Judge Steven Clough has been fielding a few questions about retirement recently.

The Monroe resident has sat on the Snohomish County District Court Evergreen Division bench for 40 years. He is running unopposed on the general election ballot to keep his job at 14414 179th Ave. S.E.

For his service since 1978, he was recognized at the 60th annual Washington State Judicial Conference in Yakima at the end of September. His staff held a local celebration earlier this month.

The crowd in Eastern Washington included state Supreme Court justices, which made Clough nervous, although he knows a few personally. One other person had put in as many years as he has, he said.

“It was an honor,” Clough said.

Although he has had an accomplished career, it wasn’t the one he planned. Growing up, Clough was interested in becoming a doctor, among other ambitions.

Clough was born in Spokane in 1946. His father was a lawyer, and moved his family out west to Monroe in 1953 to start his own private practice. Every morning the family would have breakfast together, and then Clough’s father would travel the two blocks to work in his shirt and tie.

They didn’t talk much about what his father’s job. Clough remembers as a boy seeing him on TV for a county government corruption case he was working on.

“I was always proud of my dad and admired him for what he did,” he said.

Clough loved his childhood in Monroe. He says he never really wanted to leave.

Growing up, Clough also looked up to his teachers and sports coaches. At one point he debated pursuing a teaching degree. He ultimately graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1970.

He married his first wife as a sophomore, and their daughter now lives in Bellevue.

Clough had already determined he didn’t have the study habits to become a doctor. He also determined teachers didn’t make enough money for him to provide for his new family.

So he set his sights on the University of Idaho’s law school. The program appealed to him, in part, because it prepared him for building a career in a small community. Had he wanted to work in a big city, at a large firm, it could have been years before he saw a courtroom.

“I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “I wanted to get where the action was.”

After graduating, Clough returned home and joined his dad’s practice. He remembers the long hours. The toughest times in his career were when the workload was too high.

Clough said he took a liking to the profession immediately. He found mentors in his father and coworkers.

He recalls helping clients fight penalties for unpaid bills and sort out estate matters. One time he was appointed to defend two men who had escaped from the Monroe Correctional Complex. They said they had to return home to take care of personal matters, Clough said.

The pair was found guilty. Clough said they did receive some leniency from the judge.

“I think justice was served in the end of the case,” he said.

A few friends convinced Clough to run for a judgeship in 1978, and helped him come up with the filing fee.

“I got elected, and I have been here ever since,” he said.

Clough said he always loved being able to support people as a lawyer. He said he tries to treat everyone in the courtroom with respect and courtesy.

“You can try to steer people the right way from the bench, as well,” he said.

Much has changed in the time Clough has been a judge. The Evergreen District Court was the first in Washington — the year after he was elected — to offer a service that would allow jurors to call in the night before and see if they would need to show up for duty the next day, instead of making the trip just  to be turned away.

Now everything is digitized. Clough remembers when clerks wrote notes from the day on index cards. The division has added another judge position, which is now filled by Patricia Lyon, who has been a great colleague, he said. 

Clough has been involved in various advocacy efforts throughout his career. Those who serve through Washington’s judicial system adhere to a code of conduct. 

Judges can work to improve the legal system, but they can’t get involved in partisan issues. Clough said he does feel confident in the system.

“I think the system does kind of mend itself toward betterment of the system, but it is always pretty slow,” he said.

The code of conduct also has influence outside of the courtroom. Clough said that did limit some of his extracurricular activities, but jokes that he just had to play golf with other judges.

Clough’s parents were very involved in community service clubs, Clough said. He has spent much of his free time giving back as well. He has coached youth sports, and Clough was a founding member of the Monroe Public Schools Foundation.

Clough now has two stepchildren and has been remarried twice. He keeps in close touch with his family, and spends time doing his favorite activities, which includes fishing and recreating.

For now, “health be willing,” Clough said, he doesn’t intend to admonish his duties for the foreseeable future. 

“I still enjoy the job I have,” he said.