January 2013 Bar Bulletin
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January 2013 Bar Bulletin

Sally Phillips Pasette: Determined Lawyer, Mother, Jurist and Fighter

By Averil Budge Rothrock


Former King County Superior Court judge, attorney and mediator Sally Phillips Pasette, who passed away last summer, was a California girl, known to sparkle in a Raquel Welch-styled bikini in the 1960s. But Sally was a serious person who became a Seattle leader through her intellect, purposeful resolve and deep commitment to public service. Her son Daniel reflects that Sally "was always just quietly deciding what she wanted to do and got along with doing it."

Sally showed her ability to dismantle a problem as a child, when her older sister would seek and follow Sally's considered advice. Sally attended CaliforĀ­nia's public schools and universities, graduating from UCLA in 1966 with a degree in international relations. She wanted to pursue a graduate degree. Because UCLA had no graduate program in international relations, Sally chose law school.

Like other young women of her time, Sally found slim pickings for legal jobs upon law school graduation. Fortunately, right out of law school she passed the California and Arizona bar exams and found a job with the Pima County Legal Aid Society in Arizona. She later said that she "got her first taste for public service" in this position. She worked on reform of the Arizona penal law and handled two landmark due process cases. "It was an exciting era," Sally later would recall. "With all the great cases from the Warren Court, we had tremendous opportunities."1

She and her husband Art Pasette then moved to Seattle so that Art could receive specialty training in gastroenterology at the University of Washington Medical School. Sally tried to get a job as a lawyer. She later observed, "By this time many law firms wanted to have women practicing law with them, but once they had one woman, there was room for no more!"

After weeks of interviewing, Sally received word from the hiring partner of Roberts, Shefelman, Lawrence, Gay and Moch (today's Foster Pepper), that, while there was no associate position for her, she could work on a research project for the firm. As it turned out, this was the foot in the door that Sally needed. She received many more projects and also arranged with the firm to study for the Washington bar exam at the office.

After some time, as Sally told it, the office became used to Sally and apparently forgot she had been a temporary hire. Sally described her eventual employment as an attorney with the firm as short on fanfare, saying, "When stationery had to be reordered, my name was added to the letterhead and later added to the list of attorneys' names on the door." Sally worked there for three years.

Daniel was born in 1973. Sally permitted herself a three-month leave of absence and then relied on live-in nannies. Her daughter Suzanne, known as Suzy, arrived in December 1975. With the nannies' short tenures and feeling tired of sharing the house with them, Sally and Art changed tactics. They hired a recent immigrant from Pakistan to provide daily care. Catherine Fernandes became "an important part of our family," staying on for nine years.

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