May 2014 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Kelly Vomacka

Finding Her Voice

By Justice Faith Ireland (Ret.)

 

Out from behind the curtain steps lawyer Kelly Vomacka. It's not opening argument, it's opening night for this mezzo soprano. It's Aida, and dressed in Egyptian wig and cat-eye make-up she summons her voice to perform Amneris, which will require 70 minutes singing over three octaves in four acts. She summons her command to perform the beautiful, powerful Egyptian princess scorned - variously seductive, vengeful, pleading, manipulative, murderous - yet, finally transformed to utter humility.

For Vomacka, the dual paths to the stage and the courthouse were not exactly direct. Vomacka grew up in Santa Barbara, California. In fourth grade, she became a first-generation singer in her family. By high school she was a member of an a cappella choir, which made an international tour in which she sang at Notre Dame in Paris, as well as in England and Scotland.

Having received a music scholarship, she moved to the Northwest to attend the University of Puget Sound where she received her B.S. in math and computer science. She was a Coolidge Otis Chapman Honors Scholar. That means she successfully completed an intellectually rigorous, three-year curriculum from Greco-Roman classics to modern scientific revolutions, as well as the classics of near-eastern and Asian civilizations.

She completed a work-study abroad program in London with a six-month internship at Citibank in financial futures. She met her senior thesis requirement by building a computer that she still has. Rather than zeros and ones, the equivalent of true/false, she invented a computer that works on zeros, ones and one-halves - the equivalent of true, false and maybe, which she nicknamed "Fuzzy Logic."

In 1986, Vomacka ventured behind the curtain for the first time - that is, the Iron Curtain. In Czechoslovakia, she searched her family roots. Her name, Vomacka, means "gravy" in Czech and she instantly connected to her heritage through the meat-and-potatoes cuisine she found there. Her great-grandparents fell in love in the late 19th Century, but she was a noble and he was not, so they immigrated to the U.S. It was the stuff of opera. Indeed, along with the food, she took in her first opera on that trip. She appreciated it as a distant admirer.

With the math-computer science degree tucked away, perhaps it was "Fuzzy Logic" that led her to move down the hill in Tacoma to the UPS law school. Vomacka gave up singing, she thought, for good. A law school classmate convinced her otherwise and, although not religious, she took a weekend job at St. Patrick's Catholic Church as a cantor, singing liturgy for the spoken response of the congregants.

As a 1L, Vomacka volunteered at the public defender's office and stayed through law school. After passing the bar in 1990, she continued as a public defender in Tacoma and Seattle, trying more than 100 misdemeanor and felony cases in juvenile and adult courts, including three murder cases. She also argued two cases in the Washington Supreme Court and many Court of Appeals cases.


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