Tehran, Iran probably isn’t the first place most Kirklanders would associate with a Superior Court judge. But local resident Susan Amini, who emigrated from Iran in 1979, offers a unique perspective on her adopted county’s laws and legal rights.
Amini is in the middle of a competitive race for Superior Court Judge, Position 1 in the Aug. 19 primary. Her competitors, King County deputy prosecutor Tim Bradshaw and Assistant Attorney General Suzanne Parisien, both offer voters equal measures of experience and high marks from various legal advocacy group ratings.
But Amini, a practicing lawyer for nearly 20 years from her office in Bellevue, says her foreign background reminds her of the strengths and balance of fairness in the U.S. court system, which she said most other countries lack.
“I have the greatest commitment to the rule of law,” she said. “The U.S. is the only country where we have a true (right to) due process.”
Amini used the 2006 Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld as an example of the strength of the U.S. legal system, citing the fact that a foreign national held on terrorism charges could still sue the federal government and win.
“There are a number of countries where that would have never been allowed to happen,” she said.
Superior Court is generally where most prosecutions and lawsuits wind up. They typically hear an array of civil disputes and criminal charges, such as divorces, felony criminal and juvenile cases.
Retiring King County Superior Court Judge Charles Mertel, whose seat the three are vying for, urged voters to elect an experienced trial lawyer to replace him.
“This Superior Court position is powerful,” he said. “We change people’s lives.”
Amini hopes to carry over her priorities as a lawyer and Pro Tempore Judge (duties she’s filled for various courts since 1994) to give justice and access to all participants in the process. She said a greater number of immigrants require more translators and clear instruction from the bench, ensuring everyone understands what is occurring in the courtroom.
“We need an expanded view of justice,” she said. “Access to the courts can be a silent barrier … The judge needs to reach out (to them).”
She first became interested in law watching Perry Mason re-runs on television in Iran. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Amini and her husband emigrated to the U.S., finally settling down on the Eastside in 1989. Along the way, she earned her law degree and began her law practice focusing on immigration and family law. Passing along her passion for the law, Amini’s only son, Cyrus, is currently attending law school.
Apart from her work as a lawyer and Pro Tem Judge, Amini also has worked as a trustee for Overlake Hospital Medical Center, served as a Bellevue Human Services Commissioner and arbitrator for the Washington State Bar.
Superior Court judges are elected to a four-year term. The nonpartisan primary vote Aug. 19 will decide six of the county’s 53 judges.
If elected, Amini would be the country’s second Persian-American elected to a judgeship.