June 2019 Bar Bulletin
By Russ Aoki
King County Superior Court Judge Dean S. Lum’s life story is one of gratitude and giving. If the saying “walk the talk” is a true measure of character, then Judge Lum has walked many miles and touched upon many lives.
His good character is why he is so deserving of the King County Bar Association’s Outstanding Judge Award. He is a longtime, dedicated member of the bench, who looks at his every achievement as an opportunity to give back to our judicial system, legal profession and communities.
His journey started in 1958, when he was adopted out of a Hong Kong orphanage and brought to the U.S. at 9 months of age. He one of four adopted children of Chinese-American community stalwarts Abe and Helen Lum.
He grew up on Seattle’s Beacon Hill at a time when most Chinese were required to live on the “Hill” because nobody would sell them homes anywhere else. He spent his childhood on the “Hill,” in the Rainier Valley and the International District.
Judge Lum looks at the experience as one that helped mold his view of the world. “It’s hard to overstate the impact of growing up in that incredibly diverse environment,” he said. “You learned quickly to find common ground, to treat others with dignity and respect no matter where they came from or who they were and to work tirelessly on inequality.”
Judge Lum graduated from Franklin High School, Pomona College and the University of Washington School of Law. After graduation in 1983, he served as a deputy prosecuting attorney in the Criminal Division of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for seven years, trying dozens of felony jury trials to verdict. This included teaming with Ricardo Martinez, now chief U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Washington, in a high-profile, aggravated-murder case. From 1990 to 1998, he practiced complex civil litigation as a partner/shareholder in several Seattle law firms and was a founding shareholder of Forsberg & Umlauf, P.S.
Judge Lum was appointed to the King County Superior Court bench in 1998 by Gov. Gary Locke and is now one of most senior Superior Court judges in the state. He serves as judge of the county’s Drug Diversion Court and has served as the Superior Court’s chief civil judge, chief criminal judge, and chief judge at the Regional Justice Center in Kent, as well as taking a seat on the Court’s Executive Committee.
He is on the faculty for the National Judicial College, is a past dean of the Washington State Judicial College and teaches trial advocacy from a judge’s perspective as an adjunct professor at Seattle University School of Law. He recently served on King County’s Inquest Process Review Committee.
Life could have been very different for Judge Lum had it not been for Abe and Helen Lum, and he knows it. He has given back by co-founding in 2001 and chairing National Adoption Day in King County and Washington, an event co-sponsored by KCBA. It has grown to include most counties in the state and is one of the largest celebrations in the country. The celebration highlights the foster children available for adoption who are looking for forever families and permanency.
Besides dedicating countless hours to improving the judiciary, Judge Lum is active in local, state and national bar associations and civic activities. He is a past president of the Asian Bar Association of Washington (1992) and received the 2002 Trailblazer Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
He has been a member of the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission; vice chair of the Seattle Community Colleges District Board of Trustees; chair of the University of Washington President’s Minority Community Advisory Committee; member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Public Education, and its Commission on Immigration. He serves on the ABA’s Committee for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline and its Immigration Working Group on Unaccompanied Minors, for which he has visited and reported on conditions at the immigration detention centers in Southern California and Texas.
Having known Judge Lum for more than 30 years, I can attest to his character and especially his good nature. He inspires all of us. KCBA’s award for Judge Lum’s 21 years of service on the King County Superior Court bench and elsewhere is well deserved.