King County Superior Court Dept. 26 – David Keenan

Judicial Questionnaire 2022

Candidate Info


Candidate Name:     David Keenan
Position Sought:     King County Superior Court Dept. 26
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Incumbent
Home Legislative District:     37

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     David Keenan

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please describe your qualifications, education, employment, past community and civic activity, as well as any other relevant experience.

I am in the eighth year of my second four-year term as a King County Superior Court Judge in Department 26 where I currently serve as the Assistant Chief of the Court's Criminal Department.

In January 2024, I served as a Justice Pro Tempore on the Washington Supreme Court, i.e., serving as a temporary justice of the Supreme Court for cases in place of an absent justice.

Before being first elected to the King County Superior Court in 2016, I also served as a judge pro tempore in King County District Court in Seattle and Bellevue, as well as in Federal Way Municipal Court.

In 2023 and 2022, I worked with the United States Departments of Justice and State to teach on access to justice and the rule of law in Serbia.

Prior to serving as a judge, I spent 8 years as an attorney at a global law firm where I frequently represented clients free of charge in civil rights cases, including for example clients in immigration detention and state prison.

Prior to becoming an attorney, I spent nearly 15 years working in federal law enforcement investigating such things as human trafficking and internet crimes against children.

Some of my community involvement has included:

Current member of the Washington Supreme Court Access to Justice Board.
Current member of the Washington Supreme Court's Minority & Justice Commission Rules and Legislation Committee.
Current board member at Choose 180, which works to keep primarily youth of color out of the criminal legal system.
Current member of the Washington Administrative Office of the Courts Anti-racism Trainings Task Force.
Current member of the Washington Supreme Court's Disability Justice Task Force.
Current member of the National Association of Women Judges Ensuring Racial Equity Committee.
Current member of the Washington Superior Court Judges' Association Unrepresented Litigants Workgroup.
Current member of the King County Bar Association Anti-racism and Equity Committee.
Current member of the King County Bar Association Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Luncheon Committee.

2021 Racial Justice Institute Fellow at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.
Former board president at Northwest Justice Project, which is Washington's largest civil legal aid provider.
Former board member at TeamChild, which provides civil legal aid to vulnerable youth.
Former board president of the Federal Bar Association of the Western District of Washington.
Former commissioner on the Seattle Community Police Commission.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I first ran in 2016 in part to bring a unique perspective to the court. My mother went through the King County juvenile criminal legal system in 1968, I went through that system in 1982, my father was criminal legal system-involved, I grew up with just my mother with the aid of a Section 8 housing voucher and public benefits, and I dropped out of high school and later earned my GED. Though I had a challenging upbringing, I know that I had the tremendous unearned advantage of being white, and my experiences and the bias faced by so many marginalized communities in our legal systems motivated me to run and motivates me to keep doing this work.

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

I think a judge should start with humility, understanding that no judge can know everything. From humility, I judge should proceed with intellectual curiosity; this is because Superior Court judges are general jurisdiction judges responsible for every area of state law, and thus judges must be interested in the entire body of work, whether that is, for example, criminal cases or family law. In addition, a judge should seek to educate themselves about the history of discrimination people of color, members of our LGBTQ+ community, women, those living with disabilities, and low-income communities have and continue to face in the civil, criminal, and foster care legal systems.

4. What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?

I hope to continue to focus on access to justice for unrepresented individuals in civil cases, addressing interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism in legal systems through legislation, rules, and education, furthering criminal legal system reform with respect to juveniles and adults, and working on disability justice.

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?

I will continue my work on issues facing unrepresented litigants in particular, serving on the Washington Supreme Court's Access to Justice Board and the Superior Court Judges' Association Unrepresented Litigants Workgroup.

I will continue to work to change statutes and rules to make courts more accessible through my work as chair of the Access to Justice Board's Rules Committee, as a member of the Washington Supreme Court's Minority and Justice Commission Rules and Legislation Committee, and as a member of the Washington Supreme Court's Disability Justice Task Force.

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 think that filing fees can serve as a barrier to access to justice, and I am intrigued by work in other jurisdictions (e.g., San Francisco) that have worked to reduce or eliminate fees. I also think the process to seek fee waivers can be quite onerous, especially for unrepresented litigants. Relatedly, I have been working for my entire time as a judge on reforming how the courts impose and collect legal financial obligations, i.e., fines, fees, costs, and restitution, and I have helped draft and testified in support of legislation in this year in several legislative sessions, including the 2024 session.

3. Would you, if elected, bring restorative justice as a goal to your court room? * If yes, describe how that could look.

I believe very strongly in restorative justice, and in 2023 I moderated a restorative justice forum at the 60th anniversary celebration of the National Judicial College in Seattle and spoke on a restorative justice panel at the Clark Children and Family Justice Center. I support, for example, healing circles, and pre-filing diversion, including at Choose 180 where I am a founding board member.

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

I support civil Gideon, i.e., a civil legal system equivalent to the right to counsel found in the criminal legal system pursuant to Gideon v. Wainwright.

I think Washington needs, if not a unified court system, then a unified filing system bringing together courts of limited jurisdiction, Superior Court, and the appellate courts. At present, it can very difficult for unrepresented litigants to seek relief in courts because of filing barriers.

5. What are your thoughts on how our courts could permanently incorporate the growing virtual options after the need of the pandemic has passed?

I think Zoom and other means of remote court proceedings are important and should be preserved. I have conducted at least 60 bench and jury trials over Zoom and have conducted classes on Zoom court proceedings for judges and lawyers. However, I also think it is important that (1) we ensure that people have the hardware, software, internet bandwidth, training, support, physical space, and comfort to access remote court proceedings, and (2) that people be given the option to attend in person.

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 Superior Court of the State of Washington is one of the lowest funded state courts in the United States, and counties at times also reduce the courts' budgets. Superior Court judges do not have law clerks, and if they did, cases could be more quickly adjudicated.

More importantly, though much attention is paid to criminal cases, the family law court system has tremendous needs because many litigants are unrepresented and because of case volume. I would like to see more Early Resolution Case Managers and support in family law, because I think many of those cases could, with the resources, be triaged and concluded much earlier.

7. What judicial reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC individuals in our communities?

I think we need a better path to the judiciary for diverse communities. I served as the American Bar Association Judicial Division Liaison to the ABA Council in Diversity in Education, where we created a toolkit for community colleges to help serve as a pathway to law school.

Relatedly, I think the Governor and other appointing authorities need to think more broadly about judicial qualifications. Often appointing authorities focus on trial experience, but that tends to favor attorneys working in criminal law, which is only one aspect of a judges work.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name     David Keenan
Date (mm/dd/yy)     02/24/2024

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