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Presiding Judge Frank E. Cuthbertson

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New Jury Scams

We will never ask for your social security number, bank or credit card information, or ask for money over the phone.


Beginning August 1, 2015, attorneys interested in applying for the 2016 Superior Court Pro Tem Commissioner List can pick up applications in Superior Court Administration, Room 334 or Commissioners Services Department, Room 140 at the County-City Building or may obtain them from Superior Court website; www.co.pierce.wa.us/superior/employment Applications must be returned to Superior Court Administration, Room 334, no later than 4:30 P.M. September 30, 2015.

An applicant must have a minimum of five years experience in the State of Washington and may not serve as a pro tem commissioner if appointed or serving as a Guardian Ad Litem for compensation under Title 11, 13 or 26. 

Governor Appoints Michael Schwartz to Pierce County Superior Court Department 3

Governor Inslee announced last night that he has appointed Michael Schwartz to the Pierce County Superior Court replacing Judge Tom Larkin who retires at the end of July.  Michael Schwartz has over twenty two years experience as a defense trial attorney.  He among a select group of attorneys who have been qualified to handle death penalty cases in Washington.  He has also served in the military and, prior to becoming an attorney, he was a commissioned police officer in Hawaii.  Michael Schwartz is active in the community coaching youth sports and he has served as President of the Robert Bryan Inns of Court.   He also currently co-chairs the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association’s Criminal Law Section.  Michael will be a great addition to the Superior Court.  He brings a unique perspective to the bench and is well respected by the lawyers and judges in Pierce County.  Please join Superior Court in welcoming our new Judge, Michael Schwartz.

Additional information is available in Governor Inslee’s press release on the governor’s web site.


Superior Court Judges, Commissioners, and Spouses help build local housing.
Habitat for Humanity

On June 6th several judges, commissioners and their spouses helped with the construction of two homes at a Habitat build site.  They will have another opportunity in September to make this meaningful impact in our community.


Judge Whitener will visit Trinidad to promote human rights and tolerance.
Judge Whitener

Judge Helen Whitener will visit Trinidad from June 14-17 as part of the U.S. Embassy’s celebration of June as National Caribbean-American Heritage and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride (LGBT) months.

Judge Whitener was born in St. Augustine and migrated to the U.S.A. at age 16. She now sits on the Pierce County Superior Court, (the highest trial court in the State of Washington). She is the youngest woman of color to serve in such a position and is openly gay. Her visit is meant to promote human rights and tolerance. She will hold meetings with government officials, women’s groups and members of the LGBT community. Judge Whitener will also give a talk at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine on June 16 at 2:00 p.m.

Judge Whitener gives much of her time to speaking on various access to justice matters and is a member of the Washington State Bar Association, Washington State Superior Court Judges Association, Equality and Fairness Committee, National Association of Women Judges and the International Association of Women Judges.

She was featured in the local Express Women’s magazine in April.



Jury Scams Continue

Judge warns of phony payment demands for missed jury duty.
View the full article here
Clark County is reporting a jury scam via telephone that requires the resident to pay a fine and then show up to court on a specific date for a refund.  We will never request money over the phone.
View the full article

Kitsap County Jury Scam Advisory
For more details about Snohomish County
Juror Scams around the country

Good luck and best wishes on your retirement Judge Larkin

Judge Larkin with The Community Transformation Award for Drug CourtPierce County Superior Court Judge Tom Larkin will retire on July 31st. 2015.  Judge Larkin served 10 years in Pierce County District Court and 25 years in Pierce County Superior Court.  Prior to that he was in private practice in Tacoma.  Judge Larkin has been the Superior Court Presiding Judge and Juvenile Court Presiding Judge.  Among his many accomplishments during his tenure as a Superior Court Judge, he led the construction project involving the new courtrooms on the second, third and fourth floors in the County City Building.

As Juvenile Court Presiding Judge, he was instrumental in Pierce County’s detention reform efforts.  He became something of a national celebrity as an advocate for the Annie E. Casey foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).  His love for kids and families is obvious and, combined with his consistent demand that the kids be held accountable, made him an effective advocate for change.  Judge Larkin was able to convince the former County Executive, John Ladenburg, to allow Juvenile Court to close part of the detention facility at Remann Hall.  The deal was precedent setting because it also allowed the Court to keep the capital funds that would have been required for renovation of the facility and use them instead to develop community based alternatives to detention.

And, of course, there is Judge Larkin’s ongoing role in drug court.  He has been a very effective advocate for therapeutic courts, including veteran’s court gamblers court and similar initiatives.

When asked what he plans to do next Judge Larkin said he will split his time between babysitting his grand-kids and trying to earn his membership on the Senior Professional Golfers Association Tour.  In the coming months he is expected to be engaged in a victory tour around Pierce County where he knows, everybody.  Being the son of a doctor with seven kids it is impossible to go anywhere without someone asking “..do you know Judge Larkin?”

We will miss Judge Larkin when he finally rides off into the sunset.

The Superior Court Bench and the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association are sponsoring a retirement reception on July 22 at the Tacoma Yacht Club, beginning at 4:45 p.m. with buffet appetizers. Members of the public are invited, and tickets can be purchased for $30 at the Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association office at 253-272-8871.

Congratulations, Judge Larkin!!!


By Judge Garold E. Johnson, Chair
Pierce County Superior Court Local Rules Committee

The Pierce County Superior Court Local Rules Committee is hereby submitting its proposed local rules amendments for review and comment by members of the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association.  The proposed local rules amendments will be available for a 45-day comment period on the Pierce County Superior Court website at http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/index.aspx?NID=122, beginning March 31, 2015 through May 15, 2015.   The rules are also available on the TPCBA website at www.tpcba.com for the same time period.    Any comments, suggestions or questions regarding the proposed local rules amendments are welcome and should be submitted by email to or by phone to Judge Johnson at                  253-798-7572.  You may contact the TPCBA representative, Charles Johnston, at 253-473-3090.  All comments regarding this year’s proposed amendments must be received no later than May 15, 2015.

Following the 45-day comment period, the Local Rules Committee will evaluate all comments, make final rule changes and submit proposed local rules amendments to all the judges.  Approved local rule changes will then be submitted for publication by the Administrative Office of the Courts to take effect September 1, 2015.

Proposed Rule Change Highlights document 1 & document 2

The goal of the Committee is to efficiently facilitate resolution of cases without sacrificing quality.  The Committee also works to update the Local Rules to reflect the existing members of the bench, current law and procedures followed by the court.

This year the Committee addressed substantive amendments to the local mandatory arbitration rules. A proposed change to PCLMAR 2.1(a) would require that the statement of arbitrability requesting arbitration be filed no sooner than the date the confirmation of joinder is to be filed and no later than discovery cutoff date. Thereafter, a request for mandatory arbitration statement of arbitrability could only be filed with leave of court on good cause shown. The Committee also proposes adding subparagraph (f).  This addition provides that once a statement of arbitrability has been filed the trial date and case schedule created on the date of filing would be cancelled. Further, a mandatory court review would be scheduled 6 months after the filing of the statement of Arbitrability. 

To prevent post arbitration award “black hole” cases, the Committee proposed that PCLMAR 6.3 be amended. This amendment would provide that if the parties do not enter a judgment on the arbitration award within 90 days of the award and no request for trial de novo has been filed, the case will be dismissed. Further, the Committee proposes to amend PCLMAR 7.1(c) to provide that once a timely trial de novo request has been filed, an expedited case schedule will be issued setting a trial date in 6 months.

The Statement of Arbitrability form found in the appendix has been edited to include a certificate of readiness and reflect the 90 day rule discussed above.  

In addition to the substantive proposed changes to the PCLMAR’s, considerable effort went to editing PCLSPR 93 (adoptions), PCLSPR 94 (family law proceedings) and PCLSPR 98 (estates, probate, settlement of minor claims and court created trusts). These edits are proposed to facilitate clarity, accuracy and ease of understanding of the rules. There are several edits proposed.  While these edits are not intended to be substantive they may have a direct impact on a particular case.  Consequently, members of the Bar are encouraged to take the time to review the proposed changes.   

There are other proposed rule changes that are minor edits rather than substantive changes that I will not go into unless Bar members ask for further explanation or discussion.  As to all of the amendments, the Bench welcomes input from members of the Bar.  If you have a concern, suggestion or comment, we certainly want to hear from you.


Judge Garold E. Johnson


 Myths and Misperceptions about Courts
Do you wonder who the courts work for? Who can give you legal advice? To find out the answer to these and other questions check out this video - Myths and Misperceptions About the Washington Courts.

Juror Appreciation Week

New Criminal Division Presiding Judge (CDPJ) Protocols

New Mandatory Impact on Children Seminar Offered for Non-Parental Custody Petitioners

Changes to Ex Parte Procedure

Archived Superior Court News 

Bar News