Casey was appointed as a Thurston County Court Commissioner in 1982, and served for two years hearing juvenile and family cases before winning election to the Thurston County Superior Court in 1984.
During Tuesday's ceremony in Thurston County Superior Court's large courtroom, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham praised Casey for her work in helping get the Family and Juvenile Justice Center built on Mottman Road in 1998.
Wickham said Casey's advocacy for a single facility to house programs and courts for juveniles and families was instrumental in shepherding the program through the Thurston County Commission. "I don't believe we would have the courthouse and programs we now have without her leadership," Wickham said.
"I know without a doubt it wouldn't be there without her work," added William Pope, family section chairman of the Thurston County Bar Association.
Casey was a trailblazer for gender equality in the legal and judicial profession. She graduated from the Willamette University School of Law in 1972 as the only woman in her class. She became the second female Thurston County Superior Court judge.
Wickham pointed out that in Washington, there are only two sitting Superior Court judges with more experience on the bench than Casey has.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch called Casey a mentor, a friend, and "one of our community's greatest champions for children and families."
Speakers listed the awards and accolades Casey has won over the years, including the Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Jurist of the Year Award in 1998, and the Washington Women Lawyers Chapter Member of the Year Award for 1998. Others spoke about Casey's work as a founder and past board member of the Thurston County Dispute Resolution Center.
A portrait of Casey was unveiled during the ceremony to be hung in her courtroom after she retires. Her husband, Nick Handy, also spoke during the ceremony about her long and storied career, which included two years practicing law as staff attorney for Micronesian Legal Services Corporation on the island of Truk in the East Caroline Islands.
"When she left for Micronesia, she wanted to be a corporate attorney, and when she returned, she wanted to be an attorney for common people," Handy said.
Handy said that when Casey began practicing law in Olympia, she was the only female attorney in town.
Casey spoke last, thanking those who are most important to her, including her husband. "He is my champion," she said.
Casey said it has been a special privilege to serve as Superior Court judge in the state capital because judges here get to hear cases and decide issues of statewide importance involving government and state agencies.
"I want to thank the community and the voters who voted me three times to be judge," she said.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org