The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) presented Judge Vance Peterson with its Local Hero Award, in recognition of his career of service to his country, community and the local bar. WSBA President Michele Radosevich presented the award at a luncheon in Spokane on Friday, April 26. Members of the WSBA Board of Governors and local attorneys and judges attended. Peterson was nominated by the Spokane County Bar Association.
Judge Peterson was a Spokane County District Court commissioner from 1991–97, and has served as a Spokane County District Court judge since 1997, including terms as presiding judge in 2002, 2003, 2010, and 2011. He has been a faculty member of Washington State Judicial College since 1999, which provides mandatory training for all judges in Washington state, and has also served as its dean. Judge Peterson was instrumental in establishing Spokane County’s first Veterans Court, which assists qualifying veterans who have been criminally charged with misdemeanors while coping with the issues they are facing, typically PTSD from multiple tours.
Judge Peterson served his country for 28 years on active duty with the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, including tours in Panama and Afghanistan. Most recently, he took time off the bench for a year-long tour in Afghanistan at age 58, which concluded in October 2012. In Afghanistan, he advised the Afghan Uniform Police on improving communications between their intelligence and operations divisions and developing more effective responses to threats, as well as how to use conventional law enforcement practices such as obtaining search warrants and making arrests. Judge Peterson has also served as a member of Special Forces (aka the Green Berets), reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Giving back to his community has been a priority to Judge Peterson for many years. A former member of the Washington State Foster Parents Association, he served as a foster parent to children in the Spokane community, providing both a home and a safe environment for them to live.
Judge Peterson received his undergraduate degree in political science from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree from Webster University, and his law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law. He worked in private practice from 1983–90 before beginning his career of public service.