June 2022 Bar Bulletin
As you read this column, the odds are that the people in Ukraine will be facing resolutely their fourth month of siege by the genocidal war criminal Vladimir Putin. It is also likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will have issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade and thus undoing almost fifty years of progress by women and especially women of color. More than a million people in the United States (and over fifteen million people worldwide) will have succumbed to COVID-19,1 and undoubtedly, the unrelenting attack on LGBTQIA+ communities will only have picked up more momentum.2 In times like this it is difficult to find hope and the temptation to withdraw into oneself can be overwhelming and that is when I am so thankful for KCBA.
I am thankful for all of the work and effort that you (our members), our volunteers, and the staff have put into supporting the mission and work of KCBA. Our sections have continued to meet (some have even started transitioning to hybrid meetings) and continued to provide a platform for diverse attorneys and attorneys early in their career. Sections are the lifeblood of KCBA and the opportunities for networking, mentoring, and education that they provide are not only awe inspiring, but also irreplaceable. I thank the leadership (and membership) of each of the sections for all the work and effort that has gone into making the sections function so seamlessly. During the last two years of social distancing, Zoom meetings, and virtual networking, the sections have performed absolutely brilliantly and seeing the work that the sections have done — and will continue to do — gives me immense joy and hope for the future of KCBA.
In addition to the work done by the sections, I am also incredibly grateful to the work that our committees have done at the forefront of legal issues and to make both the bench and the bar more welcoming and diverse. Our committees take on tasks and projects that go to the very core of access to justice and public service and truly epitomize KCBA’s mission statement. Our committees do so much and address such a wide range of issues — from organizing the MLK Luncheon to surveying judicial officers and rating judicial candidates to providing feedback on proposed changes to local and statewide court rules to lobbying for changes to legislation to better serve our underserved communities — that attempting to list the accomplishments of our committees would be a fool’s errand. Although some would say that makes me uniquely qualified to take on that task, I will simply thank them and wish them the very best for the years to come.
The work done by the New Lawyers Division in welcoming those recently admitted to the bar, providing mentorship and networking opportunities, and taking the lead on pro bono and giving back to the community creates a foundation that has served, and will continue to serve, KCBA wonderfully for years to come. The NLD not only provides an incredible pipeline of leaders to KCBA’s committees, Board, and sections, but also inculcates a commitment to all that is fundamental to KCBA and I thank Tim Stienstraw and the entire NLD leadership for their partnership over the past year.
I would also be amiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank our trustees. KCBA has gone through significant changes these last few years and our trustees have repeatedly taken on an ever-increasing load to help guide KCBA through those changes. Serving on the Board can be a thankless task (those rumors of the biannual retreats in Hawai’i turned out to be just that . . . rumors) and I continue to be inspired and humbled by the trustees’ commitment to KCBA and the thoughtfulness and dedication of each and every trustee. To the trustees with whom I have had the pleasure to serve, and to those who are about to join the Board, I can only express my deepest gratitude for the sacrifices they have made and for repeatedly answering my call for volunteers to lead one more initiative or to serve on yet another ad hoc committee.
Of course, as we all recognize and appreciate, none of what we as members and volunteers do could be possible without the constant and unwavering support of KCBA staff. The sign of a truly skilled and committed team is how effortless they make the difficult and complicated look — think of the Bull’s triangle offense or Barca’s tiki-taka. KCBA staff has weathered substantial changes — not just to the organization itself but to our entire legal system caused by the pandemic — with such aplomb and tirelessness that there are no words that can capture my sense of awe and gratitude. As long as we have such a dedicated and talented team converting the vision of the members into action there is much for which to be hopeful.
Finally, it would be amiss of me not to acknowledge Chris Young, our editor. Stepping into Gene Barton’s shoes is no easy task, yet Chris has more than met that challenge; bringing a new voice and direction to the Bar Bulletin. It has been an absolute pleasure working with Chris and I look forward to reading his pieces and watching his vision for the Bulletin flourish and come to fruition over the next many years.
It was almost twenty years ago that Monty Gray stuck his head into my office and “invited” me to a presentation by someone called Merf Ehman about something called the Housing Justice Project.3 Thus began my long involvement with KCBA and exposure to some of the most fun loving, wonderful, and truly marvelous people with whom I have had the pleasure to work. As my time and involvement with KCBA draws to an end, I can only marvel at what a wonderful trip it has been.
Last month, in two swearing-in ceremonies for attorneys recently admitted to the Washington State Bar, I thanked the attorneys for their willingness to join a calling that can often be thankless and in which they will be under a lot of stress and face a lot of abuse simply because of their role in upholding the rule of law. The rule of law is under attack worldwide, including unfortunately in our country and in our state. According to the thorough analysis performed by Freedom House: “[a] total of 60 countries suffered declines [in democratic norms] over the past year, while only 25 improved. As of today, some 38 percent of the global population live in Not Free countries, the highest proportion since 1997. Only about 20 percent now live in Free countries.”4 Since 2006, every year the number of countries in which democratic norms and the rule of law have declined has outpaced those in which they have advanced. I am confident, however, that as long as you continue your commitment to promoting and supporting a diverse and collegial membership; working with the judiciary to achieve excellence, equity, and accessibility in the administration of justice; and benefiting the community through public service and engagement in public policy the rule of law will flourish and thrive along with KCBA.
To quote someone else who had the pleasure of working in a place where everyone was above average: “be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
Kaustuv M. Das is the President of the King County Bar Association and an attorney with Intellectual Ventures. You can reach him at KCBABoardPresident@kcba.org or at (425) 247-2431.
1 14.9 Million Excess Deaths Associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 and 2021 (WHO May 5, 2022) available at https://www.who.int/news/item/05-05-2022-14.9-million-excess-deaths-were-associated-with-the-covid-19-pandemic-in-2020-and-2021 (last visited May 6, 2022).
2 See, e.g., the NPR report on the efforts by state legislatures throughout the United States to pass legislation prohibiting “schools from using a curriculum or discussing topic of gender identity or sexual orientation.” Dustin Jones Not Just Florida. More than a Dozen States Propose So-Called “Don’t Say Gay” Bills (NPR Apr. 10, 2022) available at https://www.npr.org/2022/04/10/1091543359/15-states-dont-say-gay-anti-transgender-bills (last visited May 6, 2022).
3 I put “invited” in quotation marks only because as the head of the Litigation Group at Davis Wright Tremaine, Monty could easily have asked or even ordered me (a first-year associate) to attend that meeting. Yet, that was never Monty’s style and he is yet another person from whom I learned so much and to whom I owe much gratitude.
4 Sarah Repucci and Amy Slipowitz, The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule (Freedom House 2022) available at https://freedomhouse.org/
report/freedom-world/2022/global-expansion-authoritarian-rule (last visited May 6, 2022).