Judge, King County Superior Court – Kristin Ballinger

Request for Endorsement – Judicial Questionnaire

Candidate Info

Candidate Name Kristin Ballinger
Position Sought Judge, King County Superior Court
Are you an incumbent for this position? Incumbent
Home Legislative District 36th

Campaign Info

Candidate Name Kristin Ballinger
Campaign Manager or Point of Contact Erin Schultz, Northwest Passage Consulting
Mailing Address P.O. Box 22169
Email judgekristinballinger@gmail.com
Website https://www.judgeballinger.com

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please describe your qualifications, education, employment, past community and civic activity, as well as any other relevant experience. Prior to my December 2021 appointment by Governor Inslee, I served as a law clerk to federal judge William L. Dwyer (1999-2001), a deputy prosecuting attorney handling criminal matters in King County (2001-2003) and Clallam County (2004-2005), and, occasionally, as a pro tem judge. Most recently, I was a partner at Harrigan Leyh Farmer & Thomsen LLP (2013-2022) handling complex civil disputes at trial and on appeal. Early in my career I was an associate at Perkins Coie (1998-1999, 2003-2004).

As a deputy prosecutor, I prosecuted adult and juvenile felony matters (including charges of murder, vehicular homicide, and rape), with occasional appearances in district and juvenile courts in a supervisory role. I appeared in court nearly every day. I tried 29 cases to a jury verdict and many cases to juvenile court judges (who act as the trier of fact instead of juries).

At the law firm, I represented governmental entities, individuals, and businesses in complex, high stakes cases. I am most proud of the work my partners and I did successfully defending a federally recognized Indian tribe’s sovereignty at the U.S. Supreme Court (138 S. Ct. 1649) and its treaty-reserved fishing rights at all levels of the federal courts. Another representative matter was the successful defense of Snohomish County in the wrongful death lawsuits arising from the Oso Landslide.

The rules of court are incredibly complex, and often act as a barrier to accessing justice. I have devoted a substantial amount of time to a number of rules committees in order to make the rules more fair, more understandable, and less complex. I am proud of the work I have done.

I enjoy volunteering at high school and law school moot courts and mock trials, and recently participated in a youth and justice forum in the tri-cities.

Many years ago, I was a founding member of my college’s ACLU chapter, a full time per diem volunteer at a day shelter for homeless women in Washington D.C., and a family selection committee member for Seattle Habitat for Humanity.

Outside the law, I am an active member of the oversight board for a camp and conference center in the foothills of the Cascades, and am a volunteer official for various swim programs.

I bring to the bench enthusiasm for the law and the legal process, a strong work ethic, excellent analytical and writing abilities, and a commitment to do justice.

2. What prompted you to run for this office? I was appointed by Governor Inslee in December 2021. I decided to seek the appointment because I wanted to return to public service. I come from a family devoted to public service: my dad earned a ROTC scholarship to Oregon State University and served in the Navy, my mom was an elementary school teacher before and after raising kids, both my brother and my sister are middle school teachers, and my husband is a retired rescue helicopter pilot.
I have a deep and abiding love for the courts of this state, and believed it would be an honor to serve. Although I was fortunate to represent a handful of clients in matters involving the public interest, I missed public service and considered a judgeship my calling. I wanted to return to service in the way that best uses my experience, judgment, and abilities, and I thought (and continue to think!) I would do a great job.
3. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice? As a deputy prosecuting attorney appearing every day before a wide variety of judges, the qualities I most appreciated were integrity, kindness, and a strong intellect. With such a high volume of cases, this combination meant that defendants, their lawyers, and the prosecuting attorneys could make decisions based on a predictable, measured, impartial, and principled response from the bench uninfluenced by improper forces (integrity); that defendants, victims, and witnesses would be treated well on what could be the saddest or worst day of their lives (kindness); and that the judge would make evidentiary and legal decisions grounded in the law (intellect).
While my practice changed to civil work, I continued to find those qualities to be most important, and ones from which other important qualities follow, including empathy, courage, industry, and strong research and writing skills.
4. What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign? The judicial canons prohibit me from making pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of judicial office. What judges can do is pledge to improve access to justice, and I make that pledge to you (see below for how).

Part II – Access to Justice

1. If elected, how will you work to improve access to justice, particularly for communities and constituencies that do not understand the American legal system? There are at least five profound barriers to accessing justice, and I am committed to eliminating them. Systemic bias, physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities, lack of financial resources, and language differences all create barriers to justice in the courtroom. I am proud that significant resources have been committed by my court to eliminate barriers caused by biases, lack of financial resources, and language differences, and therefore have asked my court to be involved with a new initiative aimed at improving access for people with disabilities. I have much to learn about what is needed and how to address it, and am eager to do so.
2. Is Washington relying too much on court fees to cover the cost of operating our judicial system? How do you believe our courts should be funded? I do not believe the judicial canons and ethical rules allow me to comment on this.
3. Would you, if elected, bring restorative justice as a goal to your court room? * If yes, describe how that could look. I am committed to learning from and bringing elements of restorative justice to my courtroom. The promise of restorative justice programs is to give harmed persons, the perpetrators of harm, and the community a voice in determining what repair of harm looks like.
Impressive work already has been done to create therapeutic courts, including Drug Diversion Court, the DREAM program, Mental Health Court, and Veterans Court. Those examples have proven that with creativity and compassion we can reduce suffering in our community. It is my privilege to be assigned now to the child welfare rotation within my Court, the purpose of which is to protect children and to attempt to facilitate healing within families. Our therapeutic court, Family Treatment Court, is particularly suited to this task.
4. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive? Openness: improve our rules and our explanation of our systems in order to make them more understandable to non-lawyers.
Transparency: ensure that the public understands how to access court proceedings and court documents by providing clear information on our website and at our courthouses.
Responsive: ensure the timely resolution of disputes by enacting and enforcing rules and procedures for the timely presentation and disposition of disputes.
5. What are your thoughts on how our courts could permanently incorporate the growing virtual options after the need of the pandemic has passed? Conducting voir dire and civil trials by videoconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic has served an important function. There are benefits, but also potential downsides. Benefits include that persons with disabilities or for whom attending court is otherwise difficult can appear remotely; anecdotally, some participants report that jury panels are more diverse; and the cost of litigation likely is reduced, as travel time is eliminated for lawyers and witnesses. Potential downsides include that the interactive aspect of jury selection may be lost when the panel is questioned remotely; that courts potentially are losing the solemnity of in-person voir dire and trials; that jurors are less willing and able to be as focused and attentive; and that videoconferencing may degrade access to justice for some, including for those who are low income, are visually or hearing impaired, speak a language other than English, or have limited technological access or proficiency. Washington courts, including the King County Superior Court, are engaged in active efforts to understand these benefits and downsides and to decide how to proceed once the pandemic has passed.
6. Justice delayed is justice denied, what are your thoughts on how to catch up on the current backlog of cases awaiting trail? Additionally what changes to the current court system would you implement to insure speedy justice? The King County Superior Court has hired a number of pro tem judges to assist trying cases to alleviate the backlog. Beyond that, I do not believe the judicial canons and ethical rules allow me to comment on this.
7. What judicial reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals in our communities? Judges can support greater equity and inclusion for historically disadvantaged persons–including BIPOC individuals–by supporting efforts to broaden the pipeline to becoming a lawyer and otherwise supporting diverse students in higher education. I have participated in moot courts, mock trials, and other events at high school and law school serving students from disadvantaged communities, and will continue to do so as a judge.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name Kristin Ballinger
Date (mm/dd/yy) 03/02/2022

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