SOUTH BEND — Pacific and Wahkiakum Superior Court Judge Doug Goelz will be stepping down from the bench at the end of the year. Because he is retiring in the middle of his four-year term, Gov. Jay Inslee will need to appoint a replacement.
Goelz said he made the difficult decision to resign because health issues have made it increasingly difficult for him to work in recent months.
“I would say around June, it was starting to become an issue. A regular issue. So I said, ‘This can’t go on. This is crazy,’” Goelz said on Oct. 11.
Goelz has been a longtime fixture of the county’s legal system. After graduating from the University of Puget Sound Law School in 1975, he moved to Pacific County in 1980. In his early days, Goelz worked as a public defender and deputy prosecutor during a period when there were several notable serious crimes in the county. He became South District Court Judge in 1988, and stayed there until 2016, when he narrowly beat Michael Turner in the November 2016 General Election. Goelz was sworn in as Superior Court judge in December 2016. He replaced Judge Michael Sullivan, who retired after a long career on the bench.
Goelz had long aspired to serve in Superior Court, he said, so he did not make the decision lightly. While Goelz enjoys the challenges of handling felony cases and other Superior Court matters, he was also somewhat surprised by the toll the work took on him.
“It’s not a little bit hard, it’s a lot harder than District Court,” Goelz said. “If you do the job correctly, it wears on you. It seriously wears on you.”
The governor is responsible for making judicial appointments when a vacancy opens up. According to his website, Inslee “believes that the selection of experienced, independent and well-qualified lawyers to join the bench is vital to maintaining not only an efficient judicial system, but also a healthy democracy and vital economy.” Attorneys who wish to be considered submit their resumes and a special questionnaire directly to Inslee’s general counsel. Inslee considers the application materials, along with the preferences of the departing judge,information from “as many sources as possible,” and recommendations from state, county and minority bar associations. Inslee personally interviews finalists.
Currently, there are rumors and speculation about who might seek Goelz’s seat, but none of the local attorneys have confirmed plans to apply. The process can take anywhere from weeks to months, so it could be some time before the new judge is sworn in.
Goelz plans to step down on Dec. 31.
“I’m glad I did it,” Goelz said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”