December 28, 2020
RETIREMENT OF JUDGE JERRY COSTELLO
Pierce County Superior Court announces the retirement of Judge Jerry Costello at his completion of 32 years of public service, including the last 8 years on the bench. Judge Costello’s last day will be December 31, 2020.
Judge Costello grew up in Joliet, Illinois. He is one of 6 siblings. As the youngest of 4 athletic boys, he developed a competitive nature. Attending parochial school through the 8th grade instilled a strong work ethic, respect for authority and following the rules.
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 3 years from Western Illinois University, Judge Costello immediately entered California Western School of Law in San Diego. He still laughs at the fact that when he started law school at the age of 20, he could not legally drink alcohol. Excelling academically, he graduated 3rd in his class, Magna Cum Laude, in 1983. His achievements opened the door to direct commissioning into the highly competitive U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. 4 years in the Navy were followed by 2 years at Bogle & Gates in Seattle, handling civil litigation.
But Judge Costello yearned for more jury trials and his “all-time favorite boss” John Ladenburg hired him as a deputy prosecutor in 1989. Over the next 24 years Judge Costello tried many serious cases and was appointed Chief Criminal Deputy by Prosecuting Attorney Gerry Horne. Judge Costello was honored to be repeatedly invited to teach trial advocacy skills to junior prosecutors from across the nation at the National Advocacy Center in South Carolina. In 2009-2010 he served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, essentially “on loan” to the federal prosecutors.
Correctly anticipating that his record of public service would be viewed favorably by the voters, Judge Costello won election in 2012 to Department 7 by a wide margin. He remains proud of the fact that he earned strong support from both political parties and from a broad cross section of the community. Honoring the voters’ trust has been Judge Costello’s mission. “The title of ‘public servant’ means a lot to me. I have never forgotten who I work for.”
Judges must become knowledgeable about a huge variety of legal subjects, including some areas of law that are not part of law school curriculum. Judge Costello has enjoyed the intellectual challenge of judging and has remained grateful to the lawyers appearing before him who are the “subject matter experts” and who “superbly educated” him about their legal specialties.
Interacting with juries – the “regular folks from the community” – has been very enjoyable for Judge Costello. Learning about jurors’ interesting backgrounds, hearing the stories about their lives, even the tragic events, has been one of the best facets of the job.
His favorite thing to do as a judge is to preside over adoptions. The countless legal disputes brought to judges usually involve people behaving at their worst. But when a child is adopted, when a family is united, everyone’s joy overflows. “It’s an overwhelming experience – and in the best way. It’s priceless to be the person that ‘makes it official’ for the families.”
Judge Costello has been inseparable from Kris Costello, his wife of 34 years. Kris recently retired from a long career as a physical therapist and Judge Costello, always competing, doesn’t want her to “get too much of a head start on me.” The Costello’s raised two daughters who are now married and starting their own families. Judge Costello looks forward to spending even more time with his children and grandchildren.
Judge Costello is uncertain whether he will have any time to work in the legal field after retirement from the bench. He plans to pursue a long list of favorite avocations: fly-fishing, hiking, reading U.S. history, yoga, bicycling, traveling, golfing and watching his favorite professional sports teams. “My plan is to devote as much energy to goofing around as I did to my career.”
Being very fond of his colleagues and especially the support staff – “the people who really do the hard work and make the judges look good” – Judge Costello retires with a touch of melancholy. He will greatly miss his friends and colleagues. “I have been going into the County-City Building to work for over half my life and I will always cherish the memories and relationships I have been blessed with.”
Acting Presiding Judge Phil Sorensen stated, “Judge Jerry Costello and I both started in the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office in 1989. I have known him professionally for over 30 years. He has been a model of consistency, fairness and patience throughout that time Judge Costello has always taken the time necessary to get it right. He has always sweated the details. He wants to know he is doing the right thing for the right reasons. Convince him of that and your appearance would go much smoother. His good humor, awareness of soccer rules and fishing stories will be missed.”
Please join us in congratulating Judge Costello on his retirement.