Farewell to Judge French

EVERETT – A cowboy hat and a pair of boots were placed on an otherwise unoccupied chair in front of the podium on the Snohomish County Courthouse steps.

Before the memorial service Monday evening, recorded western music – the music Charles French loved – blared over the loudspeakers.

A short distance away, hundreds of people from all walks of life came to bid farewell to French, a Superior Court judge who died a week ago of pneumonia, complications of his cancer treatment.

French, 53, was a judge only seven years, but his intelligence, honesty, determination and wit affected nearly everyone with whom he came into contact.

“He set the standard for every elected official,” Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said. “He was a man of honor.”

The ceremony stretched for two hours as speaker after speaker talked about life experiences with French, while he was on the bench and during the nearly 21 years he practiced as a lawyer in Everett.

They talked about his humor, the dozens of columns he wrote for the Snohomish County Bar Association newsletter, where he chided fellow lawyers and himself. Later, as a judge, he often explained to lawyers something about the court that would help them.

He was always humorous in the columns, said Brad Cattle, an Everett lawyer who attended Cascade High with French.

Cattle said the first time he saw French wear a cowboy hat he was surprised and asked what was up. “With the brim, I don’t need an umbrella,” French responded.

Presiding Judge Thomas Wynne told a story about French going to a conference and participants were asked to say with whom they would like to spend an evening talking. Famous people such as Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi were mentioned.

“When they came to Charlie, he said his father,” Wynne said.

His father, Stuart French, is a retired Snohomish County Superior Court judge who left office in 1993. He administered the oath of office for his son after Gov. Gary Locke appointed him to a newly created position.

French was assigned to his father’s old courtroom six months before he died. Several people said that meant a lot to him.

Wynne and others also talked about his informality, especially off the bench.

When he was a new judge, the court clerk’s staff insisted on calling him “your honor” or “judge.” He just wanted them to call him Charlie.

They refused, telling him that would break protocol. He broke into a wide grin and said, “What if I order you to call me Charlie?”

He was involved in youth soccer, even after his two sons stopped playing. He also adopted the Everett High School band, and family members have said donations in lieu of flowers should be made to “The Blue and Gold Club band fund.”

“I think everybody here really loved him,” said Mark Roe, chief criminal deputy prosecutor.

Della Moore, his law clerk for seven years, remarked that he was recently called a “gentleman’s judge.” “He was much more than that,” she said. “He was a gentleman.”

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