The picture on the front page of the paper that morning caught my attention.
It was Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, and there on the cover of The Wenatchee World was the image of a woman dressed in a long, black judge’s robe, smiling, her two young daughters wrapped up in her arms and her husband beaming with obvious pride by their side.
Kristin Ferrera, then 38 years old, had just been sworn in as a Chelan County Superior Court Judge during a public ceremony at the Numerica PAC when that photograph was taken on Jan. 5.
I found the image deeply moving because it’s not often I see someone who looks like me wearing a judge’s robe. It’s not often we get to see a woman in such a position of prestige who also happens to be going about the difficult but delightfully rich work of raising small children.
I will admit that I put the newspaper down and immediately typed up a fan-girl email. I congratulated Judge Ferrera on the new job and invited her out for coffee. (Not at all stalker-ish, right?) Since then, I have come to know her as a thoughtful person, a woman with a sharp legal mind who genuinely loves the law. Like, she really loves the law – reading about it, talking about it, and tirelessly trying to improve the criminal justice system in Chelan County.
She has met with countless individuals and organizations to better understand the problems, as well as the services available in the community, in an effort to develop collaborative solutions.
“I am not content with just accepting the status quo,” she said.
Eventually she’d like to see a mental health court established here. For now, she is the presiding judge over the newly created drug court, an alternative court system designed to move nonviolent drug defendants into treatment and probation instead of prosecution and jail. It’s a model that has proven incredibly successful across the country.
“We have a huge problem in the community and we can do better. And as a judge, I’m part of that solution.”
Judge Ferrera grew up in Snohomish and attended college at Western Washington University, then volunteered with AmeriCorps in New Mexico, working with the Navajo and Hopi tribes. She taught school for a few years, including one year in China, then attended law school at the University of Washington. She and her husband, Mark Shorb, moved to Chelan County in 2008, drawn here by “that feeling that you’re really a part of a community that cares about each other. It’s like a big family.”
Mark teaches middle school in Orondo. Together, they have their hands full with two daughters – ages 3 and 5.
“I think people make assumptions about me because of my age or my gender, or because I am a mom,” Ferrera said. “And I think a part of that is, ‘Oh, she’s new, she’s young, she must not know.’ ”
But Ferrera is competent and experienced. She spent a decade as a corporate attorney with Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, where she worked on complex cases and her practice included employment law, family law, agriculture and immigration.
As a judge, she is honest, fair, empathetic but firm. She told a World reporter in January: “You cannot dehumanize somebody, even someone who’s committed a criminal offense. That being said, I want to see a healthy and safe community.”
When she began her career in law, Ferrera never thought she’d be a judge. But now: “I was made for this position.”
Judge Ferrera’s life is busier than ever these days. Her 5-year-old just started kindergarten. Her 3-year-old refuses to fall asleep at a decent hour. And Ferrera is in the midst of the final, hectic months of a campaign to retain her judge’s seat. (The general election is Nov. 7. The seat is nonpartisan.)
“I love what I’m doing,” she said. “I really care about the job and I want to keep doing it. And I’m good at it.”
(Photo credit: Mary Ireland, MKC Photography)