April 2022 Bar Bulletin
By King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay
Despite these challenging times two years into a pandemic, Derrick has never failed to do so.
He first showed up as my friend in 2018 during a casual gathering of young professionals of color interested in the civic leadership program, Leadership Tomorrow.1 He showed up as my randomly assigned roommate during the opening weekend — and we found brotherhood as we tackled complex conversations and issues on housing, public health, racial justice, education, and the climate crisis, with a cohort of 80 other peers in the region. Derrick even had my back when he had to step in for me and become the class graduation speaker after a last-minute conflict. He brought down the house with a vulnerable speech about belonging and continued commitment day after day.
And since then, I’ve watched him continue to show up for community, show up as a dedicated lawyer, and show up for me as a friend.
During the 2020 summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, Derrick would show up with his running shoes after impromptu texts to meet me at Seward Park for much needed time away from our computer screens and countless meetings. In my role as King County Councilmember, I found our runs together therapeutic (even if Derrick was gasping for air at the end of the loop). In a summer that was heavy for our city, county, and country — when we were faced with a racial justice reckoning following the murder of George Floyd — he was there for me.
He was there during the modest beginnings of my campaign for King County Council door-knocking (sometimes in the rain!) and elevating my vision for public office. With his kind heart and infectious personality, Derrick can meaningfully connect with anyone.
So it’s not a surprise that Derrick has forged his own path — building relationships with everyone he comes across. Similar to me, he grew up a child of (Filipino) immigrants, he was raised in the Seattle Public School system, earned a law degree, and has focused on uplifting the communities he has always called home.
He spent five years at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt as a business litigator. He was instrumental in leading their Diversity Fellowship Program and supporting many young law students and attorneys of color in establishing their own careers.
In the midst of the pandemic, Derrick then transitioned to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office as an Assistant City Attorney after he was selected as a fellow through a national nonprofit, Public Rights Project.
In just a short time, Derrick helped successfully defend city renter policies that kept our community members housed (RHA v. City of Seattle), successfully defended hazard pay for frontline grocery workers that became the model across the nation (WFIA v. City of Seattle), and helped take up another worker rights lawsuit advocating for food delivery gig workers all the way to Washington’s Supreme Court (Instacart v. City of Seattle).
At the start of the year, Derrick took his talents to Olympia in service of our entire State. As Policy Counsel for the Washington State House Democratic Caucus, he now advises our lawmakers in the Civil Rights & Judiciary and College & Workforce Development Committees. In this recent legislative session, Derrick showed up guiding policies through the legislative process aimed at reducing barriers related to Legal Financial Obligations, preventing gun violence through safer firearm regulations, improving financial access to higher education, and supporting our essential workforces.
His unique insight makes all of our policies better — and therefore our lives better. Derrick understands that policy is about understanding and elevating the stories of our communities by weaving together lived experiences within the context of broader systemic and legal implications. He gets that policy must be personal. Derrick will always serve our communities with that relentless compassion to improve the lives of everyday people.
I’m incredibly proud to show up for him by sharing a little of his own story and even prouder to call him my brother and friend.
1 https://www.leadershiptomorrowseattle.org – Ed.