March 2013 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Judge Jim Verellen

Born To Be a Judge

By Judge Anne Ellington (Ret.)


The new judge at the Washington Court of Appeals, Division One, James R. Verellen, has had a distinguished career. Yet he prefers to be in the background helping out and he puts on no airs. His daughter describes him as the "strong silent type," wise, calm and tactful. He's been on tour as a roadie with his sons' rock bands. He likes Costco and Disneyland. He has water features in his garden. And he drives a great big, red pickup truck.

Judge Verellen graduated from Willamette University College of Law in 1976. He clerked for Judge Vernon Pearson of Division II of the Court of Appeals and then joined the firm now known as Vandeberg, Johnson and Gandara, where he enjoyed a broad civil practice and was in five of the firm's six practice groups, including litigation. He handled his own appeals, which resulted in published opinions on subjects as varied as discrimination, lien priorities, due-on-sale clauses, securities law and condemnation.

In 1992, he joined Division One as a commissioner. He became a recognized expert in appellate law and practice, and was widely praised for his ability to untangle complex cases, for his clear, logical writing, and for his remarkable collegiality. He is highly regarded by the appellate bar - he was named an honorary member of the Washington Appellate Lawyers association and received an award of appreciation from the King County Bar Association Appellate Practice Section. He also contributed greatly to the court in other ways, helping create a system for assigning pro bono attorneys to pro se litigants and single-handedly reviving appellate settlement conferences.

Nineteen years later, he left Division One to join Judicial Dispute Resolution, where he served as a mediator and consultant on trial and appellate issues. Just over a year later, this past November, Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him to the Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy created by a retiring judge (me).

In her remarks at his induction, Gov. Gregoire invoked res ipsa loquitor: "The judge's record is stellar and it speaks for itself." She also noted "the very high regard that he is held in by colleagues, by those in the legal community, by those in the appellate bar." And she quoted one of Jim's references, who said that "Commissioner Verellen is brilliant but he doesn't seem to know it." She was impressed with both his humility and his ability to resolve complex problems.

Our new governor was also heard from. Judge Verellen has known Jay Inslee since law school, where they played on the same basketball team for three years. Gov. Inslee and his wife Trudi sent congratulations to the induction, saying, "Jim will bring intellect, integrity, a strong work ethic, and a devotion to justice to his position" on the court.

Judge Verellen's Division One colleagues describe him as a person who is exceptionally hard working and deeply knowledgeable, and who possesses the best qualities for judicial decision making: intellect, integrity, humility, genuine concern for others and deep appreciation for the rule of law. They comment on his ability to untangle the issues in complex cases, his complete intellectual honesty and his understanding of the practical consequences of any analysis.

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