Diaz, J. Michael

J. Michael Diaz

Adjunct Professor


Civil Rights


  • J.D., Cornell Law School, 2002
  • B.A., Philosophy, magna cum laude, University of Notre Dame


Governor Jay Inslee appointed Judge J. Michael (Mike) Diaz to Division I of the Washington State Court of Appeals, effective September 2022. From January 2018 to then, Judge Diaz served as a King County Superior Court Judge, where he presided over approximately four dozen trials in all types of criminal, civil and domestic matters. He also served a term as the Chief Judge of King County's Patricia H. Clark Children & Family Justice Center, and served on the Court's Executive, Budget, Rules and History committees.

Before his appointment to the Superior Court, Judge Diaz spent a decade as an Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington ("DOJ"), where he founded the office's Civil Rights Program and investigated and/or prosecuted a wide variety of civil rights matters. He began his career in private practice, first as an associate at the international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP in Houston, Texas, then at the litigation boutique Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo PLLC in Seattle, litigating complex commercial and white-collar criminal defense matters.

Among the honors he received while at DOJ, Judge Diaz received the EOUSA Director's Award for "extraordinary professional achievements and excellence" among the highest awards given to the nationwide United States Attorney community; the Thomas C. Wales Performance Award, the highest award given at the Seattle U.S. Attorney's Office; the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division's Distinguished Service Award, among the highest awards in that Division; and in 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Diaz to be a U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Washington, which expired and was returned to the President in January 2017 without U.S. Senate action.

Judge Diaz is also active in the community. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Seattle University School of Law, where he has taught a civil rights course and supervised independent studies students and externs. He is on faculty at the DOJ's National Advocacy Center, the Washington State Judicial Institute, and the Washington State Judicial College. He is currently the chairperson of the Washington State Supreme Court's Interpreter Commission.

As an attorney, Judge Diaz regularly volunteered at the King County Bar Association's Neighborhood Legal Clinic Program's Spanish Language Legal Clinic, which he later helped merge with the El Centro de La Raza clinic. He served on KCBA's Pro Bono Service Committee, was Chair of its Neighborhood Legal Clinic Program's Advisory Committee, and Chair of its Spanish Clinic Subcommittee.

Judge Diaz earned his bachelor's degree magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame. He then was a graduate student at Princeton University, studying classical philosophy for two years. He earned his law degree from Cornell Law School, where he served on the Cornell International Law Journal.

Judge Diaz immigrated from Peru to Seattle as an infant. His family settled eventually in the then-working-class neighborhood of Ballard and, in middle school, moved down to the White Center/Burien area. His family spoke Spanish exclusively at home. He was the first lawyer in his large Latino family.

Judge Diaz lives in Seattle and for many years has helped coach/manage his daughters' school soccer team.