SUSAN: Judging from the bench

Susan Amini has always loved the Law.

“I used to watch Perry Mason [a legal tv show] when I was growing up in Iran. I loved the drama of collecting evidence and seeing the U.S. jury system.”

At Tehran University, Susan studied law and political science and graduated just after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Soon after, she married her husband—a graduate of University of Washington—and they relocated to Maryland where they welcomed a new son to the family.

But Susan didn’t forget her passion for the law.  “As soon as my son enrolled in kindergarten, I enrolled in law school.” She said her son would come home from school and say, ‘We have homework to do!’ And together they’d study.

“As soon as my son enrolled in kindergarten, I enrolled in law school.”

After she finished law school, Susan and her family moved to King County, where she worked as a public defender on mostly criminal cases. After four years, she started her own firm in Bellevue where she represented clients from over 50 countries, mainly with family law and immigration matters.

“My experience as an immigrant influenced me deeply. When I had clients from other countries, I knew to ask questions, and never assume their values or priorities.”

Susan Amini is the first woman of Middle Eastern descent in the King County judiciary. She also helped found the Middle East Law Association of Washington to help bring more people from Middle East backgrounds into the legal profession. She is also encouraged by Governor Inslee’s efforts to bring people from diverse backgrounds onto the bench.

Judge Amini in black robes ruling from the bench
Judge Amini is the first woman of Middle Eastern descent to serve as a King County Court judge.

“It’s good to have people from different backgrounds, not just from different legal practices but from different cultures, too, so judges can really educate themselves about the issues people face. We do have good representation now, but we can always do better.”

For Susan, what helped her join the judiciary was a mentor who encouraged her to get judicial experience: first as a pro tem judge, that is, one appointed on a temporary basis to fill in during another judge’s absence, and then as a Hearing Officer with the Washington Bar Association.

“These experiences helped me know that I had the temperament to be a judge, which is quite different than being a lawyer who argues a case.”