court. He is the second Latino ever to be in such a prominent position.
For the past 10 years, Gonzalez served on the bench as Superior Court Judge, appointed by former Gov. Gary Locke.
Voters retained him as judge in 2004 and 2008.
During the early 1990s, he was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington. He was also a domestic violence prosecutor for the City of Seattle and an associate in business law at Seattle firm Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson.
Presently, Steven chairs the Washington State Access to Justice Board and co-chairs the Race and Criminal Justice System Task Force.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., and his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. <!–more–>
1. Why is it important to you to contribute to your community?
Because I’m an optimist, and I think we have a responsibility to improve the world.
2. What does the word diversity mean to you and how do you foster it in your work?
Diversity means creating the ability in everyone to consider the world from someone else’s perspective. We foster it by listening carefully, respecting people, and making an effort to learn about people who are different from ourselves.
3. What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work?
Maintaining balance between time with my family and the demands of work — and trying to make changes in the world.
4. What was one of your proudest moments in your work?
Successfully representing a client in private practice and having them say, “Thank you for your work,” receiving the  Outstanding Judge of the Year Award with Judge Mary Yu (from the Washington State Bar Association). Also, receiving the  Judge of the Year Award from the Asian Bar Association of Washington, and getting introduced by [Judge] Dean Lum — also a superior court judge, one of my colleagues here, and a mentor of mine. Those are the things that stand out.
5. Can you finish this sentence? “My work excites me because …”
Because we get to work on interesting problems with bright enthusiastic people, and we get to mentor students and be part of a profession with high standards.
6. If you could pick only one trait, what trait do you think is the most important for a leader?
The ability to inspire other people with a positive message.
7. If you could compare your leadership style to that of a historical figure, who would that be?
Brenda Hale. Baroness Hale [of Richmond], from England. She is an impressive scholar and leader in the legal profession in England [who] has broken the glass ceiling there for women. She’s on the country’s highest court (as a justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom), the only woman there.
8. If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what other job do you think you’d be good at?
Being a teacher. I enjoy working with students.
9. Do you have a secret talent? What is it?
It’s karaoke. … I’m not necessarily very good. I just like to do it, though other people might run from the room.
(Gonzalez was asked if he had a signature song.) La Bamba is one of my favorites.
10. If you could describe yourself in only three words, what would they be?
Family-oriented — oh, I guess that’s two words — fortunate, and diligent. (end)
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.