Strombom to leave Superior Court for federal position

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Karen L. Strombom has been named to fill a newly created federal magistrate judge position in Tacoma. She will begin her eight-year federal term April 7.

A Tacoma resident, she was selected from among five finalists by the judges for the Western District of Washington.

A citizen panel reviewed all applications, interviewing nine candidates and recommending the five finalists to the judges.

Presiding Judge James Orlando of Pierce County Superior Court said Gov. Gary Locke’s appointee to fill Strombom’s Department 18 position will be announced during a ceremony at noon Monday, April 7 in Courtroom 100.

Strombom was appointed to the bench by Gov. Booth Gardner Feb. 1, 1990 and was first elected to the position that fall.

As she leaves the court after 13 years, the judge reflected on her Superior Court career.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the opportunity this position has given me to get to know so many qualified and competent attorneys. It is their commitment to quality justice that makes me proud of being part of the legal community,” she said.

She presided over a number of significant criminal trials, including a death penalty case.

“While those types of cases are intense, they are also intellectually challenging and require constant awareness of what is happening in the courtroom. I enjoyed the challenges those cases presented,” the judge said.

Strombom chaired a committee of judges and lawyers that focused on improvements in the practice of family law in Pierce County.

“As a result of that work we implemented the Impact on Children class requirement for family law cases involving children,” she said. “I believe that this required class is a significant benefit for children whose parents are going through the painful dissolution process.”

“Finally, I would have to say that the best moments of my career occurred when I heard from people who had been before me – generally on criminal matters – who told me how they had turned their lives around and that I had something to do with that positive change. I believe that if we take the time to both listen and talk to people that judges can have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”

Strombom graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1978.
She subsequently joined the Burgess Kennedy law firm. She was a partner in the firm of Burgess, Kennedy, Fitzer & Strombom when appointed to the Superior Court bench.

Her immediate family includes husband, Joel A. Parker, parents Fred and Inez Strombom of Ogema, Wis., and mother-in-law Rita Parker of Sumner.
She also has two sisters and a brother, and Joel has nine brothers and four sisters.

Together, they have nine sisters-in-law and five brothers-in-law and 54 nieces and nephews with two more scheduled to arrive this year.

Her comment: “The size of our combined families is greater than the number of students who were in my high school graduating class!”