This Women’s History Month, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is highlighting some of the depth and breadth of women leaders in our office as part of our “Women in Leadership” series. These profiles are only a few of the many amazing women in our office.
How long have you worked at the PAO?
What is your role in the PAO?
I am the Vice-Chair of the Domestic Violence Unit in Kent. I supervise all of the Felony Trial Unit attorneys, and the attorneys in the misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court.
What were you doing before coming to the PAO?
I graduated college — where I majored in Russian Language and Literature — and then I started working at the University of Washington. I started taking Russian as a language elective in college because there was a language requirement, and I wanted to do something different. It was the early 90s and there was a lot of cold war issues going on, and I kind of wanted to be a spy and work for the CIA. By the time I graduated there was a government hiring freeze so there wasn’t a lot going on in that area.
During my time working at UW, I got called for jury duty. I had always eventually wanted to go to law school and become a prosecutor because of a high school field trip to the King County Courthouse. I was chose to serve on the jury and it rekindled my interest in becoming a prosecutor.
After that I prepared to go to law school, I left the UW and got a job at a small law firm doing legal assistant work. I then got a job at a large law firm as a legal secretary working for civil attorneys. I was seeing what was out there are getting some experience in the legal field. While there, I studied for the LSAT, and then went to law school, and became a prosecutor.
What are some of your goals in regards to the work you do?
I’m really focused on justice for victims. One of my goals is continuing to do the work on behalf of victims as well as supporting innovation to do justice for victims of crime. There’s a lot of focus on how the system treats defendants, and sometimes how the system treats victims gets lost in that. It’s not a system that’s set up to benefit victims — so generally one of my goals is to make sure victims are well-represented, help them understand how the system works and how to navigate it. We are very fortunate to have many attorneys and staff in this office dedicated to victims including victim advocates and our Victim Assistance Unit and that inspires me.
What sort of obstacles have you faced in your field? What was it like dealing with those?
As a woman, there’s definitely obstacles. But I will say that as this office moves forward, I think the KCPAO tends to attract women attorneys because of our focus on victims and that empathy factor. I like the fact that I think well over 50% of our attorneys are women. I appreciate that there are women in leadership positions to serve as role models and mentors.
What advice would you give to other women who are considering a similar career path?
If this is what you want to do, then stick with it. I know I’ve given that advice to any number of Rule 9s or externs who’ve started on this career path. It’s hard to get a job here; there’s a lot of competition but persistence can pay off. It took me a few tries to get hired, but I kept with it. So I encourage people to keep with it, and not give up on that goal.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Our Survivors FIRST Program is something we’ve been developing the last couple of years. It’s a partnership with the YWCA of King County, and it links back to my goals in the office. It’s identifying women, with a focus on Black and African American women, who’ve been victims of gender-based violence who are now referred as defendants — likely due to their history of gender-based violence (whether that is domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, etc.). Women in prison, when you look at the statistics of how many of them have been victims of gender-based violence, it’s staggering — somewhere around 90% in any given study. Our program aims to get resources for survivors of trauma in order to get them the services they need to stay out of the system — in a similar way that we have special courts for Veterans, or people with mental health or drug issues.
Survivors FIRST is federally grant-funded through the YWCA to provide domestic violence services and counselling to victims who are now defendants. Unfortunately, our grant runs out this year. At this point, we are deflecting individuals out of the criminal justice system and referring them for services through the YWCA. One of our goals is evolve the program into a diversion-type program to get victim defendants out of the system and into services so they can treat the underlying causes. Trauma has many effects on people, and it can result in mental health issues, drug issues, and further victimization. Addressing that underlying trauma and trying to deflect women from the criminal justice system as defendants so that they don’t have convictions on their record is the goal. So that’s a program I wanted to give a shout out to.
Catch up with the entire KCPAO Women in Leadership series on our blog at kcprosecutor.medium.com.