Pierce County Superior Court, Department 4 – John M. Cummings

Judicial Questionnaire 2022

Candidate Info


Candidate Name:     John M. Cummings
Position Sought:     Pierce County Superior Court, Department 4
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Non-incumbent
Home Legislative District:     28th

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     Nic van Putten
Website     John4Judge.com
Facebook     https://www.facebook.com/share/ucLwaEZrPjEexiHz/?mibextid=qi2Omg
Twitter     https://www.instagram.com/johncinthe253?igsh=MW5obmJlbW9idmZrZw==

Part I – Candidate Background

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

I believe that the most important qualifications for our Judges are: balanced legal experience, expert knowledge of the law, and a record of demonstrating their values in our community.

I’m an expert civil litigator, pro tem Judge, and longtime deputy prosecuting attorney. I’ve prosecuted some of the most heinous murders with the most vulnerable victims, including cases of child trafficking and sexual assault.

I’ve been rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified” – the highest rating – by several WA bar associations. I believe that my depth of trial experience in both civil and criminal law uniquely qualifies me to serve as Superior Court Judge.

I speak Spanish and use that skill to welcome multlingual participants and lower barriers to justice.

Lastly, I’ve been active in our community in both legal and private spheres such as by setting up name-change clinics to help transgender youth, through my past political and civic involvement, and by volunteering with non-profits like the Oasis Youth Center and Tacoma Rainbow Center. My community service demonstrates my commitment to equity and justice, and shows the character and values that I will bring to the bench as a Superior Court Judge.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I’m running for Pierce County Superior Court Judge to pair my passion for serving our community with my unmatched breadth of legal experience. Our society is facing serious challenges to the rule of law. We must ensure that everyone in our community feels that the Justice System is doing its job to uphold their rights to liberty and security. That’s why it’s so important for Judges to have demonstrated their values not just in their legal work, but also in the community. As Judge, I promise to serve as a fair and impartial jurist with an unwavering commitment to Justice.

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

Superior Court is the highest level jury trial court in our State. They have jurisdiction over all criminal matters and civil matters which include employment, real estate, construction, and family law. Superior Court judges must understand both criminal and civil law, and they have to have real experience working with juries. I have unmatched experience in these areas.

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

The most important issue facing the Pierce County Superior Court is access to justice. Far too many people are unable to afford an attorney, and our system, including the bench, the Department of Assigned Counsel (Public Defenders), and even the Prosecutor’s Office are overburdened. Every case deserves the full attention of the parties involved, and every person deserves to have their voice heard.

The Pierce County Superior Court has a significant backlog that is contributing to the problem of access to justice. Without a reliable and efficient court system, the cost of hiring an attorney increases, as does the personal, professional, and financial burden on individuals interacting with the court. Although the backlog is decreasing, with the retirement of 4 of our most experiences Judges this year it is essential that we elect candidates with the requisite legal experience and knowledge of the law to step seamlessly into this role in order continue making progress.

Lastly, I believe that we need to ensure that no one is above the law and to uphold the legal systems that our country relies on. As a former prosecutor and current civil litigator, I am uniquely qualified to restore public trust in the Judiciary.

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?

Judges serve a crucial role in enhancing equal access to justice. Judges can encourage people to attend law school, serve as mentors to ensure their success, and refuse to tolerate behavior in their courtroom which reinforces systemic bias. We must encourage jurors, staff, and attorneys to notice their own implicit biases. We must assess which litigants – or groups of litigants – are struggling to secure counsel. Judges set the rules of procedure, and we can examine whether rules inadvertently exclude certain communities. We control who speaks in court, who sits as a juror, and how the court rules are implemented. Most importantly, judges set an example for other legal professionals by modeling difficult conversations and sitting with discomfort – skills that are essential to the Work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

I have a priven record of mentoring law students from various backgrounds. I strive to lift voices in both my work and community involvement. I run a name change clinic for LGBTQ+ youth. I speak Spanish in my courtroom to break down language barriers.

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?

Yes. In recent years, Courts have thankfully moved away from placing the burden of funding courts on those least able to carry that burden. LFO relief and similar programs have proven to increase public safety and reduce administrative costs.

Superior Court cannot raise funding – it must seek funding from the County. Judges are responsible for reducing overhead, efficiently handling cases, and messaging the value-add of the Courts to the County. I am prepared to do those things, and I have a proven track record of optimizing workflow to efficiently handle cases. My breadth of experience in both criminal and civil law uniquely positions me to hit the ground running and move through any backlog quickly.

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

Yes. I support and look forward to presiding over therapeutic Courts like Drug Court and Veterans' Courts. One of my Judicial mentors started one of the first such Courts in the state, and I have been grateful to him for training me in restorative justice principals.

I have a reputation for treating every person in my courtroom with dignity. I am known for using my language skills to welcome and explain what is happening when a person needs a translator. I am committed to using Zoom, electronic files, and other technologies to allow litigants to appear when necessary and minimize the adverse effects of the court system on a litigant's life.

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

I am very involved in my community – I serve and have served in multiple boards of directors, I mentor community youth, I run a clinic for LGBTQ+ youth, and I have a large and diverse network. I believe judges should be connected to the community they serve and work to educate about the Justice System. I am committed to continuing to do that.

Please also see my answer to Part I, Number 4, above.

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

Please see my answer to Part I, Number 4.

Litigants cannot always afford to spend an entire morning waiting for their case to be heard. They cannot always find childcare or transportation to the courthouse. Virtual appearances allow parties to appear only when their case is ready, avoiding unnecessary fees and reducing the impact on their lives. I am committed to continuing to use these tools to increase accessibility in the courtroom.

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?

Please see ny answer to Part I, section 4.

Addressing the current backlog begins with electing judges who understand criminal jury trials. Criminal trials will always bump civil cases, and most of those cases are jury trials. I have experience presiding over criminal trials as a judge pro tem, and I have extensive criminal jury trial experience as a prosecutor. I know how to preside over those cases to maximize speed without risking Justice.

Next, it requires an inderstanding of civil jury trials and a broad scope of civil matters. I have experience litigating civil jury trials, and I have practiced real estate, employment, commercial, and construction litigation. I have dealt with receiverships, injuctions, discrimination cases, and more.

Finally, I am an optimizer. Everywhere I work, I optimize work flows and streamline processes to minimize waste and maximize progress. And i work hard – I am ready to tackle the challenges of Pierce County Superior Court.

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

As the first out gay man who will serve as a judge in the history of Pierce County, I understand the importance of representation. I support diversifying juries and the bench to ensure our communities are represented at eve level of our system. Diversification must include racial diversification. I support LGBTQ+ training and cultural competency because racism and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric are intertwined and reinforce each other and LGBTQ folks are of every race.

I am committed to – and have a proven track record of – speaking up for equity, diversity, and Inclusion; truly listening to people with different worldviews and lived experiences; and truly examining my own biases and changing my actions to make my impact on my community more Just. I will bring that commitment to the bench.

Lastly, I understand that lived experiences create barriers to accessing the courts (such as the language, mobility, and childcare barriers i reference above), and my job as judge is to listen to those barriers, examine whether they serve Justice, and work to lower them if they do not.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name     John M. Cummings
Date (mm/dd/yy)     03/20/2024

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