February 2013 Bar Bulletin
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February 2013 Bar Bulletin

The Master Public Defender

By Marke Schnackenberg


While sitting down to a steak dinner at a swanky Seattle restaurant in Belltown, it struck me that I was facing a person who should be called the master public defender. A man who has likely represented more indigent persons than anyone else in Washington and who has literally done so day and night for nearly 25 years, and continues to do so regularly in more than a quintet of courts, as reliably as an atomic clock.

You may have seen or heard of him, but if you haven't, it is time that you should know about attorney James Aubrey Feldman, Esquire, truly the master public defender.

A bear of a man and one who is soon to be eligible for an AARP membership, "Big Jim" Feldman practices a work ethic that is almost Olympian in its intensity.

In the middle of the night, he fields jail calls, rising early in the dark at 4:30 a.m. to start his days, when most of us are dreaming about our next vacation.

And from his well-trodden office in Lynnwood, for years flanked with family photos and framed diplomas, he counsels indigent defendants from more than seven cities in King and Snohomish counties while overseeing an able team of attorneys that constitute his firm of Feldman and Lee.

As our steaks came to the table that night, this alumnus of both Seattle University and Gonzaga Law said something about his background that quite possibly revealed his reason for becoming such a hard-working public defender.

"My mother used to help those she met, at the grocery store or wherever," Feldman said. "She would bring them home and they would sit at our dinner table with us. Sometimes, they would stay with us for a week or even for a month until they got back on their feet. She did this because she grew up in the Depression and that was how she was."

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