Susan Owens

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Susan Owens
Court Information:
Washington State Supreme Court
Title:   Justice
Position:   Position 2
Salary:  $168,000
Selection:   Elected
Active:   2000-2018
Personal History
Hometown:   North Carolina
Undergraduate:   Duke University, 1971
Law School:   University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1975
Candidate 2012:
Candidate for:  Washington Supreme Court
State:  Washington
Election information 2012:
Incumbent:  Yes
Primary date:  August 7, 2012
Primary vote:  63.5%ApprovedA
Election date:  November 6, 2012
Election vote:  100%ApprovedA

Susan Owens is a justice on the Washington Supreme Court, serving in Position 2. She was elected to this position on November 7, 2000, and was re-elected in 2006 and 2012. Her current term ends in 2018.


Owens graduated from Duke University in 1971. She earned her J.D. in 1975 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[1]


Prior to joining the Washington Supreme Court, Owens served as Chief Judge of the Quileute Tribe for five years and Chief Judge of the Lower Elwha/S'Klallam Tribe for over six years. She was a district judge in Clallam County for 19 years. Owens was elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 2000.[1]

Awards and associations

Justice Owens currently serves on the Washington Supreme Court's Rules Committee, the Bench-Bar-Press Committee, and the Board for Judicial Administration. She is also the chairperson of the Washington State Interpreter Commission, and is the Washington Supreme Court's chairperson for the Fall Judicial Conference. In addition, she serves on the Washington State Bar Association's Leadership Institute Advisory Board and the Committee on Public Defense.[2]

In the past, Justice Owens has been President-Elect, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, and Board member of the District & Municipal Court Judges' Association (DMCJA). She was also the co-founder and Chairman of the Rural Courts Committee.[1]


2012 election

Justice Owens was re-elected to her position on the Washington Supreme Court. Owens won 63.5% of the vote in the primary election and 100% in the general election.[3][4][5]

See also: Washington judicial elections, 2012


  • Rated as Well Qualified by the King County Bar Association.[6]
  • Rated as Qualified by the Justice for Washington Foundation[7]

2006 election

Justice Owens defeated Stephen Johnson in the 2006 election, winning 59.84% of the vote.[8][9]

Candidate IncumbentSeatPrimary %Election %
Susan Owens ApprovedA Position #246%59.8%
Stephen Johnson Position #234.7%40.2%
Richard Smith Position #25.5%
Norman J. Ericson Position #25.4%
Michael Johnson Position #28.3%

2000 election

Candidate IncumbentSeatPrimary %Election %
Susan Owens ApprovedA Position #226.3%52.4%
Jeff Sullivan Position #218.5%47.6%
Barrie Althoff Position #28.5%
David Larson Position #214%
Terry Carroll Position #215.9%
Doug Schafer Position #210.5%
Geoff Crooks Position #26%

Notable cases

Intoxication and liability

In 2004, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that a tavern owner can be held liable for a vehicle accident by a tavern patron, "even though the plaintiff proved only that the customer was 'apparently,' not 'obviously,' intoxicated." Justice Owens wrote for the majority, "Given the distinction that the average person could be expected to draw between the phrases 'apparently intoxicated' and 'obviously intoxicated,' the Lucky Seven Saloon recognized that the latter standard was more favorable, permitting the commercial seller to serve patrons until they were 'obviously drunk,' not merely 'apparently drunk.'" In Sanders' dissent, he argued that this standard is beyond the previous standard: "The majority goes where no court has gone before."[10]

Political ideology

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Owens received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of -1.4, indicating a liberal ideological leaning. This is more liberal than the average CF score of -0.91 that justices received in Washington. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.[11]

External links