Dan Satterberg to say goodbye as King County Prosecutor after nearly 16 years

Jan 7, 2022, 11:30 AM | Updated: Jan 10, 2022, 7:42 am
Dan Satterberg...
King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg photographed in January 2022 in the King County Courthouse in Seattle, Wash. (Photo by Dan DeLong)
(Photo by Dan DeLong)

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is saying goodbye to the office he has held for more than 15 years.

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“After 37 years in the office, and 15 years as the elected prosecutor, I have decided that 2022 will be my last year here, and I will not be seeking reelection,” Satterberg shared with KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott.

“It’s been a tremendous honor and privilege to be part of this office, the work we do here is so important,” he continued. “And I’ll miss it. But it’s time for me to do other things with my life. It’s time for somebody new to step up and lead this office. So it’s going to be an exciting and eventful year for us here in the King County Prosecutor’s Office.”

Satterberg took over as prosecutor after the unexpected death of then-King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng in 2007. He was later re-elected to a full four-year term in 2010, and again in 2014, serving as a Republican until he successfully pushed a voter approved charter amendment to make the office non-partisan in 2016.

Despite serving in the then non-partisan office, Satterberg in 2018 announced his views now aligned more with Democrats than Republicans, including his push to end the death penalty in Washington.

On why he’s decided to call it a career (at least as prosecutor), Satterberg said: “I will appreciate it in a new way knowing that my days are numbered, but when I am finished with being the prosecuting attorney, there are a lot of other things that I am interested in. And, for me, foundational justice issues like hunger, and housing, and health, those are how we define whether we truly have social justice in King County.”

“I’ll always be interested in helping to reduce the suffering and increase peace and justice, and I’ll look for ways to do that,” he clarified. “But I’ve been here a long time, I’ve seen a lot of changes, I’ve made some of those changes myself. I’m confident that I’m leaving this a better office than when I arrived in 1985 — it’s time for me to move on.”

But he stressed he still has 350-plus days in office, and that those days will be busy.

“I’m very excited about what lies ahead,” Satterberg said. “But I’m also very serious about the next year — we have a lot of work to do here. There are around 250 murder cases that are set for trial. Those have to get in front of the jury in an expeditious fashion. We do have the first police officer charged with murder in the state — that trial is ours to complete as well. And we’re also launching some really exciting new diversion programs that involve community partners.”

Satterberg and his office have led the state on criminal justice reforms with everything from Peace Circles, to the first in the nation Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program that has gone on to spread not only across the state of Washington, but across the nation as well.

One of those new diversion programs he’ll launch before leaving office is a big second chance for first time non-violent offenders.

“We’ll have one that starts soon for adults who are facing their first felony charge for a non-violent crime, where instead of putting them through the whole process where, today, they’re going to have to wait a long time to get to a courtroom, will instead be quickly sent into a community nonprofit organization that’s paid to define accountability, to hold that person accountable, but also to help the person who was harmed and to make sure that the person who caused the harm doesn’t do it again,” Satterberg explained.

He says they focused on that first felony, which can be things like non-violent property crime, because the hope is it will help those people avoid repeating the mistake.

“If we can help people get past that, then maybe they won’t get the second one and the third one. And what I’ve seen in my career is once that first felony conviction is on your record, the rest of them seem to be a lot easier and quicker to come,” he said. “So we’re going to do some new things to involve the community organizations in our work as well. It’s very exciting for me to launch this and get it going before my last day, which is December 31, 2022.”

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As far as determining his replacement, Satterberg noted things are much different now than they used to be.

“It used to be that the election of the prosecuting attorney was, well, not one of the more exciting things that was on the ballot. But it’s no longer a low interest, bottom-ticket kind of thing,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest in the work that prosecutors do and the power that we wield, and how we do it and what our priorities are, so I expect that there’ll be a robust campaign to replace me. And I will be here in the office making sure that the place is ready to turn over to whoever the new prosecuting attorney is.”

On who Satterberg thinks his successor should be, he says he just wants it to be someone who appreciates the excellence of the office, describing it as it as a special place.

“Next to the attorney general’s office, we’re the second largest public law office in the state,” he said. “Five-hundred and seventy-five people work here, and we are the civil attorney for King County — we do family support, we do juvenile cases, as well as the criminal cases that we’re better known for. So as long as it’s somebody who respects the office and respects the people who are here — we have some amazing people who don’t work for very much money, but they do great work for the people of King County. As long as it’s not somebody who wants to tear the office apart and dismantle it.”

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Dan Satterberg to say goodbye as King County Prosecutor after nearly 16 years