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Hon. Willie Gregory to Step Down as Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge; Hon. Adam Eisenberg to Become Presiding Judge Effective July 5, 2022

Hon. Faye R. Chess to Serve as Assistant Presiding Judge

Honorable Adam Eisenberg will become Seattle Municipal Court’s (SMC) Presiding Judge effective today, July 5, 2022. Presiding Judge Willie Gregory announced that he has made a personal decision to step down from the Presiding Judge role. Honorable Faye R. Chess will serve as Assistant Presiding Judge.

“I have chosen to step down from my role as Presiding Judge, this is a personal decision made by me and my family. It has been an honor to serve this court and the people of Seattle as your Presiding Judge over the past two and half years,” said Judge Gregory. “I became Presiding Judge in March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. My first action was making a decision, probably one of the most challenging and one that I thought I would never have to make, to close our courthouse doors due to COVID-19. I never could have imagined having to decide to limit access to justice in the interest of health and safety.”

“I want to personally thank Judge Gregory for his leadership and steady hand during an unprecedented time for our court and community,” said incoming Presiding Judge Adam Eisenberg. “Judge Gregory has led with his humanity. He has worked diligently to ensure our services remain available to the public in a courthouse that is safe for our staff and the many parties who come to our court.” 

Judge Gregory led the court during the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing the health and safety of all court participants, and he worked tirelessly to maintain vital court operations in collaboration with staff and legal system partners.

While the court adapted to the ongoing pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and resulting outcries for reform brought an internal reckoning with SMC’s role in systemic racism. In an op-ed for the Seattle Times, Presiding Judge Gregory wrote, “I recognize that our court, like so many across this country, has significant work to do to tackle the racial injustices within and perpetrated by our criminal justice system. SMC judges are committed to making sure justice reigns in our courthouse…We believe there is a path forward to transform ourselves and build a legal system that equitably protects the rights of Black communities and all communities.”

Presiding Judge Gregory has demonstrated a strong commitment to equitable justice throughout his tenure as Presiding Judge. From eliminating discretionary fines and fees in criminal cases to launching Seattle Community Court, an innovative pretrial release program,

Judge Gregory has overseen a transformative time at Seattle Municipal Court. Presiding Judge Gregory has also sponsored the court’s Probation Evolution project, an effort to eliminate disproportionate impacts and transform our Probation Services toward a hopeful, equitable model that supports client success and growth.

In 2021, Judge Gregory received the Innovating Justice Award from Washington State Courts for exceptional leadership in helping courts deliver innovative and responsive justice using a race equity lens during the COVID-19 crisis.

Judge Willie Gregory was elected to the Seattle Municipal Court in 2011 and is currently serving his third, four-year term. Judge Gregory will continue to serve on the court’s Executive Committee in his role as Past Presiding Judge.

Judge Adam Eisenberg was appointed to the Seattle Municipal Court bench in January 2017 after serving as Magistrate (2011-2016) and Court Commissioner (2004-2011). He was elected to his position in November 2018. Judge Eisenberg has served as Assistant Presiding Judge since March 2020. A graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, Judge Eisenberg has enjoyed a varied career that includes work as a criminal prosecutor, civil trial attorney, and Los Angeles-based freelance journalist.

Judge Faye R. Chess was appointed to the Seattle Municipal Court bench in April 2018 after serving as Magistrate and was elected to the position in November 2018. Judge Chess served as a Judge Pro Tempore in King County District Court for over 22 years. She was previously the Director of Labor Relations for Group Health Cooperative and Sr. HR Consultant for Providence Health Services and Swedish Medical Center. For many years, she worked in the public education sector, first as Deputy General Counsel and Interim Executive Director of Human Resources for Seattle Public Schools specializing in employment and labor, special education, and student disability plans and later as the Executive Director of Human Resources and General Counsel for Tukwila School District.

The Presiding Judge leads the management and administration of the judicial branch of Seattle City government, makes judicial assignments, sets policies and procedures to improve the court’s effectiveness, and allocates resources to maximize the court’s ability to resolve disputes fairly and expeditiously. The Presiding Judge supervises the court’s five non-elected Magistrates and the Court Administrator. When the Presiding Judge is unavailable, the Assistant Presiding Judge fulfills the duties of Presiding Judge. Both positions are elected by their colleagues on the bench to a two-year term.