EVERETT — Former Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Robert Bibb is retiring again.
Bibb served on the bench for nearly two decades before stepping down in 1992. Then in 2000 he returned to the courthouse to start the county’s Guardianship Monitoring Program.
For 15 years Bibb has volunteered to keep tabs on guardians appointed to oversee legal and financial matters for people who are too sick, frail or confused to handled their own affairs.
Bibb, 92, says it’s time to let others take over the program.
“It’s been 15 years and obviously I’m getting old,” Bibb said. “I thought the 15th anniversary was the opportune time to hang it up, as the saying goes.”
The Snohomish County program grew out of a national effort by AARP to provide oversight to guardianships, often involving the elderly. The organization provided a $5,000 grant in 2000 to start the program here.
“I had to do something useful and this was a good opportunity that presented itself,” Bibb said.
Retired Superior Court Judge Ken Cowsert also has been volunteering with the program since he left the bench in 2011. He was a court commissioner in the late 1990s when it was brought to the court’s attention that there were more than 1,000 guardianship cases that hadn’t been reviewed in years. It became obvious that oversight was needed to make sure money was being spent in the best interest of the wards, Cowsert said.
Often times relatives become guardians because they can’t afford to pay a professional to oversee the ward’s financial and legal matters. They need assistance with filling out the forms and meeting the court’s orders.
“We were fortunate to land Judge Bibb to manage the program,” Cowsert said. “It was due to him and his leadership that we’ve been able to recruit and keep quality volunteers.”
Many of the volunteers have been recruited through Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Snohomish County, which matches people 55 and older with volunteer opportunities.
A couple of the original volunteers are still with the program, retired Superior Court Richard Thorpe said. He began volunteering with the program a few years ago.
Bibb was instrumental in creating more user-friendly forms and teaching guardians about what was required of them. The volunteers also help guardians complete required online training.
“It was a pretty sizable program to take on,” Cowsert said.
He, Thorpe and retired Superior Court Judge Joseph Thibodeau plan to continue to volunteer.
“We’ll keep it going for the sake of the people we’re serving,” Thorpe said.
Office hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-noon, Snohomish County Courthouse, Room C102. Call 425-388-3284.