Alumni Short
J. Michael Diaz '02 Appointed to Washington State's King County Superior Court Ithaca, NEW YORK, February 7, 2018
J. Michael Diaz '02
J. Michael Diaz '02
Photograph by Valeria Koulikova, Madison Park Times

After graduating from Cornell Law School in 2002, little did J. Michael Diaz know that less than twenty years later his commitment to civil rights and his community would earn him the appointment to the largest trial court in Washington state, King County Superior Court.

Diaz began his legal career as an associate at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP (now Norton Rose Fulbright) in Houston, Texas, and then moved on to Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo PLLC in Seattle, litigating commercial and white collar matters. In 2008, Diaz joined the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as an assistant U.S. attorney and in 2011, he founded the Civil Rights Program for the Seattle U.S. Attorney's Office.

"Michael's commitment to civil rights through his outstanding legal career and community involvement will make him an excellent addition to the bench," Washington State Governor Jay Inslee said. "His unique experiences have prepared him to understand some of the challenges facing individuals in the courtroom."

"The governor's appointment honors the sacrifices my parents made when they immigrated from Peru with nothing but the shirts on their backs," said Diaz. "It allows me to serve my community which has given my family so many opportunities."

Outside of Diaz's Superior Court appointment, his strong work ethic and dedication to the law has not gone unnoticed. In the last six years, Diaz has been honored with the DOJ Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys Director's Award for extraordinary professional achievements and excellence, the Thomas C. Wales Performance Award, the highest award given at the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division's Distinguished Service Award.

Furthermore, in 2016, President Obama nominated Diaz to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, calling him a "highly qualified candidate for the federal bench" who would be a "valuable addition" to the court. The nomination expired and was returned to the president without Senate action in January 2017.

With all of his accolades and nominations in tow, J. Michael Diaz credits his time at the Law School as an inspiration for his success, "In addition to meeting my wife and some of my best friends at Cornell, the Law School prepared me professionally and spurred my interest in public service in all its forms."

Diaz will be replacing Judge Richard McDermott, who is retiring.