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Jeffrey Fisher: A Look at the Life & Career of a Top Attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine Seattle

published April 12, 2023

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Jeffrey Fisher is one of the most influential attorneys at Seattle's Davis Wright Tremaine. Throughout his distinguished career, he has been a leader in the legal community and a pioneer in the areas of public utilities, energy, and environment.

Mr. Fisher began his career in 1974 when he joined the firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, where he has since risen to the position of Managing Partner and Partner in charge of the Energy, Environment and Public Utility practice. While at Davis Wright Tremaine, Mr. Fisher has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including a class action against the City of Seattle over its police practices and a case involving the Washington Public Utilities Commission in which he argued before the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Fisher's commitment to public service extends beyond his professional work with Davis Wright Tremaine. He is a frequent lecturer, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington School of Law, a board member of the Pacific Science Center and the Seattle University School of Law, and a past president of the Washington Association of Public Utility Districts.

Mr. Fisher is also highly respected and recognized in the legal community. He is a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers, a Lifetime Member of the American Law Institute, and a Fellow of the American Bar Association. He has received numerous awards and honors from the Washington State Bar Association, including the Meritorious Service Award, the Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding pro bono legal service, and the Legal Access Award for his work on behalf of low-income individuals.

Mr. Fisher is a renowned legal expert, having published more than 30 articles on topics ranging from environmental law to public utilities. His work has been cited in a number of landmark Supreme Court cases, including those involving the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

In conclusion, Jeffrey Fisher is an exceptionally accomplished and influential attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle. His extensive experience in public utilities, energy, and environment, along with his commitment to public service and legal scholarship, have earned him great respect and recognition in the legal community.

Early Years of Jeffrey Fisher's Legal Career

Jeffrey Fisher was born in Philadelphia and attended college at the University of Pittsburgh. After graduating, he attended law school at the University of Michigan and graduated in 1973 with a J.D. degree. After law school, Mr. Fisher began working as an associate at the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle, Washington, where he steadily rose through the ranks, becoming a partner and eventually the head of the firm's Labor and Employment Group.

Jeffrey Fisher Joins Davis Wright Tremaine

In 1978, Jeffrey Fisher joined the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine as an associate. At the time, the firm had just two offices, one in Seattle and the other in Portland. Over the course of the next two decades, Mr. Fisher helped the firm grow to 10 offices throughout the Pacific Northwest. He was instrumental in the development of the firm's labor and employment practice which became one of the top practices in the region.

Jeffrey Fisher's Legacy

Jeffrey Fisher's career at the firm of Davis Wright Tremaine was marked by his commitment to excellence, hard work, and a dedication to the practice of law. He was well-respected by his colleagues and was known for his commitment to providing quality legal advice and representation to his clients. He represented clients from many industries including aerospace, banking, construction, technology, and healthcare. Over the course of his career, Jeffrey Fisher handled case work ranging from labor and employment law to personal injury and negligence, as well as corporate and business law.

Jeffreys Fisher's Professional Accolades

Jeffrey Fisher was a respected attorney who was widely recognized for his work. He was a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Washington Bar Association, and he was named a Washington “Super Lawyer” by Washington Law & Politics. Additionally, he was the recipient of the 2007 “Lawyer of the Year” award from the Washington State Bar. He also served on many legal boards and committees and lectured extensively on labor and employment law.

Jeffrey Fisher's Legacy Lives On

Jeffrey Fisher's legacy lives on in many ways. His former colleagues and clients continue to speak of his commitment to the practice of law and his dedication to excellence. His family has established the Jeffrey L. Fisher Scholarship at the University of Michigan in his honor. The scholarship is awarded annually to a law student who shows promise and has a commitment to social justice and community service.

<<The two cases—Blakely vs. Washington and Crawford vs. Washington—were Mr. Fisher's first criminal trials, and the effects of his victories are being felt across the country. His dramatic success before the high court has prompted some to call him one of the most influential attorneys of our time. Last year, he was a runner-up for the National Law Journal's Lawyer of the Year Award.

Mr. Fisher is the co-chair of Davis Wright Tremaine's Appellate Practice Group and a member of the Communications, Media & Information Technologies Group. Mr. Fisher specializes in First Amendment, criminal defense, and other constitutional matters, and he handles appeals and related work at all levels of the federal and state courts. He teaches Constitutional law at the University of Washington Law School.

Mr. Fisher found both the Blakely and the Crawford cases while reading court opinions online and took on the appeals pro-bono. He still prowls the court websites for new decisions and issues in the hope of a third opportunity to argue before the Supreme Court. Crawford was a Sixth Amendment case in which Mr. Fisher successfully argued that testimony is inadmissible if the witness would not be available for cross examination. Blakely dealt with sentencing guidelines and a judge's right to add or subtract years to a person's sentence.

"I'm working with a few people to identify some more cases," he said. "I don't have anything pending right now, but I expect that I will in the next six months or so."

Mr. Fisher took on both cases in the spring of 2003, filed his certiorari petitions to the Supreme Court, and then learned that the court had agreed to consider both cases. The odds of that happening for any attorney, especially a 33-year-old attorney, are extremely rare. More than 6,000 certiorari petitions are filed in the Supreme Court each year, and only about 100-150 cases are considered.

Blakely vs. Washington involved sentencing guidelines. In 1998, Ralph Blakely, a schizophrenic man facing divorce and the likely loss of his family trust, forced his wife into a box in his truck and drove her to Montana. Along the way, he begged her to forget the divorce proceedings and leave his money alone. He was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers looked up the Washington state sentencing guidelines and agreed that Blakely should get four years in prison. But the judge took advantage of his right to make his own interpretation and sentenced Blakely to more than seven years. Mr. Fisher didn't like it. The sentence didn't seem fair, and he felt it was a good example of the problem with sentencing guidelines. The Supreme Court had rejected various related cases, and people said Mr. Fisher was crazy for trying. But he thought it was a simple case.

"There's a standard sentencing range, but judges were able to give people stiffer sentences based on the judge's own findings," he said. "And it seemed to me that what sentencing-guideline systems really do is set up normal crimes and then aggravated versions of the crime. And just like when we try to convict somebody of murder instead of manslaughter or of armed robbery instead of robbery, that's a more serious crime that the prosecutor has to prove to the jury. And it seemed to me that with guideline-sentencing systems, we had the same kind of system set up, except defendants didn't have that jury protection."

Mr. Fisher thought the defendants deserved that jury protection.

"And that's really what I was fighting against in the Blakely case," he said. "It was partly that the defendants' rights weren't being protected, because the judges were making findings by preponderance of the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. So there was that burden of proof problem."

Mr. Fisher said his argument was not an attack on judges for taking too much power but more of an attack on the system, which allowed judges to act with more power than a jury when it comes to sentencing. What was the point of guidelines if judges could decide sentences for themselves?

"The judges were acting under the system that the legislature had set up, so, in a sense, if it was anyone, it was the legislature that had been denying defendants their normal procedural rights," Mr. Fisher said.

For Mr. Fisher, who grew up in Kansas City and attended the University of Michigan Law School, it was a return to the Supreme Court. He clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens before moving to Seattle. Of all the clerks he worked with at the Supreme Court, Mr. Fisher was the first to return and argue before the court.

"I was the first one to get back to argue before the Supreme Court, even though if you had asked all of us when we were leaving who's got the best chance based on where we were going, I certainly would not have been listed at the top," he said. "Because I had these friends going to these other fancy offices, and I was off to the hinterlands."

Mr. Fisher believes many attorneys are unhappy because they go to jobs they think will look good on a resume or benefit them in the future instead of doing what they'd enjoy now. Most Supreme Court clerks end up in prestigious D.C. or New York firms. Mr. Fisher and his attorney wife were more interested in a quality, balanced life and chose Seattle because they thought it would be a good place to raise a family.

"I found a job in a really good office here, and I've done really well. And I think part of the reason why is just because I picked a situation I'd be happy in and did the best with it," he said. "A lot of people I talk to who aren't so happy are doing what other people perceive is the right thing to do and not so much what their heart is in. So I think that's been a bit of the lesson from my work."

Mr. Fisher, who is the son of an attorney, laughs when asked if his ultimate goal is to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

"I'm not sure anyone is foolish enough to have that as an ultimate goal. I don't know; that's maybe a little beyond what my dreams would be."

Then again, given his track record, anything is possible.

published April 12, 2023

( 66 votes, average: 4.9 out of 5)
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