King County District Court Judge, Southeast Division, Position #5 – VIRGINIA M. AMATO

Judicial Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: VIRGINIA M. AMATO
  • Position Sought: King County District Court Judge, Southeast Division, Position #5 (Non-incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 31st
  • Democrat: non-partisan position

Campaign Information

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

After more than twenty years of practice, mainly in Courts of Limited Jurisdiction I bring a broad base of knowledge to help King County District Court move forward. People, technology and attitudes are changing. Moving forward will require an openness to explore new ideas necessary for the Court to grow. I am open to hearing new ideas and am not afraid to speak up and share my thoughts and opinions.

The training that I received by both the WSBA and the King County District Court for serving as a pro-tempore judge was invaluable. It taught me to view things from a neutral perspective. Additionally, the training I received and the time I spent as a Department of Licensing Hearing Examiner honed my listening, analysis, and writing skills when making decisions

Gonzaga University School of Law University of Idaho Eastern Washington University
Spokane, WA Moscow, ID Cheney, WA
Juris Doctorate – May 1994 Master of Science – May 1984 B.A. in Education – December 1982

It has been more than fifteen (15) years since I was involved in community and civic activities where I held a Board position. Most recently I enjoy attending fundraising events and support local organizations with financial contributions. (Mary’s Place, Vine Maple and Athlete’s for Kids)

I grew up in Wallace, Idaho. My parents were older and spent a lot of time with me teaching me the value of hard work and perseverance. My father was a union electrician in the Galena mine and was the Secretary of the Local IATSE.

2. What law firms or public law offices (i.e. King County Prosecutor’s Office) have you worked for? Have you served as a prosecutor or a public defender? Please include dates, and title for each position that you have held, as well as areas of law practiced.

LAW OFFICE OF VIRGINIA M. AMATO, PLLC, Auburn, WA (June 2008 to present)
CRIMINAL DEFENSE PRACTITIONER – Focusing on Misdemeanor, Gross Misdemeanor, Licensing Issues & some felonies.
City of Orting, Prosecutor (part-time), Orting, WA (January 2009 – March 2010)
CITY PROSECUTOR – Prosecute all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases filed within the City of Orting.
Law Offices of James V. Newton, LLC, Kent, WA (August 2002 to June 2008)
CRIMINAL DEFENSE PRACTITIONER – Focusing on Misdemeanor, Gross Misdemeanor & Licensing issues.
City of Auburn, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Auburn, WA (April 2002 – August 2002)
LEAD CITY PROSECUTOR – Prosecute all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases filed within the City of Auburn under the Auburn Municipal Code.
City of Pasco, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Pasco, WA (June 1998 to April 2002)
MUNICIPAL PROSECUTOR – Prosecute all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases filed within the City of Pasco under the Pasco Municipal Code.
City of Spokane Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Spokane, WA (January 1997 to June 1998)
ASSISTANT CITY PROSECUTOR – Prosecute all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases filed within the City of Spokane under the Spokane Municipal Code.

3. Have you ever served as a mediator or arbitrator? (If so, please describe your experiences.) If you are an incumbent, do you perform settlement conferences?


4. Have you been a judge pro-tem? If so, what was that experience like? What did you learn from it?

I have served as a pro-tem Judge in King County District Courts since completing King Counties Pro-Tem Judges training in January 0f 2013.

Each time I sit as a pro-tem I learn something new about myself and about the process. Every case is unique and needs the full attention of the judge. Each person appearing in court has their own story and their own concerns about the process and it is the judge’s responsibility to make sure that those issues and heard and addressed.

5. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?

Procedural Fairness. The ability to actively listen to the participants, to make eye contact and engage with the parties, to make each party feel as though they have been heard and to fully and fairly explain the courts decisions and what the court considered in making its decision.

6. What prompted you to run for this office? What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?

Someone recently said to me that our courts are the legal system and not the justice system. That statement hit me hard and has caused me to reexamine what justice means to me and how I can better serve my community. I aspire to be a Judge known for listening to all parties who appear before the Court and acknowledging their concerns and issues, even if they are not the courts concerns or issues. In each case to apply the law equally and fairly so that each person feels they were heard, treated fairly and received the help and guidance they need and deserve.

My campaign seeks to address the issue of implicit bias that exists within the judiciary so that all persons who come to District Court believe that they are being treated equally and fairly.

7. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

I am currently running unopposed. I do expect that I will likely have an opponent. My campaign is being well received. I am endorsed by a large number of the criminal defense bar as well as a number of prosecuting attorney’s. The campaign has an on-line presence as well as I am attending local events and connecting with people in the community and at small gatherings.


Part II – Position-specific

1. Do you support making it easier for Washingtonians who are not members of the bar to access public records, particularly at the Superior/District court levels, where per-page fees are charged?

Absolutely! Transparency and openness are key to the courts perception as fair and neutral. The only issues that I see limiting this is the access to personal data that can be used in identity theft (social security numbers and dates of birth) and information regarding children who have been victims of crimes.

2. Do you have any thoughts on how our courts should address the growing use of smartphones during court proceedings, particularly by jurors?

Phones and the electronic media and important tools for attorney’s in the courtroom and should be allowed so long as they do not disturb the proceedings of the court.

For jurors, during the initial juror education this issue should be addressed by explaining that although access is easy jurors should not do their own research or investigation using their phones or other electronic media. Explaining that this might unfairly prejudice one of the parties and could result in a mistrial and or a personal penalty to the juror should be part of the explanation. This should then be reinforced by the Judge in the courtroom during voir dire and again once the jury has been selected and sworn in.

3. 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?

Our legislature has deemed that court fees are a necessary part of the system. These legal financial obligations are often the one thing that holds defendants back from moving forward with their lives and getting out of the system. Just as the police are funded so should the courts. There are grants that can be applied for and our legislature should find other means to fund the courts other than on the backs of the defendants.


Part III – 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?

Information is the key to changing the perceptions of a court system that is viewed only as a legal system and not as a justice system. I would offer to speak at community centers and religious centers where people gather to share their concerns about the justice system and how it affects their communities. I would be open to discussions with community leaders and to provide information they could in turn share with their communities.

2. What does the phrase Black Lives Matter mean to you as a judicial candidate?

A person’s impression of our justice system often begins with their first interaction with law enforcement. If that interaction is biased (implicitly or explicitly) based upon a perception of the police officer or judicial officer, then the entire system lacks credibility. As judicial officers, Judges have an obligation to make certain that such biases do not enter the courtroom and that those who perceive those biases are treated fairly, are listened to and their feelings are acknowledged. Only then can a dialogue begin about how to eliminate bias from the justice system.

3. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?

Every person involved in the judicial system needs to examine their own biases (we all have them). They need to recognize how they can resolve those issues when dealing with the public and make certain that every person is treated equally, fairly and


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


Date: 03/19/2018

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