An exceptional attorney living in Washington state, with Moldovan origins, is well known not only because she takes great care of her clients, but because she is running for Snohomish County Superior Court Judge elections this November, HORA in America reports, in an exclusive interview with Anna Alexander by Irina VanPatten in Seattle, WA.
An exceptional attorney living in Washington State with Moldovan origins is, not only, well known because she takes great care of her clients but she is also running for Snohomish County Superior Court Judge this November. Anna Alexander is a highly respected and dynamic attorney who possesses expertise in DUIs, Domestic Violence and all levels of felony and misdemeanor criminal charges. HORA in America includes an exclusive interview with Anna Alexander by Irina VanPatten in Seattle, WA.
Anna began her first year of law school when she was 19 years old. While at the University of Washington, she completed her law degree at the age of 22 receiving “distinguished” and “honors” marks. Two years later Anna defended the first of several murder cases. Anna was named “Rising Star” by Washington Law and Politics Magazine presently serving as President of Snohomish County Washington Women Lawyers.
For the past nineteen years, Anna has successfully tried cases in Superior and District Courts that helped injured clients recover substantial sums of money from the insurance industry. She runs a thriving office where she continues her vigorous representation of those accused of serious crimes and those who suffered serious injury.
Irina VanPatten: Let’s start with where are you from? How did you get here? A little backstory.
Anna Alexander: I was born in Chisinau, Moldova, on New Year’s Day in 1978. My mom tells the story of how she was in a room full of women in active labor, having to crawl to each other for comfort, while doctors and nurses were busy watching the New Year’s program. I was 11 when we first moved to the U.S in 1989.
It was the year of the Goodwill Games in Seattle. We came here as refugees, so our sponsors rented us an apartment right across from Husky Stadium, the venue for the Goodwill Games. Everyone thought that Soviet immigrants were incredibly fascinating. Back home I went to a school that taught English starting with first grade, so when I went to school here, I was able to communicate almost immediately. Therefore, I assimilated fairly quickly. And here I am 30 years later.
Irina VanPatten: How and why did you become a lawyer?
Anna Alexander: I’ve always been a person who likes to stand up against injustice, especially, stand the underdog. That has been a personality trait of mine. I went to Seattle Hebrew Academy on Capitol Hill on a scholarship where we studied the Old Testament which actually contains old biblical laws and arguments and arguments regarding them.
In seventh grade, our class went before the Seattle Municipal Court and presented biblical disputes in a real courtroom, where we acted as lawyers or witnesses and then a judge made rulings. We then discussed how different the rulings were in secular law versus Talmudic law. That was a lot of fun.
A Seattle Times’ article quoted me at 13. While at Roosevelt High School I felt that the pace of education was too slow and I finished high school in three years and earned at undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in two years. I was admitted to UW Law School at 19. At the time, I was the youngest person admitted to the University of Washington. I wasn’t even of legal age to drink until my last year of law school.
I really enjoyed the trial advocacy classes and being a trial lawyer. I had various jobs during law school, including in the King County Prosecutor’s Office and as a prosecutor in the city of Renton. After I passed the bar, I went to work at the Snohomish County Public Defender’s Office.
I was admitted to practice in 2000, went into private practice in 2005, and opened my own practice two years later, the Law Firm of Anna Goyhkman Alexander. Incidentally, the same year I met my husband. He was a prosecutor in court and I was a public defender there.
Primarily we faced off in court against one another for a while, until we fell in love. Then we worked in different courts, so there wouldn’t be a conflict of interest.
Irina VanPatten: What is the most difficult part of your job? You went into law with the vision of what the law is and with this protector of the underdog personality. But when you started practicing law, what shocked you comparatively to what you thought about it and the reality?
Anna Alexander: I’ve been a lawyer for nearly 20 years and now looking back, what I didn’t realize was how personally draining and difficult it is to represent a client as a defense lawyer who is falsely accused who I believe is innocent than representing someone who’s potentially guilty, because of the pressure and consequences of a wrongful conviction. We know that wrongful convictions occur because there are people who are getting exonerated by DNA evidence.
The scariest part is when a case doesn’t have DNA evidence. Then the likelihood of wrongfully convicted people is greater. Probably, the most surprising thing is not if I’ll be able to defend someone who I believe is guilty, because that part is easy.
As long as the person’s rights are protected by the government and by the courts, I’ve done my job as a lawyer. It’s much more difficult when you represent an innocent client. In a criminal case, it’s a lot of pressure on a defense lawyer to ensure someone who’s truly innocent isn’t wrongfully convicted. This is redundant, it really says the same thing just a little differently. I don’t think you need it.
Irina VanPatten: Can you give us a few examples, so our readers can understand?
Anna Alexander: Right now, it’s a nuanced situation being a woman lawyer, representing men who are accused of sexual misconduct or rape. Certainly, there are many instances where the allegations are 100% true and the men need the punishment for their criminal behavior. In this era, we want to encourage women and young girls to come forward and we want to believe them.
There are also times when a girl had a boyfriend, but then hooked up with another boy, and when the news got out, she told the boyfriend that it was rape. Then she had to stick to that story because no one wants to be the liar, that made such a hideous accusation against someone. Then the ball just keeps rolling, trying to prove whether the contact was consensual or not.
Those are very difficult cases and they occur much more often than one would think. When it happens to your family, your son or your nephew, then you really come to understand: “wow, they are presumed guilty, not innocent”.
Irina VanPatten: Let’s talk about the position that you’re running for.
Anna Alexander: I’m running for Snohomish County Superior Court Judge, position #7. The primary is on August 6th 2019. The Superior Court is the county’s main trial court and it deals with a variety of cases, ranging from felony criminal cases to divorces, child custody, civil and contract disputes, employment disputes, probate, basically anything that’s not a traffic infraction or a misdemeanor.
That’s primarily where my practice has been for the last 18 years. I have been appointed by the Snohomish County Superior Court judges to be what’s called a “pro-tem judge” which is a temporary judge who fills in when judges go on vacation or are sick. I strive to be a neutral decision maker.
Irina VanPatten: Why you’re running for office?
Anna Alexander: I’m running for this position because I’m convinced we need more women serving in our courts. I will share a little anecdote from my practice, as a woman lawyer, how I came to this conclusion. At 21 when I was a prosecutor in Renton, I remember seeing a woman in my law school, wearing a bright red power suit. I thought she looked terrific. I loved that red suit on her. It was exactly what I wanted to portray, so I bought myself a bright red power suit, and I wore it one day to court.
A week later, my supervisor at the Renton City Prosecutor’s Office called me into her office, sat me down and gave me the local Renton Crier newspaper that had a rant section about me, which said: “Rant about the young female Renton prosecutor who was wearing a super short red dress and was shaking her booty at all the Renton police officers in court.”
My boss, who was a woman, said: “I saw what you were wearing and it was perfectly appropriate and you looked great. But I want you to understand, this is what we women have to deal with and this is how the women are treated everywhere, including the courtroom.”
She also told me something that I didn’t understand at the time, because I was just 21. I am almost 42 and understand it now. My boss said “My best day of my legal career was when I started getting gray hair.” Finally she would be taken seriously by men from opposing counsel, men-litigants and judges. I was so humiliated. I never wore that red suit again.
About 10 years later, I was already a respected attorney in the state. I was asked to give a speech about a certain topic to the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It was a big privilege and honor for me and clearly meant that people looked up to me and wanted to learn more from me.
I decided that I would buy myself another red suit. My close friends who know my Renton story knew why this was significant and symbolic. Fast forward another 10 years. I’ve been in practice for almost 20 years and I’m in trial with a prosecutor who has half of the legal experience that I do, is acting like a child in court, referring to me as “she” instead of “counsel” and is throwing tantrums in front of the judge.
He then says for the record “Judge, I want you to tell her to stop looking at the jury with that smug little face.” I was standing in front of the judge, whom I’ve known for many years, and he’d always been very encouraging to me and very appropriate in every way. He asked me “Counsel, do you have a response?” All I said was just one word “No.”
I didn’t have a response to that. In my role as president of Washington Women Lawyers of Snohomish County Chapter I tell young lawyers being sworn in about this case. Though the judge didn’t say anything bad to me he didn’t call out or correct the male attorney for his misogyny. Throughout the years, I question whether or not the male opposing counsel and male judges would have said the same thing to a male opposing counsel or a man in general? Most of the time my answer is “Of course, they would never do that.” That’s one of my motivations for running.
Irina VanPatten: When did you become the president of Washington Women Lawyers?
Anna Alexander: I’ve been on the board of Washington Women Lawyers for 15 years and last year the members elected me to the position of president of the Snohomish County Chapter. We host a variety of events, including networking where we encourage women law students and young women lawyers to connect and develop a network. While women are a lot more involved now in law, it is still a good old boys club, a bit exclusive to old judges who, to a large degree, like to choose their replacements on the bench. They are sort of chosen heirs. Consequently, networking among women lawyers is monumental.
Lastly, I would like to say I think it’s incredible for someone with my background an asylum seeker, who became a naturalized citizen, worked and paid my own way through college with no connections or generational relationships to get where I am today. I am filing for public office, getting support from wonderful individuals. Individuals who believe our bench needs diversity of gender, opinion and thought and present myself as a candidate in my community for Snohomish County Superior Court Judge where I’ve practiced for two decades and to have a good chance of winning. Amazing!