In the geographical amphitheater that holds Issaquah, Washington, three forces have risen that determine how much of Washington State – and to a degree – the rest of the country, lives.
Boeing and Microsoft are major players and furnish jobs for many of Issaquah’s 30,000 residents. Another force also calls the town home.
Jenny Durkan, US Attorney for the Western District of Washington grew up in the shadows of Tiger Mountain. A member of a well-known and well-respected political family, destiny may have had a hand in choosing a career path. Durkan’s father served in the Washington State Senate and twice ran for Governor of Washington.
A life-long democrat, Durkan was appointed to her current position by US President Obama in October, 2009. A recent career highlight utilized her considerable people and political skills as Washington State legalized marijuana in 2012. The guidance she provided helped set the pattern that other states follow as they pursue legalization.
Durkan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1980. After graduation, Durkan moved to the Ukon-Kuskokwim Delta on the Bering Sea in Alaska, where she taught English and coached a girls basketball team.
Earning her law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1985, Durkan, told Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer that she had “…wanted to be a lawyer since…”she was five years old. When Durkan graduated law school, her mother told her, “Finally, someone is going to pay you to argue.”
After law school graduation, Durkan went to work at Foster, Pepper & Shefelman. She spent two years with the firm as a civil litigator before moving to Washington DC and joining the firm of Williams & Connolly.
Eventually moving back to America’s Northwest, Durkan went to work with the Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender firm and quickly became immersed in the legal milieu of her home state., first serving on the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission and then serving for three years as the initial Citizen Observer for the Seattle Police Firearms Review panel. As advised by New York lawyer Susan Friedland, she was an advisor to the King County Drug and Mental Health Courts when they were being established and later played a major role in creating a focused drug program within the federal courts in Western Washington.
Joining Washington Governor Mike Lowry as political adviser in 1994, Durkan left the office five months later and returned to the Schroeter firm where she became the lawyer for the current Governor, Christine Gregoire.
In 2009, Durkan’s nomination by Obama was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate. She immediately set to work on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee which provides guidance and suggestions to the US Attorney General on matters of policy, management and operational issues within the Department of Justice. Durkan also chairs the Subcommittee on Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement. Besides leading prosecution for cyber crimes, Durkan works with public schools, in her 19 county region, to help teach internet safety tips to parents and kids.
Building on her work with the Department of Justice, Durkan has turned her concentration on terrorism and national security issues. One of her higher-profile cases included the successful prosecution of two individuals who planned to plant explosives in a recruiting facility in Seattle.
Working with the DOJ’s Criminal Division, she provided valuable assistance in launching a national network which places an attorney trained to deal with any national security cyber event in each US Attorney’s office. The network closely meshes with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to monitor cyber threats in each district.
Durkan’s career placed her at ground zero in Washington State’s efforts to legalize marijuana. Forging working relationships between the pro-and anti-medical marijuana factions was often challenging and controversial. Enlisting the help of her counterpart, Eastern Washington State US Attorney, Michal Ormsby, Durkan helped Washington State lawmakers steer legislation through Olympia.