Jeffery Campiche

Episode 009

Jeffery Campiche

Firm: Campiche Andrews Horne


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Show Notes

In this episode of “Celebrating Justice,” Jeffery Campiche shares his journey of becoming a trial lawyer and his focus on maritime, civil rights and medical negligence cases.

For more than four decades, Jeffery has successfully represented people severely injured on maritime vessels, in motor vehicle accidents, by unsafe or defective products, and negligent medical providers. Starting out his busy career as a prosecutor-coroner in Ilwaco, Washington, Jeffery continually utilized the invaluable guidance from his doctor father and fellow trial lawyer George Kargianas that encouraged him to center his client’s needs and prioritize politeness in court interactions. 

Listen as Jeffery details thrilling, heart wrenching cases of racial prejudice and corporate negligence, from police shootings to boatman tragedies, and how he approached affected families with the utmost compassion and passion for uncovering the truth and restoring justice, including the famous case of Tommy Le, a young man who was shot and killed by Seattle sheriff’s deputies.


1:08 – Why did you want to become a trial lawyer?
9:55 – A case(s) that Matters
41:35 – Jeffrey’s “Closing Argument”

Key Takeaways

  • Remember your client’s lawful rights, especially when approaching cases involving marginalized groups.
  • Ensure that every client receives equal, lawful treatment in the investigative and trial processes, to the best of your ability.
  • Never leave a stone unturned. Examine every suspicious statement or claim in search for the truth.
  • Approach every examination and questioning with politeness. Always be respectful and civil with the opposing counsel to ensure a fair, successful trial. 
  • Put the client first and make them feel cared for.


[Theme Song Plays]

Jeffery Campiche: I get a call in the middle of the night that there’s a coroner’s call. And I said, well, gosh sake, call a coroner. You’re the lawyer I should call; I need help real bad to be an effective trial lawyer. You have to be respectful. And so, one last story.

Narrator: Welcome to Celebrating Justice, presented by the Trial Lawyers Journal and CloudLex, the next gen legal cloud platform built exclusively for personal injury law. Get inspired by the nation’s top trial lawyers and share in the stories that shape our pursuit of justice. Follow the podcast and join our community at Now here’s your host, editor of TLJ and VP of Marketing at CloudLex, Chad Sands.

Chad Sands: Hello friends! In this episode of Celebrating Justice, we’re speaking to maritime and civil rights trial lawyer Jeffery Campiche. To dive into Jeffery’s stirring tales from navigating the legal seas of maritime law to taking on the Seattle PD, I asked him, why did you want to become a trial lawyer?

Jeffery Campiche: I wanted to become a trial lawyer the day I concluded that I didn’t want to be a commercial fisherman, with all the changes in the industry. I grew up in a place called Ilwaco, Washington. And I was just born to the maritime. We fished, and duck-hunted, and spent all our time out on the bays and the rivers. So that was my first love.

Chad Sands: Were you a fisherman in college?

Jeffery Campiche: I did fish commercially a little bit as a crew member, both on the Dungeness crab boats in the winter and then on the gillnet boats on the Columbia inside the river. But I also was always fascinated by trial lawyers. At first, it was criminal defense, and then it was civil cases. I saw right away in college what good the lawyers were doing for people, individual people. And I never, ever wanted to be a lawyer for corporations and insurance companies. I always wanted to help the individual person. So I went to law school and I was working. And so I did quite well on the tests. And so right away they said, you want to be on law review. And I said, no, I want to find a place where I can learn to be a courtroom lawyer. And so they sent me to this really wonderful man, Tom Odinell, who was a very successful criminal defense lawyer. And Tom hired me as a law clerk, and he forgot to ask me what year in law school I was in. I was in the first year. And Tom was all over the state of Oregon defending big criminal cases. And I went with him and I would try to keep up with my schooling the best I could, but I just carried his briefcase. And finally he said he was going to make me a partner in his firm as soon as I got out of law school. But Tom had been on the White Sands Missile Range nuclear weapons, and he was exposed to radiation, and he developed cancer. And one month before I graduated from law school, he died at 42 years old. Broke my heart. So I decided I had to find a job. And I went back to my home village and got appointed and then elected county prosecutor, where I spent eight years as the county prosecutor and coroner in Pacific County, Washington. And that is the maritime, if ever there was one. It’s the ports of the Columbia River Mouth, of Grays Harbor, of Willapa Harbor. And I was also the coroner with being a prosecutor. 

Chad Sands: Really? 

Jeffery Campiche: Yeah. It was an “oh, by the way,” when I got appointed prosecutor. I got a call in the middle of the night, there’s a coroner’s call. And I said, “well, gosh, call the coroner.” And the dispatcher says, now you’re the coroner. I said, no, I’m the prosecutor. And she said, I’ll have the sheriff pick you up. And so the sheriff, this great albeit guy, I don’t think you ever, ever saw his gun in his whole life. He knew everybody in the county. And he showed me how to be coroner. But it was then I started to see the number of deaths in the maritime. So I served two terms as prosecutor, so eight years. I decided I wanted my kids to be raised where there would be better education. And so I moved to Seattle and took a job in a big personal injury firm. Big meaning: there was 20 lawyers. Within a month. I got hired by two wrongful death maritime cases. People from home knew I was a good lawyer, they said, and they hired me. The first one was a kid who lost his leg, and the other was a widow that lost her husband, both in Alaska, in the Bering Sea. And as you know, Seattle is the source of the Bering Sea fishing fleet. 

Chad Sands: Right. Deadliest catch, they all sail up out of Seattle, right?

Jeffery Campiche: Actually, the deadliest catch people I know on a first name basis because they’re from Westport or they’re from Milwaukee. And I went to high school with them. Corky Tilley is one of them. And they know they are there. And they always call me when they need a lawyer. Whether it’s the Department of Fish and Wildlife has given them a ticket for too many soft crabs, or whether it’s the death of one of their friends or the injury was their friend’s. First call I got was a kid, who called a big firm, and I heard the reception say that Mr. Campiche is not available. He’s unavailable. And he announced this, all the way up. And I walk by the front desk. I said, no, no, I’m right here. I’ll take the call. There was a phone in the reception area and I took the call. The young man said, my uncle says, you’re a good lawyer. He says his ex-wife’s new husband’s sister says, you’re the lawyer I should call. I need help real bad. I said, well, what’s happened? He says, well, and he starts crying. He says they’re going to amputate my leg. So why are they going to amputate your leg? He said, well, the cable broke and hit my leg and they said they got to amputate it. And Mr. Campiche, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve got a wife and two kids, so I’m behind on the mortgage. That’s why I took this job on this Bering Sea fishing boat. And I’m terrified. And I said, well, I’ll come see you, since you don’t understand, I’m in Anchorage. I said, I’ll be there tomorrow. While I was there, another lady came in to check on him and she said, are you Campiche from Ilwaco? I said, yeah. She said, well, I’ve been calling, trying to find you. My husband drowned when a fishing boat turned over last month, and I don’t know what I’m going to do. And there started my maritime career right there in the main lobby of the Anchorage Providence Hospital.

Chad Sands: She just happened to be-?

Jeffery Campiche: No, she was related to this kid.

Chad Sands: Related to the kid that you went up to visit.

Jeffery Campiche: She was going to check on him and she was in mourning for the loss of her husband. And she said the county clerk in Pacific County had said that I should find you. She didn’t know who to talk to and it was a turnover of a mid-water trawler. And we established that the design of the boat was to be a crab boat, not a dragger, and that it wasn’t properly designed to do what it was doing. And we collected for the widow and we collected for the boy. And that started my career. Meanwhile, the Longshore Union’s subsidiary, which is the Inland Boatmen Union, these are tugboat workers and ferry workers. There’s big ferries in Seattle, as you know. And they said, we need another designated council to help our injured people under the Jones Act, which is a unique set of laws that apply to seamen, giving them some special rights. They don’t have labor and industry. So you’ve got to prove negligence or an unsafe condition called on seawards. Or they don’t get anything. And so the Inland Boatmen Union started sending me tugboat workers and ferry workers. And within a year and a half, I was full time busy. And I kept getting fishing cases because all the guys I went to high school with, when somebody got hurt, they’d say, it’s usually their friend’s kids because, you know, the older guys weren’t, but the kids were. And then, one day I got called for what became the Bellwether case in maritime.

Chad Sands: Tell me more about this one.

Jeffery Campiche: Yeah. This is the sinking of the Aleutian enterprise. The Aleutian Enterprise was a catcher processor, it was one of the big ships in this Alaska Seafoods company. It’s got 150 people on it, and it’s dragging a big net. Got about the wingspan of a 747, dragging it down the bottom of the ocean, scraping the ocean bare and pulling up all this fish that is pulled onto the vessel and processed on the vessel. So the workers are really cannery workers. There’s a deck crew, but there’s cannery workers. The commandant of the Coast Guard, a Reagan appointee, said that the working conditions were feudal on these boats. These people worked 16, 20 hours a day in 40 degrees or 35 degrees, processing those fish, putting them in a box and putting them in a freezer. So the Aleutian enterprise was a big ship. And what happened was the skipper or the captain was focusing more on catch and production, as was Alaska Seafoods. And the vessel had not trained the people on the boat on what to do to get off the vessel if it got in trouble. And on the side of the vessel they had four windows about the size of your laptop computer, maybe a big laptop, that had flaps on them. They were hinged on the outside of the hull so that the water pushed it closed. And these, by law, could only be higher than where the water would get to when the boat heeled at 15 degrees. It’s called the load line law. But the owner of Alaska Seafoods, the owner of the boat, took the position with the congressmen letter that some of these Coast Guard rules didn’t apply to them because they really were processing plants. The Coast Guard commandant wrote back and said, Raul, you’ve got to comply with these. Unfortunately, the correspondence was going back and forth and they hadn’t repaired those holes and 2 or 3 of them, the hinges had just rotted off and the flapper had fallen off, and they were shoving all the fish waste out those holes. His boat was low on fuel and he dumped a ton of fish on the top deck. He had a great catch and it was top heavy and bottom light, and it heeled over. And those what they called shit shoots were underwater and the water sprayed in like a hose. The pumps in the processing plant, the fish processing plant were all jammed up with stuff, fish waste, etc. So they couldn’t de-water the boat, they couldn’t get it to go back up from heel. And she turned over on a calm day in the Bering Sea. People died and people got on the cold water and got injured that way. And I got some of the case. And this became a great scandal in Seattle that it is likened by all people in the maritime to the Brooklyn Shirt Company fire in New York, where all those women had to jump to their death from the building that was on fire. And it was celebrated in Congress, and it was used to change the Coast Guard’s posture. It was used to change the laws, in Congress and to enforce that load line restriction. So the lady that hired me for the sinking, the death of her husband, we got a marine architect to look at the plans of the vessel and to calculate why it sank. And the reason it sank is it was not designed to pull a net. It was designed as a crab boat. And the big design characteristic in a crab boat is the live tank. It’s like a swimming pool. And they dump the crabs in there and they keep them alive that way. There’s circulating water, and there’s certain things they gotta do to make sure that it’s not half full, so it doesn’t bounce back and forth and sink the boat.

So those were my first cases in the maritime, but I had a lot of tugboat injuries, amputations, drownings, crushed hands and feet. And I routinely did those. And for the Boatmen’s Union members. And then I did fishing cases. One day my father, who was a doctor, called me and said, I have a case I’m bringing you. He lived out in Long Beach. I lived in Seattle at the Columbia Center. And I said, my office was in the Columbia Center. I said, well, okay, what kind of case? He said, medical negligence. I said, you know, I haven’t been to a lot. You’re going to do this one because this is so wrong. And so he brought me this really delightful 30 year old woman who had metastasized breast cancer. And she had gone into a clinic in Seattle a year before, and they found a lump on her breast and the doctor examined her and said, well, this is a cyst. You’re too young to have breast cancer. She said, I’m so relieved, you know, my mother died of breast cancer. And she said, I’m just terrified. He said, you don’t have anything to worry about. And she left. And then she came down to Long Beach, where my dad was and wandered into his clinic for an exam. And he saw a lump, and he asked her about it, and it was painful. And he knew that it was a big tumor. So I sued on my first medical negligence case with my dad finding me all my expert witnesses. And we prevailed. Unfortunately, Sally only lived 3 or 4 years and the money went to her son. She was a single parent. 

Chad Sands: Tragic. 

Jeffery Campiche: And what I did was I started, because there was some publicity on it, I started to get more and more medical negligence cases, and the next one was a Hispanic child that was rendered quadriplegic. He was in Yakima, and his parents took him into a primary care doctor because his eye was closed with a bunch of pus in it, and the doctor sent him to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist told him that it was a bug bite and gave him some steroids cream to put in it. But it actually was a bacterial infection called cellulitis, which is an infection in your skin. The steroid was the worst thing to put on it because it pushes it in the skin. So he ended up with an infection in his brain called meningitis. And the infant was rendered quadriplegic. I go to take the doctor’s deposition, the ophthalmologist, and he says to me, I said, you know, doctor, I didn’t see that you took the child’s body temperature. He said the child was not febrile. I spoke. So you did take the body temperature? Yes, with my hand. I put my hand on the child’s cheek. I said, wouldn’t wouldn’t the thermometer have been a little more objective? And he said, well, I didn’t need it, this kid wasn’t sick. And what about taking a sample of the prurient material, you describing the eye and sending it to the lab? I didn’t need to do that. Because? Because this child was suffering from a bug bite. I said, how did you know that? He said, you don’t live in Yakima, do you? I said, no, I live in Seattle. I grew up in Ilwaco. He said, well, these people have very dirty homes and they have lots of bugs. And instead of getting angry, I said, when you say these people, who do you mean? The Mexicans, there’s a lot of Mexicans around here work in the fields. I said, I see, so if I understand you correctly, your diagnostic criteria was not the thermometer and it was not the laboratory, but it was your knowledge of how dirty the Mexicans’ homes are and how many bugs and spiders they have? “That’s right. And if you lived here, you’d know that.”

Chad Sands: And he said that?

Jeffery Campiche: He said it on the video. It was the first time I ever videotaped a deposition. Pretty soon, he’s got a flight of lawyers from their insurance company, and they’re bringing a motion to keep that out of the case, out of my opening statement.

Chad Sands: What you captured in the deposition.

Jeffery Campiche: Right. And so I drive to Yakima for the motion. I’m a little nervous because, you know, it’s a pretty conservative place. And at that time, there were those people that lived up kind of on the ridges and those people that lived down at the bottom of the ridges. And a lot of the people on the bottom of the ridges were immigrants, and some of them were not legal immigrants. They were there to work the fields. They came and went. But it made up more than half the population of Yakima County, were the Hispanic immigrants. And so we get to argue to the judge, and I was a little worried, okay? And the judge says, let’s talk in chambers. And it was a “her”, which really did surprise me, the female judge. This was a long time ago. I get in her chamber and I’m sitting there and they’re going on and on about how prejudicial this is. And I’m looking on her desk and there’s a picture of a wedding. She’s marrying a woman, the judge, and I thought, well, maybe these guys have a problem. And then she said, the standard is not, is this prejudicial? The standard is, is it unfairly prejudicial? And there’s nothing unfair about Mr. Campiche asking what his diagnostic criteria was, and he did it politely. And the doctor answered, and I think the jury needs to hear that. And I think they’re going to be as angry about it as I am, as upset about what that doctor said and did as I am. This poor child is quadriplegic. This child did not get an opportunity to get that infection treated. The doctor kept them from it. And, then I was now with these two cases moving more towards medical negligence cases. And as you know, in medical negligence cases, the injuries are catastrophic. 

Finally, when I first went to law school, I went with a guy named Jake Tanzer from the ACLU to be a law clerk in a civil rights case. The disappearance of a man registering voters in Mississippi. The sheriff picked him up one day and nobody ever saw him again. And Jake was suing the sheriff. I had never seen a courtroom. I was one week in law school, and Jake said, well, why don’t you come down for a week before your law school starts? So I came down and when I got there, the team was sitting around the hotel and Jake said, Jeffery, would you go down to the federal court and see what’s happening in the criminal prosecution of the sheriff? Because the Justice Department had come in and was broken. Now I’m telling you the truth. I’ve never been in a courtroom. Okay? So I go down and I knew enough to just get in a cab and say, take me to the federal courthouse. So I get there and I walk in and I find out from a lady in the clerk’s office where that case is, and I go in the room. But I was late. And as I walked in, the judge’s hammer conditioning says, we’re in recess. The sheriff in a very big voice, says to his lawyer, what did he say, Billy? And Billy says, well, Sheriff, he entered a not guilty plea for you. Well, that’s good, because I didn’t kill that n-word. And he says, but Sheriff, we don’t know that that man’s dead, you know how these people are. They just wander off and leave their families. They have no responsibility. Yes, that’s what I meant. Everybody’s watching these guys.

Chad Sands: In the courtroom? 

Jeffery Campiche: It’s still full. There’s reporters. And the lawyer says, well, and Sheriff, then the judge has required us to postpone. What do you mean, postpone? Bail, Sheriff. Bail? What happens if I don’t want to post bail? Well, Sheriff, you’d have to go to jail. And he looks up at the judge who’s sitting there, and he says, he and what army is going to put me in jail? And the judge looks at him, and he, kind of, an unassuming judge, and he says, well, you know, that would be the United States Army. And you could just hear everybody go, oh! So I went back to law school in Portland, but my friend Katie was there for the closing argument. And this is what really cinched why I wanted to do civil rights cases. I wasn’t there, but Katie told me that Jake got up at the end of the case, his rebuttal, and he said, you know, there’s only one thing that both sides of this case agree on. You know, they were saying, we don’t know where that guy went. You know, we didn’t kill anybody. I don’t know why they’re suing us. We don’t have anything against black people. And Jake says, well, we all agree that I’m a Jewish lawyer from Portland, Oregon, and I don’t have any stake in your community. The jury kind of looks at him, like-

Chad Sands: Did he really say that? 

Jeffery Campiche: Yes, he said that. But he said, you do. You’ve been selected to represent your community. You’ve been selected to make a very important decision. What is the value of a human life in Natchez, Mississippi? And what you decide will determine your community not only for while you’re alive, but for your children and your grandchildren. And if you put a fair value on Howard’s life, then this kind of behavior will stop and your community will not be divided by race and poverty and anger. I’m not going to be here. In fact, you’ll see I’ve got my suitcase here. I’m leaving right after this argument. Thank you for listening to me. And I’m sure you will remember your responsibility to your community. And Jake walked out, went to the airport and went back to Portland, where he came back with a couple million dollars.

Chad Sands: You didn’t stay for the verdict? 

Jeffery Campiche: Nope. 

Chad Sands: And he walked out of the courtroom?

Jeffery Campiche: He said there it was, trying to make the message. It’s your community, not mine.

Chad Sands: That’s amazing.

Jeffery Campiche: Walked right out. Anyway, I thought this really might make a difference. 

Chad Sands: Yes. 

Jeffery Campiche: And so one last story. A couple of years ago, I got a call from a lawyer that was working for me, a young Vietnamese girl. She was an American-born Vietnamese, but her parents were boat people. They came out of Vietnam literally on the boats with nothing. And there had been a police shooting of a Vietnamese boy. And Linda asked me if I would go talk to the family. So I go to White Center. I don’t know if you know what White Center is, if you lived here, you might. There’s no wealth in White Center. But this house, when I got there, was painted, it had a garden and flowers. It was cared for. And sitting there was a very lovely Vietnamese woman. Suyen sat down. Her mother, the grandmother, the matriarch of the family, couldn’t speak a lot of English. So she told me the story that the police had come to their house, the sheriff’s office, and told them that their son, Tommy, her nephew, had been shot when he attacked two sheriff’s deputies with a knife. When the cop came to the house, the father answered the door and the sheriff told him that and the father said, well, got the wrong house. My boy wouldn’t do that and didn’t budge. No we wouldn’t. Nobody in my family would do that. There were two sisters, aunties, grandma, father, living in the house. And then Tommy. Tommy was a diminutive boy, small, quiet, and fairly studious. So the shooting happened at midnight out on the street. So I figured, you know, maybe Tommy was in a little bit of trouble. I didn’t know that. And so I sat down at the table. Meanwhile, grandma’s feeding me pho, piles of soup, and I said to the sisters, I said, well, what kind of person was Tommy? And they said, oh, everybody loved Tommy. He was so kind, he wouldn’t even kill a bug. All the neighbors liked him. What did he do in his spare time? Oh, we like to read books and play chess. And I said, all right, ladies, look, you both have college degrees, right? They both went to the University of Washington. These were not dumb kids. And both mothers. And so I said, you know, you don’t have to try to convince me that he was a wonderful guy. I’m going to look at this case. They’re not supposed to shoot him, even if he’s a jerk. They should know. And so I said, show me his bedroom. So I went in the bedroom and there by the bed was a backpack. And when you Google “Tommy Le”, you’ll see the picture of him with the red backpack. It became all over the city, all over the country. And in the backpack, I found a small wooden box. And when you opened it up, the back of it was a chessboard. And there were chess pieces in the box, and the box was all worn out. You can hardly see the squares anymore. So then I looked on the table next to his bed, the bedside table with the light on it, you know. There were two books on it from the library. The first one was The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. If you’ve read it, you’ll know it’s a beautiful book and very hard to read. It takes Dumas a chapter and a half to say the forest was green. It’s not a book for people that don’t enjoy reading. The other book was Faust by Goiter, and it had all kinds of writing in it, papers that he had written. And I thought, this can’t be right. This kid’s 18. He’s not in college. He’s reading Faust by himself? I told him that we were going to look at the case for him. I was going to go to the medical examiner. And in Washington state, the family has a right to meet with a medical examiner. Now, you got to understand, the sheriff’s office is represented in civil cases by the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office would decide whether there’s a crime committed in shooting the boy. So they were never neutral. And they didn’t get neutral. What they did was help the sheriffs hide evidence. So I go write a letter to the medical examiner and ask for an appointment on behalf of the family. And I get a call that the prosecutor’s office is going to send somebody with me. And I said, nope. Nothing in the statute gives you the right to go with me. I don’t want you to go with me. Click. So I go to the medical examiner’s office. Now, remember, I had been a coroner. 

Chad Sands: Yes.

Jeffery Campiche: So I was used to autopsies. And I get up there and I’m sitting, waiting. And a young Asian kid with kind of spiky hair comes over and he hands me the autopsy and he says, you know, it’s bullshit, don’t you? And I said, what’s bullshit? What the sheriff’s are saying. What are they saying? Were they saying that this boy attacked them with a knife? I said, yeah, that’s what they’re saying, it’s all over the TV. There’s no knife. And he was shot in the back. No. So I open it up. Cause of death. Handgun wound to the back. So I go in and see the medical examiner. And I have a guy with me named Toby Hays. What Toby Hays is, is a human factors engineer.

Chad Sands: What is a human factors engineer?

Jeffery Campiche: They talk about how things affect people in machines, etc. But Toby taught at Stanford and Harvard and University of Pennsylvania, taught anatomy, taught healing of bones, and investigation of incidents, trauma incidents. And so Toby looks at – I hand him the autopsy and he looks at it. We go in to see the pathologist and, I said, this young man was shot in the back. He said yes. Oh, twice, he said, there’s two bullet holes, okay? One of them goes all the way through, but one is flat inside the skin, or it’s through the skin. So it looks like a mushroom flattened on his abdomen. Toby says to me, shit, this is a photograph right here in the medical. So he looked at the medical devices. That’s a short bullet wound, isn’t it? Yes. Okay, Toby, I said, help me out here. What’s a short bullet wound? A short bullet wound occurs when the bullet is going to exit the body and something stops it. Like the street, because he’s laying on his belly. He shoots him in the back, making sure he’s dead.

Chad Sands: Tommy was already shot in the back.

Jeffery Campiche: And he’s already laying on his abdomen. And then the issue of the knife. There is no knife. There is no fucking knife anywhere. And they looked. They looked and they looked and they looked. Not only wasn’t there a knife where he was shot and dropped, but there’s no knife where he’d been.

Chad Sands: And a magical knife never appeared.

Jeffery Campiche: No. But what did appear is a magical plastic ink pen, to which the sheriff said they could, if used correctly, this could be a deadly weapon. Okay, so we have four deputy sheriffs. Okay? One of them is 6’4, 220 pounds with not an ounce of fat. The other three are, you know, 5’9-10 to 6 foot, and they are fit. Tommy is 90 pounds.

Chad Sands: But the four deputies were scared for their life.

Jeffery Campiche: And the life of the people there. Well, where would Tommy, in jogging shorts and a t-shirt, put his ink pen? Where would the deputy sheriff in uniform put an ink pen? Where did the ink pen come from? Well, it’s just like the ink pen, if you went in the sheriff’s office and you had to fill out a form?

Chad Sands: Yes.

Jeffery Campiche: In their little jars. So this was the Tommy Le case. And we first had to confront King County’s system of holding a hearing to determine whether a death was a crime, an accident. A coroner’s inquest hearing. And the rules for the coroner’s inquest were written by the executive, and they didn’t give the family a voice. The family couldn’t make an opening statement, the family couldn’t cross-examine the witness, the family couldn’t select the witnesses. So I have a publicist.

Chad Sands: Smart. 

Jeffery Campiche: And she gets me in front of the local press. About 15 reporters, and we attack the whitewashed system of this. Other spokespeople from the various communities did that, too. I’m invited by the publisher of the Vietnamese newspaper to a dinner on behalf of the new mayor. So I go with them, and I sit down at the big round table with the publisher there, Mr. Zimm. And he turns around, he says, this is Tommy Le’s lawyer. Oh. Now, the mayor was shaking hands, and pretty soon I’m shaking hands. I had arthritis in my hand for a week. The community was so incensed at this. A group of the Vietnamese society, the Korean society, all those groups got together and wrote a letter to the sheriff when she issued this report that the officers had acted in self-defense because the report didn’t mention he was shot in the back. 

And concluded that under the right circumstances, that plastic ink pen could be a deadly weapon. This just blew the city apart. We sue, we take the deposition of the detective, and we put each of the documents that were generated by the sheriff’s office, and they mention the boy shot in the back in this document. No. What about your investigative report? So that didn’t go so well for them. We’re going to trial. Now, as you might know, at that time in our history, the police had real advantages in these cases. The juries liked the police. This is before George Floyd. The police are given the benefit of the doubt. They’ve got the qualified immunity exception. And then, two weeks before the trial, the judge looked at me one day with my clients in the courtroom, and he said, Mr. Campiche. Now, this is the same judge from the Aleutian Enterprise case that I told you about. 

Chad Sands: Really? 

Jeffery Campiche: Yep. And 3 or 4 big product cases I’d had, and a bunch of maritime cases for hearing loss against the tugboat companies. And I knew him before he got there. He was in a big firm, but he was a fair man. So he looks at me with this room full of all kinds of people, and he says, Mr. Campiche. I promise you that your clients are going to get a fair trial in this case. He had seen that stuff about him shot in the back. He’d seen that in our motions and stuff. He said, you’re going to get a fair trial. But they filed an appeal on my denial of their summary judgment motion, and that deprived me of jurisdiction of the case until it comes back from the Ninth Circuit. So there’s not going to be a trial in two weeks and it goes on appeal.

One of my friends served on the state Supreme Court. He does appeals work now. He had run for attorney general when I was prosecutor, and I helped him. His name is Phillip Talmage and he’s a thinker. And so he did our appeal to the Ninth Circuit. And his argument was eloquent. 

Chad Sands: What did he say? 

Jeffery Campiche: You know, they picked this guy up after he shot to get pat him on the back and gave him a promotion, gave him his gun back. It ain’t right. And he did it so well. But anyway, one week after his argument, George Floyd died on the video. 

Chad Sands: Wow. 

Jeffery Campiche: And Seattle went, boom. Portland went boom. Many American cities were boom. And then we have the right wing response to that, and the left wing crazies and the whole country was in turmoil. But the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion that the appeal by the sheriff’s office was frivolous. It was not based on good faith legal issue, and sanctioned lawyers 75 grand each and sent it back for trial. And then as we got close to the trial, they offered money, real money, and we took it. One of the reasons we did, and it was a hard decision because I kind of wanted to try it and the family did, but I said, you know, they’re paying you $5 million. And publicly, that’s a statement that they murdered your son. And, you know, we could lose the trial. But this is a statement. And I’ve had three police shootings since. I really believe in justice for the poor and the downtrodden. And that’s what I find so wonderful about being a trial lawyer, that if my office and myself are prepared, that even the poor, even the minority people have just as good a lawyer as the corporation and the government or whoever we’re suing by being a good trial lawyer that’s prepared and funded, we can bring justice. We can have the poor people be equal in the courtroom. And that’s what I remember that judge saying. And you’re going to get a fair trial. And so, you know, if you answer, why did I become a trial lawyer? I think always in my heart, I wanted to do my part to bring justice to people that didn’t have the resources to get it. I really believe in the goodness of America.

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Now here is this episode’s closing argument.

Jeffery Campiche: I had two mentors. The first one was my father, who was a doctor, and he told me that we are in professions first, business second. We put our patient or our client first, and when we do that, we will be more successful. We will have more clients, more patients, and the people will know that if you’re all about making money and not about taking care of your client or your patient, you will not be as successful and it will not be as meaningful. When I would call him and tell him I made a lot of money in a case, he was never interested in that. He would say, how did you help your client? He just stayed with me on that. During those years where you’re a young clerk lawyer, sort of taken with yourself, and he really kept me humble. The other lawyer that was such a great guy to me was George Kargianas, and he was a terrific lawyer. But George always was polite with everyone, and he didn’t get into that, “All insurance companies are creeps, all insurance adjusters are jerks. They’re just trying to screw everybody over.” There’s a story from George I’ll never forget. If we were trying a railroad case, and the issue was that the couple had been killed when they were crossing the railroad track in a car. And the train hit them. And it was in a rural county in Washington state. And our theory was that the railroad had not cleared off the brush that got close to the track, and the driver of the car couldn’t see the train come, and it was an unmarked crossing. Halfway through the trial, the railroad company’s lawyer said, judge, I’ve got a new witness. I didn’t know about this person. And he saw the accident. Uh oh. It was a 15 year old kid, and his story was that the car started across the railroad track and then stalled. And then the train hit it. He hadn’t told anybody this. And the judge let him testify. So I’m sitting there next to George and I said, you know, I can’t think of a question for this kid George. He says, well, I’ll handle it, but it’s got to be polite. So George starts questioning the witness, the boy, Tommy. And George says well, are you by yourself here today, Tommy? And he said, no, I’ve got my parents. I see, and who’s that? Well, that’s my teacher. So this is pretty important. Yes. And you’re important. Well, yeah. But you’re probably used to that. Probably a great athlete, right? No, I didn’t really make the team. I see, well, you’re probably a straight A student, right? No. But today you’re important, aren’t you?. Yeah. But you didn’t see it, actually did you, Tommy? No, I’m sorry. And George said, I’m sorry, I had to ask that question, but I had to, Tommy. And he did it so nicely that the jury liked George. They didn’t dislike him for beating up that kid. And the kid probably wouldn’t have said no, I didn’t see it if I had done it, because I’d have gone right after him, right?

And I learned something, and I learned that to be an effective trial lawyer, you have to be respectful even of the people you disagree with. And that’s how my practice has developed. And I think it’s been more successful. I get along very well with the opposing counsel. I don’t give away what I’m not supposed to, but I really believe in being polite and respectful. And I think Mr. Kargianas taught that, and I believe in putting my client first. And my dad taught me that, the doctor. His office was always jammed with patients. Because they all knew that Campiche cared about them.

Chad Sands: That was trial lawyer Jeffery Campiche, thanks for sharing those legal stories from the sea and the streets of Seattle. To learn more about Jeffery and his firm, visit I’m Chad Sands. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

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