The Judicial Institute
Diversity on the bench matters
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The Judicial Institute

The Judicial Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to diversifying Washington state’s judiciary. Led by a volunteer board of directors, the Judicial Institute organizes its main program every two years for diverse legal professionals seeking a pathway to the bench. The Judicial Institute, in partnership with Seattle University School of Law, also collaborates with minority bar associations, the judiciary, local and state bar associations, law schools, law firms and private corporations to promote diversity in the judiciary.


Chach Duarte White — President, Chair of Selection Committee

Debra Akhbari — Treasurer, Chair of Fundraising Committee

Jamal Whitehead — Secretary, Selection Committee

Judge Johanna Bender — Advisory Board Member, Co-chair of Curriculum Committee

Judge John Chun — Advisory Board Member, Co-chair of Curriculum Committee

Rebecca Glasgow — Advisory Board Member, Chair of Logistics Committee

Judge Jason Poydras — Advisory Board Member, Co-chair of Curriculum Committee

Judge Tanya Thorp — Advisory Board Member, Chair of Mentorship Committee

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President, Chair of selection committee

Chach Duarte White

Chach is a staff attorney at Legal Counsel for Youth and Children where she represents children and youth. She represents children in dependency proceedings and homeless youth and young adults by addressing their legal barriers. She is particularly passionate about immigrant youth and serving their needs given the current political climate.

Chach was raised in the East Bay in California. After graduating with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University, she worked in the Silicon Valley technology industry, in manufacturing and operations, before coming to Seattle. In 2000, she graduated cum laude with her J.D. from Seattle University School of Law. She worked for Northwest Justice Project on the CLEAR line and served as a Title 26 Family Law Guardian ad Litem. She then worked as the Associate Director of the Academic Resource Center and as an Adjunct Professor of Legal Writing for Seattle University School of Law. Chach then became the Diversity Program Manager for the Washington State Bar Association and worked for the Moderate Means Program at both Seattle University and University of Washington Schools of Law. She also served as a grants consultant for the Legal Foundation of Washington.

She is a past-president of the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington and she is a zealous advocate that enjoys fighting for the underdog and leveling the playing field.

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Treasurer, Chair of Fundraising committee

Debra Akhbari

Debbie is an associate at Helsell Fetterman LLP and is a member of the firm’s litigation practice group where she represents plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts in matters ranging from commercial disputes, to property and land use issues, and personal injury claims. Debbie also co-chairs Helsell’s Diversity Committee, and is a member of the firm’s Richard S. White Diversity Fellowship subcommittee, which annually awards a diverse law student with a paid summer associate position and a tuition stipend. Debbie is a former Richard S. White fellowship recipient, and has served as the mentor and summer coordinator for incoming fellows. Debbie also worked with Helsell’s managing partner to develop an associate mentorship program, pairing associates and partners within the firm.

Debbie is currently the President-Elect for the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington (LBAW), and will start her term as President in March 2019. She previously served terms on the LBAW Board as Vice President for Membership and Programs, and Co-Chair of LBAW’s Judicial Evaluations Committee. Debbie is actively involved in judicial appointments at both the state and federal level, including the vetting and nomination process for federal court nominees.

An alumna of Seattle University School of Law, Debbie stays active with the law school as a member of the law school’s Law Alumni Board (LAB), and serves on two of the law school’s committees, the Mentorship and Professional Development Committee and the Public Interest Law Foundation Alumni Steering Committee.

Secretary, Selection Committee

Jamal Whitehead

Jamal Whitehead is a Shareholder at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender, where he litigates individual and class action employment law cases on behalf of employees. Before joining SGB, Jamal was a federal trial attorney, working as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the Western District of Washington and as a Senior Trial Attorney for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He graduated from the University of Washington and Seattle University School of Law.

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Advisory Board Member, Co-chair of Curriculum Committee

Judge Johanna Bender

Judge Bender was appointed to the King County Superior Court bench by Governor Inslee and joined the court on December 1, 2015. She served as a King County District Court Judge from 2012–2015.

Judge Bender has considerable interest and expertise in partnerships between the legal system and behavioral health providers to maximize services for community members in crisis. While on the District Court bench, Judge Bender presided over the County’s Regional Mental Health Court and Regional Veterans Court programs. She co-chaired the County Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Oversight Committee from 2014 to 2016, and presided over the Superior Court Involuntary Treatment Act calendar in 2017. Judge Bender currently co-chairs the Court’s Involuntary Treatment Act Oversight Committee.

A 1991 graduate of Brown University, Judge Bender served as a domestic violence advocate at the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network from 1992–1993. After graduating from the University of Washington School of Law in 1996, Judge Bender worked in the public and private sectors before taking the bench. She was a staff attorney at The Defender Association from 1996–2000, clerked for The Honorable Marsha J. Pechman, United States District Court Judge, from 2000–2002, and was an associate attorney at Gordon, Murray, Tilden LLP from 2002–2006. From 2006 until her appointment to District Court in 2012, Judge Bender served as a Pro Tem Judge throughout Western Washington.

Judge Bender serves on the Governing Council for the Judicial Institute, a program dedicated to increasing diversity on the Washington State bench. An active contributor to efforts to increase access to justice in King County and across our state, Judge Bender was appointed by Governor Inslee as a Trustee of the Legal Foundation of Washington, serves on the Minority and Justice Commission, and has previously acted as liaison from the bench to the statewide Access to Justice Board. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Bender volunteered for many years for Legal Voice, a civil legal aid organization dedicated to advancing legal rights for women. Judge Bender currently serves on the Court’s Personnel and Community Partnership Committees, as well as on the Court’s Executive Committee.

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Advisory Board Member, Co-chair of Curriculum Committee

Judge John Chun

In June 2018, Governor Jay Inslee appointed Judge John H. Chun to the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division One.  

A Pacific Northwest native and the son of South Korean immigrants, Judge Chun grew up in Portland, Oregon.  He graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in English.  Judge Chun then graduated from Cornell Law School, where he contributed as a note editor on the Cornell Law Review.

Judge Chun started his legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable Eugene A. Wright of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  He then entered private practice and focused on complex commercial and employment litigation for over eighteen years.  

Before joining the Court of Appeals, Judge Chun served on King County Superior Court for nearly five years. He presided as a trial judge in civil, criminal, family law, and other types of cases.  During his last year there, he served as the court’s Assistant Chief Criminal Judge.

Judge Chun currently serves on the boards of the Judicial Institute and the Asian Bar Association of Washington Student Scholarship Foundation.  He also serves on the King County Bar Association’s Leadership Development & Nominations Committee.   

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Advisory Board Member, Chair of Logistics Committee

Rebecca Glasgow

As a Deputy Solicitor General for the Washington Attorney General’s Office, Rebecca Glasgow has litigated some of Washington’s most important cases, including Arlene’s Flowers, where the Attorney General enforced the Washington Law Against Discrimination to protect the rights of a same sex couple seeking to buy flowers for their wedding. She also successfully defended Washington’s minimum wage and gun background check initiatives. She has served as a legal adviser to the Governor’s Office on immigration issues in the wake of the Trump administration’s increased immigration enforcement efforts. She currently serves on the Attorney General’s litigation team in the multistate effort to reunite immigrant children with their parents and to halt the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant families at the southern border. Rebecca is currently running unopposed for a seat on Division Two of the Washington Court of Appeals.

Rebecca has a long history of service to her community and was named a Washington State Bar Association “Local Hero” in 2014. She has volunteered at her local legal clinic for more than a decade and has also served on the Board of the Campaign for Equal Justice. Rebecca was the statewide President of Washington Women Lawyers in 2017. She serves on many more community boards and committees.

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Advisory Board Member, Co-chair of Curriculum Committee

Judge Jason Poydras

Jason Poydras was born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles, and he now lives in southeast King County with his wife Amy. In 2002, Jason moved to the Seattle area to attend Seattle University School of Law based on the institution’s commitment to social justice.

A fundamental desire to assist others led Jason to pursue the legal field, and it has consistently been the primary source of inspiration and motivation throughout his legal career. Jason’s legal career began with the practice of criminal law, first as a public defender in Seattle and later as a deputy prosecutor in Pierce County. Next, he pursed the opportunity to become a judicial officer with the goal of enhancing his ability to serve the public.

Jason began adjudicating hearings as a Hearing Examiner with the Washington State Department of Licensing. Next, Jason was appointed as an Administrative Law Judge with the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). In addition to holding administrative hearings for individuals and administrative agencies looking to resolve significant legal disputes at OAH, he joined the management team in the Seattle Field Office as a Senior Administrative Law Judge.

In April, 2017, Jason was unanimously appointed to the King County District Court by the King County Council. District Court is sometimes referred to as “The People’s Court” because it is the level of court where many people have their first, and sometimes their only experience, with our justice system. Jason became a judge because he wanted to expand the reach and impact of his efforts to serve the public. He brings the Court a balanced and service-oriented perspective as a former public defender and deputy prosecutor. This perspective has been refined by the strong judicial foundation that accompanies Jason’s over 10 years of experience as a neutral decision maker. Jason continually aims to serve King County as a judge that is honest and fair, and treats all parties with respect, and dignity. Jason also works to foster the public’s confidence in the judicial system by improving access to the court and creating an environment where all parties feel as though they were heard and able to meaningfully participate in the judicial process, regardless of the outcomes in their cases.

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Advisory Board Member, Chair of Mentorship Committee

Judge Tanya Thorp

Judge Thorp was appointed to the King County Superior Court bench on May 1, 2014. She presides over all types of cases including civil litigation, criminal litigation, family law cases, and appeals from limited jurisdiction tribunals.

Prior to joining the bench, Judge Thorp worked for the Labor and Industries Division of the Attorney General’s Office, where she litigated worker safety cases in Washington’s oil refineries. Her cases included the seven worker fatality at the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery in 2010, the 2012 fire at the BP Cherry Point Refinery, and several cases involving Shell’s Anacortes Refinery. Before working in the Labor and Industries Division, Judge Thorp worked for almost ten years in the Social and Health Services Division, where she litigated child welfare cases first in Pierce and Kitsap Counties and then King County.

Judge Thorp attended the University of Washington from 1996–1999 where she majored in Political Science, with a minor in Society and Justice. Two days after finishing undergrad, she started law school at Seattle University School of Law. Judge Thorp was a member of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and Veteran Legal Society (VLS) while attending law school. After her first year in law school, she worked at the Associated Counsel for the Accused as the felony drug court intern. After her second year of law school, she worked for King County as a Rule 9 Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in the Juvenile Division. She graduated cum laude from law school in 2002.

Judge Thorp currently serves on the King County Superior Court Local Rules Committee, Family Law Committee, and Technology Committee as well as the Superior Court Judges Association Family and Juvenile Law Committee. She also holds a Board position with the Judicial Institute after serving four years on the Executive Board for the Loren Miller Bar Association. Judge Thorp has served on the King County Superior Court Jury Committee and on the WSBA Diversity Committee. Judge Thorp received the Ronald R. Ward President’s Award from the Loren Miller Bar Association in May 2017. Judge Thorp also received the Seattle University School of Law Black Law Student Association Alumni Award in February 2016.