Pierce County Superior Court Judge – Pos. 6 – Judge Tom Quinlan

Judicial Questionnaire 2022

Candidate Info


Candidate Name:     Judge Tom Quinlan
Position Sought:     Pierce County Superior Court Judge – Pos. 6
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Incumbent
Home Legislative District:     27

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     Mary Ann Ottinger

Part I – Candidate Background

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

I have had a legal career about which I feel both proud and fortunate, and my qualifications can be summarized in 5 points: My candidate ratings, judicial experience, breadth of experience, military service, and the trust that is placed in me by the legal community.

Ratings: I have been rated “Exceptionally Well Qualified” to serve by SIX independent Bar associations – their highest rating.

Judicial Experience: I have served as Superior Court Judge for 4 years and before that a Pro Tem Superior Court Judge for 6 years; and, a Judge Pro Tem for two Pierce County municipalities, where I have presided over matters ranging from contested traffic infractions to a domestic assault jury trial. As Superior Court Judge, I have presided over high conflict family law cases, including involving matters of child custody, serious felony criminal cases, including murders, complex civil disputes, including involving multiple millions of dollars, and other matters. In the past, I have been a Superior Court Commissioner Pro Tem, making decisions on matters ranging from child custody and support related matters to probate and landlord tenant law issues.

Broad Legal Experience: As judge, I have served on two criminal panel rotations, a civil panel rotation and will commence a family law rotation. As lawyer, I had experience in all substantive areas of the law that a Superior Court Judge will encounter, including both civil and criminal law. Early in my career, I gained trial experience practicing criminal law and family law. For more than a decade, I have practiced as a civil trial attorney. I represent clients in State Superior Courts, as well as federal courts. My practice has been primarily personal injury litigation, bankruptcy litigation, construction and real property litigation, as well as business organization and corporate commercial transactions law. I have represented clients in family law matters and am regularly in juvenile court as volunteer counsel for a charitable organization involved in dependency matters. All of my experience includes resolution through mediation, arbitration, or trials.

Military: My civilian legal career is complimented by my 23 years of experience as a Judge Advocate in the US Army Reserve. I recently retired a Lieutenant Colonel and most recent assignment was as the Deputy Commander of a unit comprised of lawyers and paralegal non-commissioned officers. I was directly responsible for ensuring that Soldiers are fully trained in all aspects of military law, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention (SHARP). before that, I have been the legal advisor to a General Officer Commander(s). I provided professional oversight and leadership in the production of legal opinions and review of command generated actions on a variety of matters such as military justice, ethics, administrative law and labor law. I provided standards of conduct guidance as the command’s primary ethics counselor. My previous position was that of Senior Defense Counsel, Pacific Northwest Region, where I was responsible for providing trial defense counsel services to Army Reservists charged with crimes. I detailed or scheduled counsel to represent American Soldiers charged with violations of the UCMJ and became acutely familiar with PTSD and other mental health related issues.

Trust: I have accepted court-appointed representation in complex guardianship estate and bankruptcy litigation. I regularly represent other lawyers, and have represented judges and their family members. This trust from other attorneys and members of the judiciary shows their confidence that I have the required skill, knowledge, and temperament to be Judge.

College/University Dates of Attendance Degree

University of Puget Sound 1982-1986 Bachelor of Arts
University College Dublin Spring 1985 study abroad/exchange

Seattle University School of Law 1989-1991 Juris Doctorate
US Army Judge Advocate 1998 JAG Certification
General Legal Center & School
US Army War College 2018 Master of Science
Strategic Studies

State of Washington, Superior Court 2021 to date
Since graduation from law school in 1991, I have been in private law practice in Pierce County, with representation of clients in 11 WA counties. My civilian career has been augmented and enhanced by my military legal career.

Smith Alling, P.S. – 2015 to 2021
Miller, Quinlan & Auter, P.S.-1994 to December 2014
Rovai, Miller & Orlando 1991 to 1994
Pierce County Assigned Counsel-1990 (investigator/assistant)
King County Prosecuting Attorney Office (1989)(victims assistance unit)
U.S. Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General Corps-1998 to 2022 (trial counsel, Chief of Administrative Law, Senior Defense Counsel, Command Judge Advocate, Deputy Commander, etc.)

Senior Litigation Attorney January 2015 to 2022
Smith Alling, P.S., Inc. Tacoma, WA

Civil practice with referrals from both lawyers and judges
Represents clients in State and Federal Courts, including jury trials and contested hearings
Develops legal strategies for successful outcomes by maximizing time and money resources
Researches and writes legal briefs and creates legal documents
Shareholder responsible for firm personnel and annual budgets

Shareholder/Attorney 1994 to December 2014
Miller, Quinan & Auter, P.S. Fircrest, WA

Civil practice representing clients in State and Federal Courts, including jury trials
Administrative law hearings in licensing, gambling commission, revenue compliance
Law firm associate attorney and staff personnel manager
Practice in all areas of the law in multiple venues in Washington

Judge Advocate July 1998 to 2022
U.S. Army Reserve JBLM, WA

Experienced in both administrative and criminal law, with overseas service
A leader, mentor and trainer of lawyers and paralegals
A trusted senior lawyer providing legal counsel to generals and military planners
Past-Chief, Trial Defense Services PNW Region (criminal defense)
Past, Trial Counsel (government prosecutor)

Community and Civic Activity:

2021 to date: I have been an active supporter of the Superior Court Judges voluntary support of Lawyers Feeding Hungry Children, a program designed to fund early learning and primary school meals and Habitat for Humanity light construction and painting projects.

2013 to 2021-Trustee of South Sound CARE (Cancer Awareness Research Education) an organization whose mission is to enhance availability of cancer patients from the South Sound region to participate in clinical cancer trial research in hope of identifying cancer genomes, cures, and treatment procedures.

Washington State Bar Association (1991 to date)
Washington Young Lawyers Division-President (2000-01)
Washington Young Lawyers Division-Trustee (1993-95)
Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association (1991 to date)
Immediate-past President (2013-14)
President (2012-13)
Vice-President (2011-12)
Chair, Bar Convention Committee (2013)
Co-chair, Judicial Qualifications Committee (2013)
Chair, Long Range Planning Committee (2013)
Young Lawyers Section-President (1997)
Young Lawyers Section-Trustee (1995)
Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Foundation (1998; 2013)-Trustee
Judge Robert Bryant (Puget Sound) Inns of Court-Barrister (2009-11)

2007 to 2012-member of the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association (WTBA).

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I am motivated to be re-elected a Pierce County Superior Court Judge because I am called to make a positive difference in the community. I want to bring my 32 years of experience as a judge, courtroom lawyer and legal counselor, my unique leadership skills and training as a Judge Advocate, and my legal education to this position. I was recently honored to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association, which in its preamble states “For years of changing lives for the better….” I believe that statement sums up my reasons and that I am uniquely qualified to serve in this position.

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

A judge must uphold the dignity of the office. Each case before a judge should treat every case with undivided attention, patience and impartiality. In addition, it is important to treat all participants with respect and dignity, a component of which is providing a detailed statement of the basis for any decision made.

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

I have retained the services of a professional campaign manager/consultant who specializes in judicial campaigns, and together we have been preparing for the campaign for a number of months. I have a strong database, will shortly be having a campaign kick-off event, and will be speaking to all groups with an interest in judicial elections. I have a strong campaign committee and expect that they will be able to raise the funds necessary for me to win.

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 to work with the court administrator and the courthouse facilities manager to collaborate with the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services program to increase a presence within the courthouse so that pro se litigants have more direct access to information and services. This, in turn, may provide some relief to the over-burdened courthouse facilitator. This is especially important in the realm of family law and landlord tenant disputes. I would continue to support legal clinics and make referrals to those on a case-by-case basis.

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?

Prior to the holding in Blazina, Yes. Especially to the extent that fines result in failure of a defendant to rehabilitate resulting in repeated return to the court system. I would consider the financial resources of the individual and may replace or substitute fines with measurable community service hours on a case-by-case basis as circumstances warrant. In order to be truly independent and trusted by the people as fair, non-partisan and transparent the judicial branch of government should be fully funded by annual budgets and not by ancillary funding from fines and user fees.

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

Yes. The Superior Court has dedicated departments that serve as rehabilitative courts, i.e., a mental health court and a drug court. While I Have not been assigned the task by administration to serve in those capacities, I would willing do so as I support the concept and the efficacy of restorative courts.

While serving as a judge while on two separate criminal panel rotations, I routinely approved Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) sentences and Sexual Offender Sentencing Alternative (SOSA) sentences, both of which incorporate a component of professional evaluations, treatment or therapy and monitoring by the court of progress to completing the same.

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

I will continue to provide the detailed reasons for my decisions. In my view, a publicly elected judiciary presupposes that what occurs in a public proceeding is worthy of public judgment. Second, I would willingly, when given the opportunity outside of the bench, work to inform the public about the court system and its programs.

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

As Judge, I routinely allow witness testimony and motions hearings to be conducted by use of Zoom platforms. This is especially useful when witness travel or expense impacts a parties case. As a member of the Superior Court Judges Association (SCJA) civil rules committee, I collaborated in the drafting and the Supreme Court’s ultimate approval of rule changes that now incorporate the authority of use of virtual options in civil cases.

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?

In Peirce County, there remains a large backlog of felony cases from COVID, including 100 homicide cases pending. This is exacerbated by the fact that crime does not stop and new cases are filed on a daily basis. The court has implemented a scheduling system and increased the dedicated size of the criminal panel judges available to adjudicate cases. The challenge in the system is not at a judge level in pierce County as a result, but rather and a readiness standpoint with both prosecutors and defense counsel. Both offices are understaffed; trial lawyers are over tasked. Additional recruiting and retention resources should be dedicated-and I will continue to support and advocate for those resources at a county council level.

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

I have mentored and encouraged BIPOC individuals to run for election judicial office, to apply for appointed to judicial positions and seek employment as clerical and administrative support staff. I believe public trust and confidence in the courts may improve when court users see that judges and staff reflect the communities in which they serve. While courts typically do not control judicial selection, they do decide who serves in judicial leadership and administrative positions held by nonjudges. In particular, on the administrative side, courts can work toward increasing diversity and inclusion in staffing by training court personnel on best practices pertaining to DEI in the workplace.
The court also has the ability to name or appoint quasi-judges (commissioners and pro tem judicial officers). That these individuals are not judges is often not obvious to the public, as they often are able to render decisions and orders in a manner that makes them indistinguishable from judges to many people. For this reason, diversity among these individuals can have a major impact on the perception of the courts as being diverse and inclusive.
The courts is an independent branch of government and functions as an agency in terms of management and operations. Consequently, lessons learned and research conducted on DEI from the public and private sectors may be beneficial and offer resources that match the needs of the varying structures of the court. Entities such as other county government departments, the local chambers of commerce, and institutions of higher education can offer examples of how similarly situated entities have worked to address these issues.
The Court has been an eager and willing participant in jury survey and criminal case statistic gathering for purposes of academic analysis to learn of and ameliorate institutional barriers to DEI. While these efforts are pending, I support and have been a willing participant in those efforts. I look forward to the end results being published and welcome suggestions as to how to be more or better inclusive and remove true and/or perceived barriers.

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

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