The Public Disclosure Commission today announced that Gov. Jay Inslee has appointed retired Superior Court Judge William Downing to the Commission.
Downing was a highly regarded member of the King County Superior Court bench for 28 years. Since his retirement in early 2017, he has worked part-time as a mediator and arbitrator for JAMS, an international alternative dispute resolution firm.
“Judge Downing has served our state with distinction for many years as a judge and mediator. He has an impartial, fair and open approach that will serve him well as a Public Disclosure Commissioner and tremendously benefit all Washingtonians,” Inslee said.
Downing’s judicial career was distinguished by a focus on building public trust and confidence in the courts. He was a longtime chair of the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions Committee as well as the Bench-Bar-Press Liaison Committee, where he was the author of the state’s rule giving news cameras broad access to courtrooms. He also was an integral part of the YMCA Mock Trial, coordinating the yearly competition for high school students and writing many of the cases that students argued.
“Public access to and understanding of government is a vital part of a democratic society,” Downing said. “I see in the PDC mission the same values that shaped my time in the judiciary. I am delighted to be part of a team focused on this important aspect of public education.”
A native of Kinderhook, New York, Downing spent three years as a deckhand on Mississippi River tugs and Bellingham-based fishing boats before attending law school at the University of Washington. He was a deputy prosecutor for King County for 12 years before joining the judiciary.
During his time on the bench, Downing presided over many notable cases, among them the 2004 challenge of the state’s Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited same-sex marriage. Downing was the first trial-court judge in the nation to strike down such a law as unconstitutional.
Downing has been named a “Distinguished Alumnus” of the University of Washington Law School and has received the Williams Nevins and Robert Utter Awards for promoting ethical and democratic values. The Council on Public Legal Education presented him with its “Flame of Democracy Award” this year.
“I was long an admirer of Judge Downing’s thoughtful judicial approach when he was on the bench,” said Commission Chair Anne Levinson. “Bill is also a wonderful human being with a deep commitment to the mission of the PDC. He will be an asset to the Commission as we ensure that the state's campaign finance laws are fully and fairly enforced, the public is provided timely access to information, and we provide guidance to help the regulated community comply with the law.”
Downing joins fellow Commissioners Levinson, Jack Johnson and David Ammons. The Commission is comprised of five individuals, who are appointed by the governor to five-year terms.
Downing’s appointment fills one of two vacancies left by the December departures of former Commissioners Judge John Bridges (ret.) and former Mayor and state Rep. Katrina Asay.
“I want to thank Commissioners Asay and Bridges and for their service. They each gave generously of their time and expertise to the work of the Commission on behalf of the public,” Levinson said.
Voters created the PDC in 1972 with the passage of Initiative 276. The agency provides timely and meaningful public access to accurate information about the financing of political campaigns, lobbyist expenditures, and the financial affairs of public officials and candidates and enforces Washington’s campaign finance and disclosure laws.