What is the Court of Appeals?


Though little known, the decisions of appeals courts shape our communities in profound ways. Whether a case involves civil rights, criminal charges, government authority, or property law, these courts are the final backstop to protect the rights and enforce the responsibilities of all citizens.

Thomas Bjorgen  is running for a seat in the court’s Division II, District 2, now held by Judge David Armstrong, who is retiring.  Judges serve for 6 year terms.

The Court of Appeals reviews the proceedings that occur in the lower trial courts for errors of law or legal procedure.

Washington State has three Divisions of the Court of Appeals: Division I, in Seattle; Division II, in Tacoma; Division III in Spokane. The Divisions are also divided into nine districts:

Division I

District 1: King County, from which seven judges must be elected.

District 2: Snohomish County, from which two judges must be elected.

District 3: Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties, from which one judge is elected.

Division II

District 1: Pierce County, from which three judges are elected.

District 2: Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason and Thurston Counties, from which two judges are elected. In 2012, only one position is open.

District 3: Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum Counties, from which two judges are elected.

Division III

District 1: Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Stevens Counties, from which two judges are elected.

District 2: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Walla Walla and Whitman Counties, from which one judge is elected.

District 3: Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Klickitat and Yakima Counties, from which two judges are elected.

To qualify for a position on the Court of Appeals, a person must have practiced law in Washington state for five years and, at the time of election, lived for a year or more in the district from which that position was drawn. Vacancies are filled by the Governor and the appointee serves until the next general election.

A presiding chief judge for all three divisions is elected for a one-year term. Duties of the presiding chief judge include coordination of business matters among the three divisions. Each division elects its own chief judge to handle administrative details at the division level.