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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 3 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 40
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Damon Shadid, candidate for Seattle Municipal Court Position 7
Section One
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Damon Shadid, candidate for Seattle Municipal Court Position 7

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

When Damon Shadid explains why he wants to be a Municipal Court Judge, his thoughts turn to his Lebanese grandmother.

'She entered the United States without documents,' Shadid explains, 'and made her way to Oklahoma City,' where Shadid was born. She selected Oklahoma City, he adds, because other immigrants from her village in Lebanon had settled there.

'But what if she got into trouble?' he asks. 'Who would see that she got help?'

'Ninety-nine percent of all court cases go to Municipal Court,' Shadid continues. 'It's most people's only experience of court. Maybe their only experience of government. It's essential that people know why the court is there and how it can help them.'

Shadid is an immigration and criminal defense attorney, with 15 years experience in private practice.

Prior to that, he was a public defender with up to 650 clients a year. It was an experience that taught him 'how to deal with difficult people at a stressful time in their lives,' a skill he thinks he can apply to a job as a judge.

Asked what other qualities would make a good judge, Shadid answers quickly, 'Three things - you have to be engaged with the community you're elected to serve; you have to be collaborative, you have to be more than just a courtroom judge, because you have to work with your colleagues on court administration; and hard work. That's the most important piece.

'A good judge spends time outside the courtroom,' Shadid adds. Shadid, for example, is heavily engaged in the Race and Social Justice Roundtable, and worked as a volunteer on the R-74 campaign for marriage equality.

'I've been very much involved in LGBTQ issues,' he says, 'and as a judge I want to provide leadership in this area.

'For Transgender individuals, there's been progress, but the jail system is still a major problem. So I think a judge could explore alternatives to confinement. You can be culturally sensitive while still following the law.

'Also, the court has Transgender employees, and part of a judge's role is to administer court employees.

'On domestic violence issues,' Shadid continues, 'yes, it's true that LGBTQ individuals - and immigrants, too - may be afraid to call the police. That's another reason for judges to be engaged with the community, because the courts are part of the criminal justice system. People need to know the system can help them.'

The U.S. Justice Department found that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has engaged in a pattern of excessive and unconstitutional use of force. Asked if that might influence his outlook toward defendants who appear before him, Shadid declined to comment on SPD, but added, 'I've met Chief O'Toole, and I have faith she's addressing a lot of the problems and moving Seattle toward a community policing model.

'As a Municipal Court Judge, it would be my duty to follow the law. However, if problems are identified, I would work with the communities involved to formulate solutions.

'You know, I came from Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, it's all about individualism. In Seattle, it's all about community. I hope we never lose that willingness to put ourselves in other people's shoes and try to understand each other.'

Shadid's own family symbolizes the diversity he values in Seattle. He is married to Dr. Dini Pineda, of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent. They have one son 'and another child on the way,' Shadid smiles.

'My son is half Latino and half Arab, and we're raising him bilingual in English and Spanish,' he adds. 'We live in the 98118 Zip Code - the most diverse in the city.'

This is Shadid's first run for an elected office and he relishes the experience.

'I love it!' he tells SGN. 'I've never felt so connected to Seattle's communities as I do now. It invigorates me!

'The biggest thing that's impressed me is how much people want to know about the court, the level of engagement and curiosity.

'I tell people I'm running for Municipal Court, and they ask 'What is that? What can a judge do to affect change?' They're very receptive to the idea that judges should be engaged in the community.'

That idea is at the core of Shadid's judicial philosophy.

'Every individual is important,' Shadid elaborates. 'Everyone has a story to tell.

'As an immigration attorney I represent clients who very often do not know how the legal system works. I'm always surprised how brave some of them can be, especially the refugees, the asylum-seekers.'

Shadid had been endorsed by a number of prominent LGBT individuals including Sally Clark, Kris Hermanns, Joe McDermott, Dave Upthegrove, and Brady Walkinshaw.

His campaign chairs include El Centro de la Raza Director Estela Ortega, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Director Jorge Baron, NAACP President Gerald Hankerson, Rita Zawaideh of the Arab American Community Coalition, and Amy Muth of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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