Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez returns to LHS

Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez returns to LHS for Homecoming
Posted on 10/09/2018

Lynden High School principal Ian Freeman can hardly contain his excitement over having Ricardo Martinez, Chief United States District Judge for the Western District of Washington, agree to spend an entire day and evening with the students of LHS while being honored as this year’s Alumni of the Year. 

After seeing videos of Martinez during Freeman’s first year as principal, he knew getting Martinez in front of the students in person was worth the effort. “The videos were so inspiring because his upbringing was just like so many of our students,” Freeman says. “Through hard work and a clear focus, he attended the University of Washington and earned highly distinguished positions in the legal world.”

Martinez matches the excitement of Freeman over the opportunity to return to the town his 92-year-old father still lives in and speak to students at the school he graduated from in 1969.

“I have been very lucky in my life and career to have received many honors and accolades, but being honored by my high school will always hold a special place in my heart,” he says. “I loved growing up in a small town and my teachers had such a positive impact on my life and they instilled such a love of learning that I know allowed me to succeed.”

Martinez was born in Texas to a family of farm workers and moved to Lynden with his family before first grade. His family stayed in Lynden, one of the first Latino families that decided to stay in the area instead of moving seasonally, and he attended Lynden Schools from first grade through high school graduation. “This community helped to shape who I am as a person and even as a judge,” he says. “The community and its people helped instill my work ethic, sense of fairness and desire to do justice that have brought me to where I am today.”

Martinez, upon earning a bachelor of science degree from Washington in 1975 and a doctorate from the University of Washington School of Law in 1980 started as an assistant prosecutor with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. After 10 years there he then spent eight years as a judge on the King County Superior Court before becoming a U.S. Magistrate Jude of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. In 2003, Martinez was nominated by then-president George W. Bush to a new seat on the court. After his confirmation by the U.S. Senate in 2004, he became the first Latino judge for that post. He was named Chief Judge in 2016. 

Martinez receives the annual LHS Alumni of the Year award as part of Lynden High’s Homecoming event on Friday, Oct. 19. A full day of festivities includes Martinez speaking to the entire student body during an assembly about his experiences, growing up and the direction of his life after high school. He will stick around during lunch to speak to students individually and in small groups in the library. As the school day winds down, Martinez will visit the school’s Criminal Justice class to talk further about the legal profession.

In the evening, Martinez will attend the Homecoming football game and be recognized at the event.

During his time with students at Lynden, Martinez says he wants to give them a sense that what happens today has meaning. “I want the kids to understand that they need to believe in themselves, to set goals, that life may not be fair but each of them is given an opportunity,” he says, “and the choices they make now will impact what they can do later.”