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Engel sworn in as District Court judge

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Sunnyside resident Don Engel (L) is sworn in by Judge Rod Fitch at an investiture ceremony held Wednesday afternoon. Engel is the newest addition to the county's District Court bench. He will be up for election this fall.

YAKIMA - For the second time Sunnyside resident Don Engel has followed in the footsteps of now Superior Court Judge Ruth Reukauf.

In 1999, he replaced her as the Yakima County Court Commissioner and now, he is taking her place on the bench as a District Court judge as she fills the vacant Superior Court judge position.

"I want to assure her if she seeks higher office, I will be the first to sign up for her job," Engel joked at the investiture ceremony held at the Yakima County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon.

The ceremony held amongst his family, friends and peers was the formal robing ceremony and swearing into office.

Judges sitting on the bench in Municipal, District and Superior courtrooms around the county were on hand to witness as Judge Rod Fitch conducted the ceremony and swearing in.

Rick Kimbrough, whom Engel has shared a Grandview office with for the past three years, introduced Engel and spoke on his behalf.

He said that after spending a couple of years as a court commissioner and a judge pro-tem for Yakima County before returning to private practice, Engel learned his calling was really to the judge's bench.

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Engel moved to Richland as a teen. After graduating from Richland High School, he attended Washington State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oregon School of Law before joining Roger Garrison's Sunnyside law office in 1984.

In 1999 he gave up his private practice to take on the role of court commissioner, a position that was cut a year later due to budget and case load issues, according to Judge Fitch. He also spent a year as a court commissioner before returning to private practice about three years ago, said Fitch.

Kimbrough said that Engel was a good choice for the district court position because he has a "...profound respect for land and compassion. I can't imagine a better person to serve in this position.

"We're going to miss Don in my office. He was a very able lawyer," he said.

"Mostly we're going to miss him when we need to get things off high shelves. He's the only one in the office over six feet tall," Kimbrough joked.

In the ceremony, Engel was also referred to as a person who is fair and impartial and a person of common sense and integrity, by former employers and employees.

Roasting Engel a little, Engel's former employer, Roger Garrison, said that in all the years they have known each other Engel never made the same mistake twice.

"He made a lot of them, but he never repeated them," said Garrison.

Engel credited his success as an attorney to Garrison.

"Much of what I am as an attorney and what I want to be as a judge is because of his tutelage," said Engel.

Engel was appointed to the position by Yakima County commissioners in April. He was named to the bench partially due to a poll of the Yakima County Bar Association. His fellow attorneys overwhelming supported Engel.

His position on the District Court bench will be up for election this fall.

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