Those in attendance at Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony for Clark County District Court Judge Kristen L. Parcher described her appointment as bittersweet but also poetic.
Parcher, 40, of Brush Prairie replaces Judge Vernon L. Schreiber, who died April 25 following complications from surgery. He was 74. Schreiber served about 30 years on the bench and had planned to retire at the end of his term, focusing his attention on helping Parcher win the seat.
Superior Court Judge James Rulli told the standing-room-only crowd that it’s almost like Schreiber planned this.
“We miss our friend very much, his humility, generousness and presence,” said District Court Judge Sonya L. Langsdorf. “But it brings comfort knowing he’d be pleased with (Parcher’s) appointment.
“You treat people with dignity and respect,” Langsdorf told Parcher. “We are so happy for you and welcome you to the District Court bench.”
Approximately 150 people packed into the fourth-floor courtroom at the Clark County Courthouse to watch Parcher — formerly a District Court commissioner — recite the judge’s oath.
“It’s a very exciting day. It’s not often you get happy days in the courtroom, but this is one of them,” said criminal defense attorney Jeff Barrar, who hired Parcher when she was fresh out of law school about 13 years ago.
He recalled how his receptionist let him know about a resume Parcher brought in. Barrar said he told her to put it on the pile, but she insisted he meet Parcher, who was waiting in the lobby.
“She said, ‘You’re going to like this one,’ ” Barrar recalled. “And I’ll be damned, she was right,” he said as the audience erupted into laughter.
Parcher possesses “intangibles,” he said, “confidence and poise well beyond her years.”
“I hired her, and not even sure I had a job,” he said.
Not long into the job, Barrar observed Parcher in a trial. In spite of her best efforts, her client was convicted, though given a light sentence. He looked over at Parcher, he said, and her lips were sticking out, and her face was getting angrier and angrier. Barrar said he knew it was going to be a long walk back to the office.
Sure enough, about 100 yards out of the courthouse, Parcher burst into tears.
“I turned into Tom Hanks and said, ‘Are you crying? There’s no crying in court.’ ” Barrar recalled. And by the next day, Parcher bounced back.
Barrar told the audience that Parcher is the type of attorney everybody wants to be like: Her clients loved her, and the judges smiled as she came before them. He described her as personable and charismatic, and he said she shows compassion and empathy toward others.
“She knows what she’s doing on the bench,” he said, adding that she understands the challenges of the court.
Washington state Court of Appeals Judge Rich A. Melnick, who also presented, said Parcher understands the impact of her rulings, and she’s not afraid to apply common sense.
“I’ve watched her maturity and growth in the profession. I’ve seen her develop as a judicial officer,” Melnick said. “She has the essential qualities to be an outstanding member of the judicial branch.”
After reciting the judge’s oath, Parcher’s husband, Erich Orth, helped her into her robe. Her 10-year-old daughter, Tova, her parents, Greg and Jan Parcher, and her in-laws were also present for the ceremony.
“It’s been such an emotional roller-coaster over the last few weeks,” Parcher told the crowd. “Obviously, this is not the way anyone wants to be appointed, but I’m so honored it’s me.” A teary-eyed Parcher added that Schreiber’s favorite place was the small community in the courthouse.
She said that she’s passionate about helping vulnerable citizens have access to and be heard in the justice system. And she promised to never forget the importance of an independent judiciary.
Parcher thanked her parents for always pushing and supporting her, and for leading by example. She also thanked Barrar for hiring her, twice, essentially from off the street.
“I always wanted a job helping people,” she said, and added that she has “such a great respect for the law and judiciary.”
As Melnick once taught her: “I promise to keep reading and researching … improving my role as a judge,” she said.