February 2021 Bar Bulletin
As KCBA president during these turbulent times, I’ve taken to these pages to write of our need to embrace and lead the change our legal profession so clearly needs. Our nation, our justice system, our courts, our bar associations have not yet eradicated the stain of slavery and continuing racism displayed for so long in so many of our legal institutions.
Though born amidst a call to confront open racism against Chinese immigrants at the turn of the last century, KCBA has much to do as we witness today’s racism and violence incited by a U.S. president and his white supremacist allies.
That is why I am so pleased to report to King County lawyers that KCBA’s next Executive Director is Dua Abudiab.
Currently a public defender with the King County Department of Public Defense, Dua has represented indigent clients in Civil Commitment Court, District Court and Superior Court in King County. Before that, she worked as a Colorado state public defender, and holds a biochemistry degree from Texas A&M and her J.D. from South Texas College of Law in Houston.
Our Search Committee, co-chaired by Kaustuv M. Das and ada shen-jaffe, cited Dua’s intelligence and advocacy skills, as well as her “presence, maturity and poise,” in recommending her for the executive director position. She is a graduate and Fellow of the Washington Leadership Institute, and a part of its mission to train future bar leadership, especially among lawyers of color.
Dua has been active in bar and community organizations, including Washington Women Lawyers and as a previous president of the Middle Eastern Legal Association of Washington (MELAW). She has shown leadership in advancing diversity and race/equity concerns in our legal community. The Search Committee reviewed scores of applications and interviewed many strong candidates before unanimously recommending her to the KCBA Board of Trustees. The Board overwhelmingly voted to appoint her at a special meeting on January 19.
Perhaps more than any other quality, Dua stands out for her courage, presence and grace, displayed in her writings against hate speech and in her courtroom demeanor. Judges, opposing lawyers and work colleagues all point to her unflappability, kindness, dedication and zealous advocacy.
One attorney whom she supervised, described Dua as “calm, caring and patient,” while doing the highly stressful work of representing those subject to involuntary mental health treatment. Even in these times of COVID-19 Zoom hearings, Dua demonstrated an uncanny ability to connect with clients, witnesses and court personnel. She was described as, “an amazing attorney and amazing person,” and an inspiration to other women of color and first-generation attorneys.
I often have to explain to my non-lawyer friends that because much of lawyering involves resolving disputes, and sometimes trials, we are not always friends in the end with opposing counsel. Even Dua’s adversaries, however, complimented her kindness, intelligence, integrity and “admirable work ethic.” She was even described by one opponent as “a pleasure to work with.”
In truth, these are some of the benefits of working in this legal community — finding and making good friends, though our clients will never be so. Still, such accolades are all too rare in our polarized present and they speak very well of our next Executive Director.
As KCBA marked the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a special noon “Zoom Luncheon” last month, I had the privilege of observing how his assassination robbed our nation and the world of his much-needed voice. But, if we look, if we listen and if we keep our hearts open to his legacy, we can still hear his words.
Two short videos were presented, one showcasing the Civil Rights Museum at the site of Dr. King’s assassination: the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The second video — excerpts from his “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech — movingly showed us our loss as a country when his brutal assassination took him from us. As Dr. King said then:
… the nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know somehow that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. Something is happening in our world.
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
In remarks by U.S. District Judge Richard Jones and Seattle legal icon Sharon Sakamoto, we were all reminded that Dr. King spoke out for all marginalized persons. In fact, his final speech, where he brought us all “to the mountaintop,” was on behalf of sanitation workers in Memphis, but spoke to racism in America.
Judge Jones reminded us all that we can still view and participate in the three excellent presentations sponsored by the KCBA MLK Luncheon Committee and donate to assist local families suffering from food insecurity. Nearly $50,000 was raised for this effort, as well as to support minority law scholarships. Our thanks to all who helped put on these extraordinary tributes to Dr. King.
With this backdrop and with all of the outstanding qualities she will bring to the King County Bar Association, the KCBA Board proudly welcomes Dua Abudiab as our Executive Director to lead our association and its dedicated staff into our challenging future.
John McKay is the President of the King County Bar Association and a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.