Jacquelyn High-Edward has spent her legal career dedicated to ensuring equal access to justice, something she’ll be tasked with on a larger scale now that she is a Spokane County Superior Court judge.
High-Edward, 49, was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to fill the vacancy left by Judge Maryann Moreno’s retirement at the end of June. She was sworn in Friday morning.
A lifelong Spokanite, High-Edward attended North Central High School before earning a degree in political science from Western Washington University.
After college, she worked at a technology company in its human resources department. She had always been interested in law, so when the company downsized, High-Edward took a chance and went back to school.
She graduated from the Gonzaga University School of Law in 2005. She also has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Washington State University.
Her first internship while in law school was at Columbia Legal Services, where she largely worked on housing voucher terminations and other public benefits work.
“I liked working with people who wouldn’t normally be represented,” High-Edward said. “I thought that was nice to get them on the same playing field.”
After law school, she became a staff attorney at the Northwest Justice Project, where she did more public benefits work and handled family law and domestic violence cases. Most of her work was defending clients against government entities.
She worked there for 10 years, eventually running the office. In her spare time, she worked as a judge pro tempore, filling in on the bench when needed.
When an opening came up for a commissioner role, High-Edward was eager to apply. She was selected and has served in the role for four years.
The majority of the people she sees in court are in “some kind of crisis,” High-Edward said.
“It’s nice to help people through really difficult times,” she said.
High-Edward will join the ranks of Superior Court judges, handling a range of cases including criminal, civil and family law.
She’s hasn’t done much a criminal work and is excited to learn about other areas of the law from a new perspective.
“I am excited to have new things,” High-Edward said. “I am, I would say, nervous about making sure I can meet people’s needs.”
While High-Edward may be nervous, some of her fellow judges are confident she’ll step into the role with grace.
“Judge High-Edward has the qualities that make a good judge. She’s bright, works hard, and brings experience to the position,” Judge Michelle Szambelan wrote in an email to The Spokesman-Review. “She cares about the people who appear before her and treats them with dignity and respect.”
Moreno said she feels her replacement has “a great demeanor” and background for the work.
“The biggest advice that I can give to any judge coming in is, just be yourself and follow the law where it takes you,” Moreno said.
Judge Julie McKay said High-Edward’s experience as a commissioner makes her well prepared to handle the sprawling dockets common in Superior Court.
Her biggest advice to the incoming judge is “stay calm and move along.”
High-Edward’s first rotation will be in family law, a natural fit given her experience, which she hopes will help her adjust to the new role.