Islander Sally Olsen named to bench

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

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

Outgoing Gov. Gary Locke announced Olsen’s appointment Tuesday, to 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.

Olsen said she will spend the first few months of her term learning from people already on the bench. She brings a prosecutorial background and 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 Kitsap bench this year, after Bainbridge Island’s Ted Spearman. Her nomination provides a perfect gender balance, with four men and four women.

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

Olsen earned a bachelor’s degree at Utah State University and a 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.

She has worked as an attorney in general civil and criminal practice for 11 years, in 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 local law partnership with her husband, Steven, who has worked as Bainbridge Island city prosecutor.

Steven Olsen said the biggest difference in his wife’s workstyle will be the inability to take 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.

“She’ll be a good judge,” agreed 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.”

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.

Her swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 10 at the county courthouse.

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