By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
His name is Jimmy Hung and he’s seeking an appointment to the King County Superior Court bench.
The youngest of four children to James and Yueh-Chin Hung, the family immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1977 when Hung was 3 years old.
Now at 45 years old, and after more than 20 years with the King County Prosecutor Attorney’s Office (PAO), Hung is ready for a new challenge.
“I think I’d be really good at it,” Hung told the Northwest Asian Weekly, despite how he initially stumbled into the legal profession.
“I didn’t have a good reason for wanting to become a lawyer,” Hung said. “It was just the anti-doctor.”
His brother and one of his sisters are doctors, the other sister in corporate technology.
“I’m the black sheep of the family,” Hung joked. “Maybe if I became a judge, I could reach the level of doctor in my parents’ eyes.”
All kidding aside, Hung said his parents have always been supportive of his career.
Though he was a good student and did well in math and science, he said he wasn’t naturally gifted in those fields. He was always more drawn to language, argument, and writing.
“As an immigrant, professional decisions are tied to making your parents proud. My parents came with almost nothing and didn’t speak the (English) language. To have a son in a profession where you have to master the language, and be a judge, I think they would be proud of that.”
Hung received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington (UW) in 1995 and then graduated from the UW School of Law in 1999. He immediately joined the PAO, where he still serves today. Hung is the Chief Deputy Prosecutor of the Juvenile Division. During his time as a prosecutor, he has worked on all levels of criminal trial practice, including homicide, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
“My whole professional life has been about community service.” Hung continued, “As prosecutors, I believe we’re the most powerful people in the criminal justice system. But as an individual prosecutor, your voice can only be so amplified.”
Which is why he wants to be a judge.
“As a judge, your voice is amplified by your position — it’s a natural progression of what I want to do.”
Hung is scheduled to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee’s general counsel on March 4 in Olympia. Possibly four bench seats will need to be filled by the end of 2019, due to retiring judges.
“There’s a need for good people to step up,” Hung said, especially being a person of color.
“There is a small pool of people of color who are lawyers. The pool gets even smaller when you’re talking about trial attorneys,” Hung said. “Asians who end up in the legal profession get pushed or typecast into the academic, being researchers, brief writers but not the people who are in the courtroom being persuasive and being advocates. I’m in a unique position of being qualified to be a judge, wanting to be a judge, and being good at it.”
Hung said he has the right temperament.
“As a prosecutor, I’ve earned the reputation of being fair, and making decisions based on facts and good judgement. I know what works and doesn’t in managing a jury. I have learned from good judges on how to control and manage difficult litigants.”
Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu, who Hung considers a mentor, told the Northwest Asian Weekly that she is pleased that Hung submitted an application for appointment.
“He is an excellent trial lawyer and would be able to hit the ground running and serve as a judge because of that experience and knowledge,” Yu said. “Jimmy has demonstrated some key skills necessary for being a good judge such as the ability to listen, to be compassionate, to be innovative, and to respect an individual’s right to due process.”
When asked how many cases he has tried, Hung said, “90 to 100 cases, conservatively.”
One of the most significant was a murder case in 2002, where a Microsoft programmer was stabbed more than 100 times in his Belltown apartment by Ronald Lakey, who was high on meth. Lakey was found guilty of manslaughter when the jury couldn’t agree to call it murder.
“[This case] taught me that achieving justice is complicated and that our current system can do a better job of meeting the needs of victims and those who have lost loved ones,” Hung wrote in his judicial evaluation questionnaire.
He believes that as a judge, you can show empathy in the way you communicate from the bench — and that can have a big impact on whether a person feels like they are being heard, even if the outcome is not what they would have hoped.
“During a trial, it’s the most important thing in that person’s life in that moment,” said Hung.
When he’s not in a courtroom, Hung enjoys CrossFit, snowboarding, golfing, and rock climbing.
He also loves to cook and prepares most of the family meals at home.
Hung is married to Heather Jensen, who he met when they both worked together at the PAO. They live in West Seattle and have an 8-year-old daughter, Coco.
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.