Pierce County Judge Steiner to retire Feb. 1

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Gary Steiner has sent a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire informing her of his intent to retire, effective Feb. 1, 2011.

“It has been my privilege to have served the citizens of Pierce County and the State of Washington,” Judge Steiner, the state’s most senior Superior Court judge, wrote to the Governor.

Judge Steiner is a graduate of the University of Washington and the Gonzaga University School of Law. He began in private practice of law in 1964 and was appointed to the bench in 1981 by Gov. John Spellman. He has also served as the court’s presiding judge. Perhaps his most recognized achievement is as a co-founder — with his friend, Judge Bruce Cohoe (ret.) — of Pierce County’s Drug Court. Since its inception in 1994, approximately 1,400 individuals have graduated from the program.

Judge Steiner served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He was instrumental in the October 2009 launch of the nation’s third Felony Veteran’s Court, a program that provides drug treatment services for up to 50 military service personnel or veterans in Pierce County.

In 29 years of public service, Judge Steiner has been the recipient of many awards in recognition of his exceptional performance as a Superior Court Judge. Among them:

— 1996 co-recipient award for Outstanding Achievement by a Public Official State of Washington, Washington Council on Crime and Delinquency.

— Washington State Trial Lawyers William O. Douglas Award.

— 2002 co-recipient, Tacoma Pierce County Bar Association Marilyn Holzman Humanitarian Award.

— 2006 Washington State Bar Association Outstanding Judge Award, State of Washington.

“We’re proud of Judge Steiner’s many contributions to the court. He has been a wise and compassionate voice and a dedicated colleague. Judge Steiner has brought honor to Pierce County Superior Court and so he will be missed even as we are happy for him and his family as he moves on to retirement,” said the court’s Presiding Judge, Bryan Chushcoff.

After Judge Steiner retires, the Governor has the authority under RCW 2.08.120 to appoint a replacement to serve until the November 2011 election.