After over 50 years combined service, two Island County judges seek new paths
— Created April 8, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kacie Jo Voeller
2020 will be a year of change for Island County’s judiciary system. After this year’s election, Island County Superior Court will see two new judges seated on the bench. With over 50 years of service between them, the court’s current judges, Alan Hancock and Vickie Churchill, have chosen to not seek re-election, which will leave the bench to be replaced entirely.
Judge Vickie Churchill, who has served as an Island County Superior Court judge since 1997, said although she would be happy to keep working, she will soon reach the 75-year age limit for judges, and will no longer be able to serve.
“I really like the job, I wish I could continue but I cannot,” she said. “I love working with people and working with Judge Hancock, he is such a great guy, and the staff, they are wonderful.”
During her time as a judge, Churchill was a recipient of the Outstanding Judge of the Year Award from the Washington Bar Association and was instrumental in implementing a Juvenile Detention Center, parenting classes, mediation for family law cases, and three drug courts in Island County. Over the course of her career, Churchill has been focused on advocating for adequate court funding and bringing programs to the court to benefit community members of all ages.
“I was on the legislative committee and got involved in many, many things to keep funding for the courts because every economic downturn the courts lose money,” she said. “We wanted to try (to keep funding), not for ourselves, because that is a separate type of funding, but for the court system and for the people that come in the door. We call it keeping the courthouse doors open.”
Churchill, a native of Texas, said like many, she moved to Whidbey Island as a military spouse in 1977, and has appreciated the welcoming nature of the community.
“I have always been most impressed about how this community supports military members that arrive with their families and that has been the case for me,” she said.
Churchill said she began law school 15 years after completing her undergraduate degree, as she had always felt a calling to pursue a law career but did not have the opportunity to do so earlier on.
“You cannot stop doing what you want to do just because you think you are too old,” she said. “You do it because you are always going to get older.”
Judge Alan Hancock, a Coupeville native, began his time as an Island County Superior Court judge in 1989. Hancock said he always hoped to return to Coupeville to live on the family farm where he had grown up and serve the island community.
“It was always our desire to come back to Coupeville and live here and for me to initially be a lawyer and ultimately a judge here in Coupeville,” he said.
Hancock said during his time in law school at the University of Washington, he began to consider becoming a judge.
“I had a strong feeling that it was my calling as my vocation to be a judge,” he said. “Given the attributes that I was given as a person, it was the best way I could apply the skills that I had and the desire that I had to serve other people. It just seemed to be the right fit for me.”
In his time serving Island County, he was a chair of the Superior Court Judges’ Association Ethics Committee and Family and Juvenile Committee and was a recipient of the Washington State Bar Association’s Outstanding Judge Award.
“We think that issuing the appropriate decision is the most important thing that we do but at the same time, we need to be involved in all of the management activities of the court,” he said. “We need to be involved in committee work with the various committees of the Superior Court Judges’ Association and both Judge Churchill and I have been actively involved in a number of committees and task forces and councils over the years to improve the law and the administration of justice. We are proud of that and our successors will do the same.”
Hancock said he and Churchill plan to work with the next elected judges to ensure a smooth change in the courts.
“I expect there will be a smooth transition,” he said. “We will certainly do everything we can to assist the new judges who will be elected and make the transition as smooth as possible. Our programs are running very smoothly and we are very proud of the work that we have done with the court to improve our service to the public and make sure that everyone has access to justice, and our programs have been very successful in seeing that those things happen.”
After over 30 years of service, Hancock said he and his wife plan to visit more with their children and grandchildren and he looks forward to having more time to maintain the family farm where he grew up and now lives. He also plans to pursue his bagpiping hobby.
“(I will be) spending more time with the family and devoting myself to the farm more than I have been able to do previously and getting involved in community activities,” he said.
Hancock said he feels lucky to have been able to serve his fellow citizens as a judge in Island County.
“It has been a great honor to be able to have practiced law and been a judge in my home community all these years,” he said.
For more information on the Island County Superior Court, please visit www.islandcountywa.gov/SuperiorCourt.