May 2020 Bar Bulletin
By Anne Daly
If school was about the three “R”s, (reading, writing and ‘rithmatic), District Court Judge Marcus Naylor’s courtroom is about the three “C”s — community, connection and compassion. His story and path to the bench shed some light on why these three core principles guide his work each day in Northeast District Court.
Judge Naylor was born and lived the first nine years of his life in South Korea. He was adopted from an orphanage by a couple from Minnesota, who wanted an older and younger brother for their two daughters. His father worked for the school district as overseeing special education programming for a large part of the state and his mother was a retired teacher. Marcus quickly adapted to life in Minnesota, taking up hockey, scouting, fishing and hunting. His parents instilled a strong sense of the importance of giving in him and his sisters.
After graduating from college, Judge Naylor was torn between attending law school or following in his parents’ footsteps and becoming a teacher. He knew he wanted to do something that had an impact on others. He ultimately landed on attending law school. Marcus applied to and attended Seattle University School of Law, graduating in 1992. Judge Naylor was drawn to Seattle because of the opportunity to be outdoors and his desire to see a different part of the country. He fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and it has been his home since.
While in law school, he interned at the Northwest Defender Association. At the time, it was one of four non-profit agencies that provided public defense services for the county. This internship solidified Judge Naylor’s desire to help others and practice in public defense. He accepted a position with the Northwest Defender Association (NDA) upon graduation and spent the next 26 years there, until taking the bench in 2018. Judge Naylor says he’s fortunate to have found “his home” from the beginning, as not many attorneys stay in one spot, their entire career. Judge Naylor fondly recalls his work at NDA, noting that he loved every minute of it.
At NDA, Judge Naylor worked in Seattle Municipal Court, the felony unit and juvenile court. He also supervised each of these units. He handled every type of case, including a capital case, where he and his co-counsel, Howard Phillips succeeded in having a jury sentence their client to life in prison rather than the death penalty.
Judge Naylor says he never kept track of wins or losses. It was always about being there for a client. He describes one of many memorable cases where he represented a grandfather who was accused of raping his granddaughter and her babysitter. Judge Naylor notes that as a public defender, you set your personal feelings aside about cases in order to fully advocate and represent individuals. However in this case, he strongly believed in his client’s innocence based on the evidence and his investigation. The case went to trial and the jury returned verdicts of not guilty. Judge Naylor remembers feeling a sense of relief. His client trusted him and trusted the system and Judge Naylor was proud that the system worked. Looking back, he notes that jurors get right most of the time.
Kari Boyum, a long-time colleague of Judge Naylor and the current Division Director of NDA describes Marcus as a prodigious trial attorney, known for being an unflappable advocate in the courtroom. As a supervisor, he guided many new attorneys through the first years of their practice. He taught them confidence to set their cases for trial and to advocate tirelessly on behalf of indigent clients. She notes, “Judge Naylor’s legacy is a community of attorneys he fostered that encourages dialogue, creativity and initiative. The community of lawyers Judge Naylor built continues today to fight for the rights of indigent clients in many different ways, and the values he instilled continue to play out in the courtroom”.
Judge Naylor also earned the respect and admiration of opposing counsel. Judge Michael Finkle first met Judge Naylor when they were on opposing sides in Seattle Municipal Court: Judge Naylor a supervisor with NDA and Judge Finkle a supervisor with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. Judge Finkle notes, “Marcus was an absolute pleasure to work with. He was kind, polite and knew what result his client wanted. If the case didn’t settle, it was only because it shouldn’t have settled.”
About five years ago, Judge Naylor began thinking about becoming a judge. In large part, because he had accomplished what he wanted to do in public defense. He knew he wanted to continue his career in the criminal justice arena and realized he could have a different kind of impact from the bench. His intent in moving to the bench was the same as his intent in his work in public defense: We don’t give up on people. This is his overarching philosophy in his work. In his words, “I don’t ever give up on people. There is no one that can’t be helped.”
The bench provides him with a new challenge while allowing him the opportunity to do some things he could not do as an advocate. He intentionally chose to seek a seat on the District Court bench because of the increased discretion to make an impact in an individual’s life. He likes the idea of being able to help people, even push them, into addressing the issues that brought to court. He feels like District Court is more personal, with more day to day contact with members of the community and provides him an opportunity to have more personal interactions and conversations with the parties that appear in his court. He has quickly made a positive impression.
Judge Finkle indicates he “would do anything for Marcus. He is one of my absolute favorite people. In welcoming him to the District Court bench as a colleague and working in the same courthouse, I have seen him bring the same skills to the bench as he brought to his public defense job. I have also had a chance to observe his sense of humor. I believe that is an important part of what he brings to the bench since it is an aspect of his compassion for and understanding of people.”
Prior to taking the bench, Judge Naylor pro-temped in District Court often. He describes this work as having prepared him well for the bench so there were no big surprises about what the job involved. That being said, he notes it was difficult to shift from being an advocate to being neutral. He has found times where he has wanted to interject himself in a case. He has not as he realizes his role in impacting a case still happen, but in a different way and at a different point in each case.
Judge Naylor sees himself finishing his career on the bench. He is a member of the District Court/Municipal Court Judicial Education Committee as well as the Court’s Diversity Committee. Judge Naylor is also actively involved in KCBA’s Diversity Committee and served on the KCBA Board of Trustees before joining the bench.
When he is not in court, Judge Naylor can be found with his family or enjoying an outdoor activity. Judge Naylor and his wife, Simona, are the proud parents of Bianca, 24 (Judge Naylor’s step-daughter), and Lucas, 12. Bianca was a stellar soccer player and sixth-grader Lucas, is engaged with a local talent agency, and enjoys acting and modeling. As a fan of the outdoors, Judge Naylor has coached soccer and baseball teams for his children; actively participated in Cub and Boy Scouts, something he was involved with while growing up in Minnesota; and his church.
Judge Naylor continues to play hockey, fly-fish, hike, camp and hunt as much as he can. While both his parents have passed away, he remains close to both of his sisters, who both live in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. In talking about his parents, Judge Naylor expresses his profound gratitude and love. “I can’t express enough how grateful I am to them for adopting me and providing me with the opportunity to become whoever and whatever I wanted to be. They provided me with an opportunity to thrive”
In talking about the body of his legal work, Judge Naylor notes, “A person wants to leave their mark on their community. That’s what my jobs have let me do.”
Or as said by his friend and colleague, Karen Murray, a long time public defender with the Associated Counsel for the Accused Division, “For nearly twenty years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve and collaborate with Marcus on various committees in addressing issues of equity and social justice within the criminal justice system, and in doing so, I experienced firsthand his ability to fairly weigh all sides of an argument and render an opinion where all parties believe they have been fully heard. A skill which is so critical for a fact-finder to have and in which Marcus learned early on was a necessity for him to acquire sooner than later. And lastly, I watched Marcus advance in his legal career by working hard, having the love of his family and community, and his dedication to ensuring our courts are accessible to all. Thus demonstrating Marcus is exactly where he should be.”
Indeed he is.