History-making judge in Snohomish County dies at 67

A beloved superior court judge with a passion for mentoring young people has died. Judge Eric Lucas made history as the first African American elected to Snohomish County Superior Court.

He was 67 years old.

Snohomish County Medical Examiners said he died of natural causes. His sudden death shocked so many people across several communities.

"We lost a bright light in the legal community, but we also lost a bright light in the community broadly," said Adam Cornell, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney. "Judge Lucas was someone who was deeply engaged, not just as a judge, but as an advocate for racial and social justice. I was honored to have known him for the almost 20 years that I’ve practiced in this county."

Judge Lucas was elected to the superior court’s bench in 2004. During part of his tenure, he served as the presiding judge of the Juvenile Offender Drug Court. He retired in 2020. His sudden death over the past weekend stunned his former colleagues.

"Whenever someone retires, you want to hope that they’re going to have many long years to enjoy all that they’ve worked hard to accomplish and to set aside time and hopefully financial resources to enjoy in retirement. And he did not have that opportunity. And I know that he was really looking forward to spending time with grandchildren, to traveling," said Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis. 

Judge Lucas’ legacy inside the courthouse is his advocacy for racial and social justice. Cornell said one thing he will remember is a hotly contested hate crime case.

"He made the right decision, he denied the motion to dismiss. The defendant subsequently pleaded to a hate crime offense. And the way that Judge Lucas handled that case in particular really was a microcosm of how he handled so many other things. He was engaged, he was prepared, he listened to all sides and came down and made the decisions that was right," said Cornell.

Doing what is right meant going beyond the courtroom for Judge Lucas. He was known to have a passion for mentoring young people. 

"Taking his ability and opportunity to be a role model seriously. He wanted to be a positive influence on the community, in particularly youth in the community so they could look and see what’s possible for them with hard work and dedication," said Judge Ellis.

He worked with students in the Marysville School District. A flag flew half-staff at the district office in his honor. Judge Ellis said her former colleague was also involved with Everett Rotary Club’s scholarship program.

"And he wasn’t just involved, he was a driving force there to ensure that kids from all backgrounds and abilities and interests were not only involved in the interview process, but carefully and enthusiastically considered for the potential that they all held," said Judge Ellis.

As an active member of NAACP Snohomish County, he also led the organization’s annual Prodigies for Peace essay contest. It helped students write about the connection of the Civil Rights Movement and today’s social systemic issues.

Those who knew and respect Judge Lucas said his life’s work will live on through the people he inspired to do what’s right.

"To give back, to do what he did so often which is extend beyond yourself to help other people. And to attach yourself to causes that are going to make the world better. And that’s what he did and I hope that we turn the grief that we have and the pain that we have into something that is proactive and will make the kind of difference that he would have wanted us to make," said Cornell.

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