The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Bill Faubion sees growth of court over long career


August 10, 2017

Diana Zimmerman

After 38 years, Bill Faubion has announced that he will be retiring from his post as District Court judge on August 31. He will continue to practice law.

After 38 years, Bill Faubion has decided to step down from his position as Wahkiakum District Court judge. His tenure will end on August 31.

"Law school called my bluff," Faubion said last week. "I had no intention of ever being a lawyer, but my brother talked me into taking the law school admissions test, and I did well on it. Then he talked me into applying for law school, and they accepted me. I wasn't doing anything else, so there I was."

"My mother always said, 'When doors open up for you, you have a choice. You can walk through that door to adventures you haven't even contemplated or you can not go through the door and stay safe,'" Faubion added. "She always said, 'Walk through the doors.'"

"Law school is a horrible ordeal," Faubion said, laughing. "The first year, they say they scare you to death. We lost over 30 percent of our class that year. The second year of law school, they say they work you to death. They provide you with so much material that you have to go through, understand, and regurgitate. The third year they say they bore you to death. By then you've realized what the game is all about, and they've reworked you to think like a lawyer."

Four generations of his family have resided in Wahkiakum County, but when he was six, his father got a job working for the state and they moved to Olympia. Faubion returned to the area after law school to join Mitchell Doumit's practice in 1976.

Three years later, he had his practice, but he was also working as a judge. An employee at one of the fish hatcheries had defeated the sitting lay judge in the election, but was gone three months into his term because he got a promotion and was transferred to another hatchery. Faubion applied for the position and the county commissioners appointed him.

"I've had some fun, both as an attorney and as a judge," Faubion said. "I hope I've done a good job. I think I'm a better judge than I was even five years ago. I think there is a maturity and a level of understanding and knowledge that you accumulate over the years that helps you be a better judge, to know what it takes to get a person to stop doing what they were doing that got them in front of a judge."

"I've learned a lot," he added. "I've learned that most people are good. Most people that come before the court simply made a mistake. When they are young, they sometimes do stupid things. I used my role to try to help them get through those times and grow up. My dad used to say that by the time people get to be their mid-twenties, they don't have time to be bad or to do bad things. They have families, jobs, and responsibilities, and it just changes them. I've seen that happen. That doesn't mean sometimes you don't have to hit them with a stick or wake them up a little bit. I hope I've been able to do that with a number of people over the years and not harmed them in any way.

"The other thing I've learned that some people never grow up," he said. They never learn, but for the most part, those people eventually straighten themselves out as they grow older. It just takes some people longer."

He must have done something right, because sometimes, out of the blue, a stranger will walk up to him and say, "When I was a kid, I came before you and you changed my life positively, and I just want to thank you for it."

Still, there are some things he won't miss when he retires--the late night phone calls and visits from deputies needing search warrants or other things, or the isolation that comes with the position.

When he first returned to Cathlamet in 1976, he would visit the coffee shop and hear all the news and local gossip. As a judge, he had to step away from that, unable to listen or to comment, because any one of those matters could end up before him in court.

"I just couldn't put myself in a position where I was going to be hearing all that stuff," Faubion said, "I have people coming before me that are my neighbors, my friends, acquaintances that I see on the street or read about in the paper. There are times when I end up with conflicts because I can't be impartial one way or the other, for or against, and you have to be impartial, both ways."

Faubion intends to continue his law practice.

"Shirley (Rose) has been with me for 35 years," he said with a laugh, the punchline coming. "I've got to continue working until she wants to retire."

"Down here in Wahkiakum County you take whatever walks in the door," Faubion said, "and it's been really interesting what has walked through the doors over the years."

One of the more interesting things that happened involved helping a woman donate a scale model of a ship to the maritime museum in Astoria. He helped an actor's double with a will, and he dealt with adoption issues. A long time ago, that meant trips to Olympia to do research, but the internet has made that aspect of his work much easier.

He once represented a young man who had attempted to burglarize the Rosburg store.

"The young man told me his name was Josey Wales," Faubion said. "'You know,' he told me, 'the outlaw.'"

The fellow said that he was also known as Douglas MacArthur and Ulysses S. Grant. He said that the government wouldn't give him his pension as Douglas MacArthur and asked Faubion to go after them.

Another man became a client after he went into a local restaurant, ordered two steakburgers and left without paying. When he was confronted by the owner, the man told her he didn't have to pay because he was Jesus Christ.

"There was no defense," Faubion said. "Raising a defense of insanity would be crazy to do on a minor misdemeanor offense. That statement would be far worse. I told him to plead guilty and take the punishment. They gave him some food and a place to stay for few days."

Though tinged with a sadness, those stories are fun and good for a laugh. Unfortunately, his job put him in the path of things that were painful and will stay with him.

"As a young lawyer, I represented a young man who was charged with raping a 16 year old. We sent him off to Western State Hospital. They said he was incompetent, and I got him acquitted. Later, we got another report from them that they had made a mistake. He wasn't really insane."

Another time, a client he was representing in a guardianship was sent to Western State Hospital. He visited the young man on a Friday, and on Monday morning he got a phone call that the man was dead. The report said he had locked himself in a dryer and dried himself to death.

"You can't lock a dryer and start it from the inside," Faubion said. "Somebody killed him."

"Those two instances, among others, have led me to be skeptical of our mental health system," he said.

The stories of abuse of children or even adults have stuck with him too. All of it has led to some sleepless nights.

"Frankly, you put the stories aside, or you can't continue to do the work," Faubion said. "It changes you. It changes your attitude on life and people. It changes you in lots of ways, some good, some not so good."

Faubion reminisced about Cathlamet and his youth, visiting his grandparents house on Una Street. He would sit on the porch with his grandfather, and they would guess whether a truck or a car would go by next.

"My grandfather was always right," Faubion said. "It wasn't until years later that I realized he was looking above and seeing them before they came down the road."

He remembered walking "uptown" to the post office, which was located in the same building as the hotel at the time. He would walk on the sidewalk, or along the curb. He admits he sometimes does the same thing now, as he travels much the same path from his law office to the courthouse.

"I've been in this community from the time I was a baby," Faubion said. "I've watched it grow and develop. I've watched it change. Lots of the changes have been real positive, and I'm pleased and proud to be a part of it. The town hasn't changed that much. The faces have changed, but the town, not much. This county is a good place. I've raised my two step daughters and a son and they've all done well. I found my wife Cindy here. I can't complain."

When he's not working, he plans to take his two dogs bird hunting. Someday, when Cindy retires, they will travel and do all the things they want to do, together.


Reader Comments

srose writes:

It's been quite the ride working for Bill the last 35 years. He has taught me a lot and seen me through many difficult times in my life. I am proud to call him my friend first, my boss second! I feel like his son David's office mom as I used to watch him at the office when Bill had to respond to ambulance calls. I love his whole family! I am so blessed that he is continuing his law practice until I can retire - how many bosses would do that?!?!?


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