CHELAN — Former Chelan County District Court Judge Thomas C. Warren, who served on the bench for 20 years, died Monday morning at his home in Chelan. He was 77. 

The Wenatchee-born Warren, who began practicing law in 1971, was appointed by Chelan County commissioners in 1986 to fill the county's newly-created second District Court judge position. He joined then-Judge Robert Graham, having already served as a part-time court commissioner for 14 years prior to his appointment.

Even after his retirement in 2007, he continued to act as a judge pro tem, filling in for absent judges in various NCW courtrooms. On the day of his death, his daughter Amanda Froh said, he was scheduled to preside in Okanogan County court.

"My dad always encouraged me to go into the law," said Froh, 47, now a senior deputy prosecutor in King County specializing in elder abuse cases. "He respected the law so much, and thought it was a great career, and so eventually I followed in his footsteps."

Warren, a Vietnam War veteran who received the Bronze Star Medal earned his bachelor and law degrees from the University of Washington. In his time as a judge, he served as president of the state District and Municipal Court Judges Association, and on the Board of Judicial Administration. He was named outstanding judge in 1994 by the Washington State Misdemeanant Corrections Association, an organization of probation directors.

Despite the churn of court ("You have new experiences every day at such a fast pace," he once told a reporter), Froh said Warren emphasized time with his children. "If he wasn't home by seven minutes after 5, driving from the courthouse up to our house, we would worry about him."

Warren sought appointment to the county's Superior Court bench in 1988, but Gov. Booth Gardiner chose John Bridges to fill the role instead. When county commissioners considered replacing the original courtroom windows in a remodel of the Chelan County Courthouse, Warren campaigned to preserve them, and won.

In 1995, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Warren for nine instances of inappropriate comments made from the bench, largely to defendants who were being arraigned without a lawyer present. Four of those comments disparaged defendants of Mexican origin, and some implicitly threatened deportation.

"You're not going to be able to send any more money back to Mexico, huh?" he said to one defendant who faced a fine. "Well, you know, that's too bad, because we don't here in Chelan County have to pay for your family in Mexico or wherever you're from."'

Warren showed "a pattern of making inappropriate and insensitive comments, and using profanity," the commission ruled. He agreed to undergo diversity training and refrain from similar language.

"I had some difference of opinion with the commission about whether some of the comments were inappropriate, but not on others," Warren said afterward. "It's good every now and then to get a wake-up. I apologize to anyone who was offended." At the time of the reprimand, he was chairman of the Hispanic Ministries Task Force at Wenatchee's First United Methodist Church, and wrote a regular column on court guidelines for the Spanish-language El Mundo newspaper.

Upon his retirement 12 years later, Warren swore in Judge Nancy Harmon as his replacement. He spent the rest of his life in Chelan, where he and his wife Mary Ann Warren, a former program director at Wenatchee's Catholic Family and Child Services, moved full-time in 2003.

He served on the board of the Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics, and as an officer of the Lake Chelan Rotary. He also continued to perform weddings after leaving the bench. In 2016, he joined a sister-region tour of Kyrgyzstan, aimed at building a relationship between North Central Washington and the state of Issyk-Kul.

"Dad's passion was travel," Froh said. "It was a full-time job for him in his retirement."

In addition to his wife and Froh, the former judge is survived by daughter Katy Warren, 50, a Seattle early childhood education advocate. In the 1980s the Warrens hosted a Venezuelan exchange student, Deyanira Jorda Nolan, and later sponsored her education and naturalization in the United States. Froh said her family considers Nolan, now 54 and living in Seattle, as another sibling.

Funeral and memorial arrangements for Warren were still pending on Monday.

Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123