April 2011 Bar Bulletin
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April 2011 Bar Bulletin

Profile / Jeannie Berwick & James Degel

A Commitment to Equal Justice

By Katherine Hedland Hansen


In 1984, mutual friends wanted Jim Degel and Jeannie Berwick to meet. Problem was, he lived in Tacoma and she was in San Francisco. After much prodding, he agreed to meet her during a visit with his friends, and they hit it off.

"I dropped him off at the BART to go to the airport and thought, 'Nice guy. Too bad he lives so far away,'" Berwick recalls.

As it turned out, they were a perfect match. She moved to Seattle, where they married in 1987 and settled to raise their three children. Their shared commitment to equal justice, to creating a more just and humane world, has shaped their life's work.

Degel has devoted his legal career to serving injured and incapacitated children and adults in his role as guardian and trustee of Special Needs Trusts. Berwick's legal career and passion have been advancing the rights of immigrants and refugees, including helping form the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

"The 'Dynamic Duo' of Jim Degel and Jeannie Berwick illustrates how in a great partnership, each person's energies and passion for justice amplify the other to create something neither could accomplish alone," said Ada Shen-Jaffe, a state and national leader in the fight for equal justice and distinguished public interest practitioner in residence at Seattle University School of Law.

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