In May, Governor Jay Inslee appointed Tsering Cornell to fill the seat vacated by Judge Scott Collier, who officially retired from his position on Thursday.
During the ceremony, Cornell remarked that she will have a difficult time following in Collier’s footsteps because of the latter’s more than 20 years of service to the community.
The newly appointed judge represented the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, Clark College, Lower Columbia College, and the Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss/School for the Deaf at the attorney general’s Vancouver office since 2018. Before that, she worked in Olympia as the secretary of state and the attorney general.
The ceremony was presided over by Superior Court Judges Jennifer Snider, Camara Banfield, and Suzan Clark, who acknowledged and celebrated the fact that Cornell’s investiture made women the majority on the 11-member bench.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a pre-recorded virtual message in which he talked about meeting Cornell when she started working at the office and how she made an impression on him, and that she is a good listener who cared about people and the rule of law.
Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez of the Washington Supreme Court also appeared virtually to administer the oath of office to Cornell. Cornell expressed her gratitude to Gonzalez for the opportunity to conduct an earlier interview with him concerning the significance of judicial diversity.
Cornell had applied for a position in Clark County prior to Collier’s announcement of his retirement; in fact, it was neither the first nor the second time she had done so. She made light of the famous saying that “the fifth time’s the charm.”
She also thanked her parents for instilling perseverance and persistence into her character and said that she was able to attribute her tenacity to the lessons that her parents taught her when she was growing up.
The 40-year-old judge gave her word that she would use the qualities that she had gained from her family and do her very best to serve the community while she was on the bench.
Cornell is the first Tibetan American judge in the United States, in particular with respect to being the first Asian American judge in the county. She mentioned that the ceremony was not just about her, but about everyone in her community. She put out a call for young Tibetan Americans and asked them, “I hope you don’t let me hold that distinction for much longer”
After she had taken her oath, Cornell’s husband Benjamin, daughter Tenzin, and niece Nima assisted her in donning the black judicial robe that was required of judges.