Court Commissioner Lonna K. Malone has resigned from her position after 17 years on the Benton-Franklin Superior Court bench.
The Richland woman, who turns 62 next month, said she left on her own terms, and now looks forward to doing volunteer work, enjoying the outdoors and spending more time with family and friends.
"It was for my own well-being, physically and emotionally, after 17 years on the bench," Malone told the Herald. "The well-being part is important, especially when you get to be my age. ... I needed to take better care of myself and so this is one way that I'm going to do that."
The longtime Juvenile Court judge received a $133,949 annual salary.
Malone gave a "formal resignation" letter to Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell on Sept. 7, saying she would be taking annual leave and her floating holiday before her departure became effective at the close of business Sept. 15. She added that she only planned to return to her office "to pack my personal files and effects."
Mitchell, the court's presiding judge, provided a copy of the letter to the Herald but wouldn't further discuss the resignation, saying it was an "internal personnel matter."
Court commissioners are appointed by the counties' six elected Superior Court judges and share many of the same responsibilities.
Part-time Commissioner Jerri Potts has been promoted. However, Mitchell said the judges have not yet determined if she will assume the specific duties that Malone had or if they will make some changes.
The other full-time commissioner is Joseph Schneider, who's been on the job since October 2000.
The judges will have to advertise to fill the now-vacant part-time slot.
Malone was responsible for all Juvenile Court cases -- criminal and dependency matters, which involve abuse and neglect -- but would also step in as need on domestic law and other Superior Court dockets. The only thing court commissioners cannot do is preside over jury trials.
Malone was a partner in a Richland law firm in October 1994 when she was appointed to fill the vacant commissioner's position. The job then was part-time and paid $43,470.
Her position became full-time in September 1995.
The Washington State University alumna had previously been a junior high school teacher for 10 years before deciding to go back to school. She graduated from Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, and went on to join the law firm in 1986.
Malone had been the Juvenile Drug Court judge since its inception in 2002.
She said it was a hard decision to resign since she'd devoted the last 17 years of her life to Juvenile Court in supporting and strengthening kids and their parents, but it was the right decision and she is "very comfortable in leaving." She wants to find a way to continue working with kids and families in some way.
"It was a challenging but a very positive experience," Malone said. "Kids and families are very, very important to me and I think I did a good job as a judge during my time there. And sometimes it's just time to move on."