Robert F. Utter of Olympia served on the Washington Supreme Court for 23 years - 1971-1995. He has been a lawyer since 1954 and also served as a King County Juvenile Court commissioner, Superior Court judge and Court of Appeals judge.

If it please the court, is it OK to call a Supreme Court justice "judge"?

Of course! Until the late 1950s, the title was "judge." And "judge" is still fine.

Funniest thing that ever happened in one of your courtrooms?

Trying to decide who, if anyone, was telling the truth in a trial that pitted two used car salesmen.

Has "Utter" been a burden?

Not after I decided I could not win every fight in grade school over my last name.

What is your favorite book - and why?

"War & Peace." A wonderfully developed overview of a critical time in history. Tolstoy makes clear it is not the generals who win or lose a battle but the front-line-soldiers. Great development of all major characters.

Favorite movie?

"The Grapes of Wrath." Hollywood managed to faithfully bring Steinbeck's novel to the screen, with Henry Fonda brilliant as Tom Joad.

We hear you're musical?

I love all good music - classical, jazz, opera, chamber. I enjoyed playing classic and jazz guitar once upon a time. Still love to listen, but my fingers are too stiff to play any more.

Your idea of an ideal day?

Sailing anywhere in a good boat with good company.

Favorite food?


Favorite quote?

"The only two illicit questions in philosophy are 'What if?' and 'Why?' They are illicit because there is no answer and to dwell on them only leads to madness." - Willi Unsoeld

The smartest thing you've ever done?

Marry my wife Betty on Dec. 28, 1953

The dumbest?

Buying any number of cars I thought were "good buys" but were more like goodbyes.

Is there a question you'd like to answer that we haven't had the wit to ask?

Not yet!