By Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Anthony Gipe, currently president of the Washington State Bar Association, is running for Superior Court Judge, position 52.
He's around to do that only because, as a boy, he liked to sleep late. Gipe grew up near Mt St Helens and he was on the mountain on May 18, 1980, the day it erupted.
"We were fishing on the south side," Gipe recalls. "We were supposed to be on the north side, but I slept in that morning and we were too late to get to the north side.
"My stepfather was so mad at me, but had we gone, we'd all have been killed in the explosion."
If Gipe liked his sleep when he was young, it's given him an extra quantum of energy as an adult. In addition to fulltime work as a trial lawyer, Gipe estimates he spends "20 to 30 hours a week" on Bar Association business.
He has also worked pro bono as general counsel to several LGBT organizations, including ERW and Capitol City Pride.
Gipe married Terry, his partner of 10 years, in February, and together they have two children. Gipe also maintains an active relationship with his niece and nephew, the children of his late brother.
It was his work as a trial lawyer that convinced him to run for judge, Gipe says.
"I've always thought being a judge was the best job if you like trials," he explains. "You get to manage them every day.
"I decided this is what I want to do. As a judge I'm in charge of seeing that the process works fairly for everyone, that they feel the court respects them, that everyone leaves feeling they had a fair chance."
The law is actually Gipe's second career.
"I started in Naval Intelligence as an interpreter in Russian," Gipe says. "I served in the first Gulf War [1990-1991] and earned a Navy Achievement medal.
"I served till 1994," he continues. "Six months after Don't Ask Don't Tell - it had become common knowledge by that time that I was Gay - I had a hard conversation with people who advised me, 'you should resign and move on with your life.' I wasn't forced out, but some friends were forced out."
Gipe then moved to Seattle and decided to study civil rights law.
"I thought rather than be mad, I'll train to be an advocate," he recalls.
"Eventually I got into family law. You know, 20 years ago there was no family law that applied to LGBT families. You couldn't get married, you couldn't even have domestic partnerships. Everything had to be done by wills and contracts.
"Then, by handling LGBT families, I got good at handling all families," he grins.
Now, 95% of Gipe's work involves family law, personal injury, or discrimination cases. It's a background that makes him especially qualified for the Superior Court bench, he says.
"The Superior Court handles 50,000 cases each year," Gipe explains. "It's a court of general jurisdiction, which means literally any kind of case can come before the Superior Court. The only ones that don't start there are federal questions.
"Of those, 70-80% are family law cases. Of those that go to trial, 75% are civil and 25% criminal cases."
His opponent in the race is a prosecutor with experience only in criminal trials, Gipe points out.
"It's important who we elect," he says. "A person who's done nothing but criminal prosecution, they represent the state, they don't represent individuals.
"In most family law cases, you need the court to settle it. There may be drugs and alcohol involved. Maybe the parties can't agree on division of property. Sometimes certain allegations get made. The rhetoric may be harmful to the other person.
"Now throw in domestic violence, throw in child abuse, it's even worse. When you deal with family relationships you deal with all the quirks of society.
"The desk book on family law practice is this thick!" Gipe exclaims, holding his hands almost two feet apart. "If the judge doesn't know the law or doesn't have experience with these cases&" he shakes his head.
Asked if his experiences as a Gay man would influence his decisions as a judge, Gipe smiles.
"The 'wise Latina woman,'" he says, referring to an often quoted statement by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotormayor.
"Any judge who cannot admit that life experiences shape decision making is not being honest. We're informed by our experiences. The test is whether experiences irrationally override decision making.
"A crucial quality is empathy. Without that, the result is less than ideal."
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