My friend and mentor Walter Deierlein died October 22, 2010. When I got out of law school in 1959 I couldn't get a job. Jack (we called him Jack) was the Skagit & Island County Prosecuting Attorney and out of the kindness of his heart he hired me as a second deputy prosecuting attorney. Harry Follman, who later became a judge, was the other deputy. I think he created the job because he and my dad were friends, but I was happy to have the work. I was paid $220 a month. However, the job allowed us to have a law practice as well as being county prosecutors. So the benefits included an office and sharing a secretary.
Jack gave me the justice court work. What is now a district court was then a justice court. I prosecuted traffic offenses and misdemeanor crimes primarily, in both Skagit and Island Counties. However, at that time the law didn't require a justice court judge to be a lawyer. Many were not lawyers. They were garage mechanics or real estate people who worked part time as a judge for a specific area in the county. They were paid a percentage of the fines and assessments they imposed. As you might imagine, under a system where the judge gets paid if there is a fine, the conviction rate with fines was very high. I prosecuted everything from drunk driving to illegal liquor manufacturering. Most of the time the police offficer who made the arrest knew more about trials then I did so I was happy to have advice from them about it.
We had one secretary for all three of us. She did our private law work as well as the criminal work. Mrs. Cook had been the secretary in that office for a very long time and knew more about the law and criminal practice then I could ever hope to know. I'd dictate legal documents to her and she had the good sense to simply ignore my dictation and do it right. I learned early on to listen to experience and have the common sense to accept the fact paralegals often know the job better then the lawyer in some areas.
Jack taught me how to be a lawyer. Since it was a mix of civil and criminal work, it was a huge help to have someone of his experience teaching me. He was always totally prepared for every trial and taught me the importance of hard work in trial preparation. He has been born and raised in the county and knew everyone. He taught me the skill and importance of interviewing clients and witnesses as well as not acting like a big shot lawyer. He also taught about the civil practice as well. Harry was a very good lawyer whom everyone liked. He was able to also teach me a lot about the practice as well. Having the two them as mentors was wonderful.
After awhile, Jack let me try some felony cases in Superior Court. He and Harry Follman guided me in how to be a trial lawyer and I certainly needed the help. Jack and I tried cases together and that was an education. He had me brief every conceivable issue might come up. He thought about every aspect of the trial in advance and prepared for it. He'd say to me: "Paul, last night when I was in the bath tub I got thinking about something we need to work on" and would give me another job in preparing for trial. He was an excellent trial attorney and a great mentor.
I knew and liked Jack's father who was a logger in Sedro Woolley where Jack attended school. Like me, Jack had worked all through high school and college in the summers. He worked in the logging camps and shingle mills in that area which gave him a common touch with working people. While in law school at the University of Washington during summers he also worked as a seaman. Jack was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves and during WW II was sent to California by the military where he met Lt. Mildred Crabtree, "Micki" his future wife. They married in 1946. They had a daughter Sarah. Micki died in 2006. Jack was sent to England and was involved in the D Day landing. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in France. His military service interrupted his college so after his service he returned to law school and graduated. He returned to Skagit County where he practiced law and was elected to office.
Jack was appointed a Skagit & Island County Superior Court Judge in1966 and retired 1989. He was elected president of the State Association of Superior Court Judges. After his retirement he and Micki did a lot of traveling around the world.
This report seems to me too inadequate to describe my friend who was a unique human being. He had a compassion for those in need and a strong moral sense of right and wrong. He was active in community affairs and was an important individual in the county. Most significant, he was my first mentor. I was lucky it was someone like Jack with strong moral and ethical principles who taught me the importance of treating people fairly as well as helping those in need. I am indebted to Walter Jack Deierlein Jr. May he rest in peace.