George Fearing won't officially be sworn in as the Court of Appeal's newest judge until July 1, but he will ascend the bench this week to help his colleagues across the state in Tacoma tackle their backlog of cases.
The Richland man wrapped up his 31 years of practicing law Friday and said goodbye to his partners at Leavy, Schultz, Davis & Fearing in Kennewick.
Fearing starts work today for the appellate court's Division III in Spokane. He is replacing Judge Dennis Sweeney, who retired April 30.
Division III covers everything east of the Cascades. Fearing will hold the District 2 seat representing nine southeastern counties, including Benton and Franklin.
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Since Fearing has lived in the Tri-Cities since 1982 and considers it home, he opted to have his swearing-in ceremony in the Franklin County Courthouse.
The July 1 event starts at 4 p.m. in the historic courtroom, which Fearing says "is the most beautiful courtroom there is."
Fearing said that date was picked to accommodate Gov. Jay Inslee's schedule. Fearing was appointed to the position in May after interviews with the governor's general counsel, Nicholas Brown, and Inslee.
The other four Division III judges and at least one Washington state Supreme Court justice are expected to attend.
Division III Chief Judge Kevin M. Korsmo, Division II Judges Marywave Van Deren and Lisa R. Worswick and Division I Judges Mary Kay Becker and Stephen J. Dwyer were University of Washington School of Law classmates with Fearing and plan to be at the ceremony.
"It's rather remarkable that there are six of us classmates on the (Washington state) Court of Appeals," Fearing told the Herald.
At the ceremony, his two former law partners, John Schultz and Sweeney, will introduce Fearing, with Korsmo and Benton-Franklin Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner serving as the masters of ceremonies.
Fearing asked retired Superior Court Judge Dennis Yule to give the oath.
"I've always had high regard for (Yule), and I would like to be known to be somewhat like him," Fearing said. He considered Sweeney but thought he should do the introduction since Sweeney's the one who first offered Fearing a summer internship with the Tri-City firm in 1981.
Richard Fearing will hold the Bible for his son. And George Fearing's son, also named George, and his lady friend, Gloria de Palacio, will put the black robe on him once it is official.
A reception will follow at the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco.
"We're very much looking forward to the investiture ceremony and welcoming him to the Division III Court of Appeals," said Renee Townsley, clerk and administrator.
The court reviews the decisions of trial judges.
In the meantime, Fearing said he will hear arguments on a few cases this week in Tacoma, then return on and off for two or three days in July to meet with the other two judges on the panel and work on their decisions.
"Apparently we try to help one another out within the divisions when there is a need," he said.
There are no appellate arguments planned in Spokane until September.
Fearing is being opposed in the General Election by Gary Metro, a Tri-City defense attorney.