October 29, 2021
RE: PASSING OF RETIRED JUDGE KATHERINE M. STOLZ
Pierce County Superior Court is saddened to announce the passing of retired Superior Court Judge Katherine M. Stolz. Judge Stolz served in Department #2 from 2001-2017.
Judge Katherine M. Stolz was born July 22, 1955 in Port Arthur, Texas to Gerard and Winnifred (Gallagher) Stolz. She served as a Pierce County Superior Court Judge, Department 2, from 2001 to 2017.
Due to her father’s employment as a civil engineer, Judge Stolz moved nine times prior to her 18th birthday. She graduated from St. Margaret Mary’s School for Girls in Townsville, Queensland, Australia in 1974. After high school, she returned to the U.S. and enrolled at Western Washington University, transferring shortly thereafter to the University of Washington. In 1976, just two years later, Judge Stolz graduated with a double major in Philosophy and Political Science and enrolled in law school. In 1979, at age 23, she graduated from the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University).
After law school Judge Stolz formed a partnership with Tacoma attorney, Christina Matchett, but soon opened her own practice. Although generally known as a family law attorney, Judge Stolz’s practice also included probate, toxic tort, juvenile and criminal law. She served as a Municipal Court Judge Pro Tem for 15 years. In 1998 she ran an unsuccessful campaign for an open Municipal Court seat, losing to her opponent by a slim margin. In 2000, after 21 years in private practice, Judge Stolz ran a successful campaign against an incumbent Superior Court judge and was elected to the Pierce County Superior Court. She was the first Pierce County judge to be sworn-in in the 21st century.
Judge Stolz’s intelligence, wit and acerbity from the bench, as well as her penchant for eccentric hats and eclectic chamber décor (there was a portrait of Queen Elizabeth hanging in her chambers) were well known. A voracious reader, Judge Stolz enjoyed reading biographies, history and non-fiction, with a particular interest in the Civil War, needlepoint and sewing, collecting objects d’art including depression glass, tea cups & teapots, red transferware, royal commemorative ware, dollhouses and miniatures, and travelling to Australia to visit her sister, nieces and nephews. She was an ardent supporter of the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society and had spent countless volunteer hours engaged in animal rescue efforts.
Superior Court Presiding Judge Phil Sorensen had this to say about Judge Stolz, “a trip through Judge Stolz’s chambers was like going back in time. Her displays of European history and family heirlooms (just a fraction of her collection, I’m sure) always led to interesting conversations. There was a time when I was a Deputy Prosecutor, that several of us participated in many of the ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ events. While Judge Stolz didn’t supply shoes, she did supply all things that let us accessorize, accessorize, accessorize. She was one of a kind and she will be missed.”
Retired Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper added, “Her extensive reading made her an invaluable member of the Pierce County Superior Court trivia team, which she named Court’s in Session.”
The entire Superior Court of judges, commissioners, judicial staff, and administration team members extend our condolences to the Stolz family. There will be a memorial service for Judge Stolz at a later date.
Chris Gaddis, Superior Court Administrator