Kitsap adds judge to Superior Court

Kitsap County’s newest Superior Court judge, Sally Olsen, is expected to provide both gender and regional balance to the bench.

Outgoing Gov. Gary Locke announced Olsen’s appointment on Tuesday, in a crowded Kitsap County courtroom.

The new position was authorized by Kitsap County and the state Legislature, with its expenses shared between the county and the state. The position was created to help handle rising caseloads.

“I’m up to this challenge,” Olsen said after the appointment. “And I’m looking forward to it.”

Olsen said she will spend the first few months of her term learning from people already on the bench, and she cited her breadth of experience as preparation for the job.

She has prosecutorial background, appellate experience and has served as a pro-tem judge for 11 years.

“Hopefully my training curve won’t be so long,” she said.

Olsen is the second appointee to the bench this year, after Ted Spearman.

Both were Bainbridge Island attorneys in private practice prior to their nomination.

Olsen’s nomination provides a perfect gender balance, with four men and four women. However, this distinction means little to those already on the bench.

“I thought we were already balanced,” said Judge Anna Laurie, who has known Olsen for several years. “It’s more important that Sally will be a great judge. She has really strong ties to the community.”

Locke said the choice was difficult due to the large pool of qualified candidates.

Olsen received her bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and her law degree from the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, Calif.

She was admitted to the Washington State Bar in 1986.

Olsen has worked as an attorney in general civil and criminal practice for 11 years, and her practice includes family law, wills and probate, landlord/tenant issues, and contract work.

She also worked for several years as a deputy prosecuting attorney in King County and serves as a frequent pro tem Judge in several local jurisdictions.

Olsen, 47, shares a law partnership with her husband, Steven, who has also sought judgeships in the past.

Steven Olsen said the biggest difference in his wife’s workstyle will be the inability to bring her dog to work.

“I’ll manage,” she said of the limitation.

Sheriff Steve Boyer had high praise for Olsen, saying he had worked with her during several domestic violence cases. Olsen and Boyer are both strong supporters of local scouting programs.

Olsen is Locke’s final judicial appointment after eight years as governor, although both he and presiding Judge Jay Roof joked there could be additional Locke appointments should the gubernatorial election not be resolved.

“She’ll be a good judge,” said Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge. “She’s hard-working, smart and experienced. She’s been a trial lawyer, so she knows how cases run. And she is a known quantity. Many lawyers in my office have practiced in front of her and know what to expect.”

Hauge said the public will reap the benefit of a new judge immediately, since some processes will be expedited.

This situation will be resolved with the opening of the new county administration building, but until then accommodating a new judge in an already crowded space will require some careful planning.

“We are really strapped for space,” he said. “It won’t be until the renovation is under way that we will fully utilize the presence of a new judge.”

The Kitsap Superior Court is elected en masse in presidential election years.

Olsen is required to run for completion of the term in fall 2005. Olsen’s swearing in ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 10 in the courthouse.

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