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Eaton takes oath of office as San Juan Superior Court judge

Town Treasurer Wendy Picinich presents a desk clock to outgoing Town Attorney Donald Eaton, Thursday at his final Town Council meeting. The mayor and Town Council applaud. Eaton was scheduled to be sworn in Friday at 1 p.m. as San Juan County Superior Court judge.  - Richard Walker
Town Treasurer Wendy Picinich presents a desk clock to outgoing Town Attorney Donald Eaton, Thursday at his final Town Council meeting. The mayor and Town Council applaud. Eaton was scheduled to be sworn in Friday at 1 p.m. as San Juan County Superior Court judge.
— image credit: Richard Walker

Donald E. Eaton was scheduled to be sworn in Friday at 1 p.m. as San Juan County Superior Court judge.

Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock, who has been filling in here since Judge John Linde died in December, was scheduled to administer the oath of office in a private ceremony in the county courthouse. Eaton's appointment, by Gov. Christine Gregoire, takes effect Monday.

Sunday will be Eaton's last day as a private attorney and as Friday Harbor town attorney; service as Superior Court judge precludes him from private practice. Friday morning, he was packing boxes and "transitioning files" to new attorneys. That's 30-40 active files and "hundreds" of dormant files.

Thursday evening, he attended his final Town Council meeting, capping 29 years of service as the town's legal counsel. He was appointed town attorney in 1981 by Mayor Ralph Rich, service continued under mayors Jim Cahail, Bill LaPorte, Gary Boothman, David Jones, and Carrie Lacher. The town attorney is appointed by the mayor.

Wendy Picinich, town treasurer since 1984, presented Eaton with a desk clock. Mayor Carrie Lacher read a proclamation:

PROCLAMATION
In Honor and Appreciation
of
Donald Eaton

March 18, 2010

WHEREAS, Attorney Eaton has maintained a general law practice in Friday Harbor for more than thirty years, served as Town Attorney since 1981, and Superior Court Commissioner since 1984; and

WHEREAS, Attorney Eaton is committed to serving his community, and has offered pro-bono legal services to many organizations for many years, including the Town of Friday Harbor; and

WHEREAS, the vitality of a community is reflected in the leadership, guidance, and integrity that citizens bring to its governance; and

WHEREAS, on February 26, Governor Chris Gregoire announced the appointment of Attorney Eaton to serve the people of San Juan County as Superior Court Judge effective March 22, 2010; and

WHEREAS, once Attorney Eaton is sworn in as judge, he will give up his private practice and the Town will be vexed with the task of finding a new Town Attorney;

NOW,
THEREFORE, I, Carrie Lacher,
by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the Town of Friday Harbor, do hereby applaud Donald Eaton’s appointment to the bench and express our great appreciation for the services he has rendered to the Town during his tenure as Town Attorney. By this proclamation I hereby memorialize that tonight, his last Town Council meeting will adjourn in his honor, and with the respect and gratitude of the citizens of Friday Harbor."

After the honors were bestowed, Eaton said, "It's been an honor to serve the town. To have the chance to be as involved as I've been is not an opportunity a lot of people get."

Speaking of being "vexed" with the task of finding a new town attorney, Eaton donated his time attending those Town Council meetings — that's an average of 2.5 hours per meeting, five hours a month, 60 hours a year. In 1981, his hourly rate was $60-70 an hour. At that rate, with inflation, you're looking at a value of about $10,000 a year.

"I live in the town, it's my town, I felt like it was a good thing to do," he said.

In his off time, the new judge works out two nights a week, works in his yard, and spends time on his classic wooden boat and with family and friends.

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