Skip to main content
King County logo

Judge Mark Chow


Originally elected to the King County District Court in 1990, Judge Mark Chow has served six terms on the bench as the first Asian-American in the State of Washington to win election to the seat. Born in Seattle, Judge Chow is a graduate of Whitworth University in eastern Washington, a recipient of a law degree from Seattle University School of Law, and a respected member of the Washington State Bar.

Among his diverse accomplishments, Judge Chow presided over one of the nation’s first courts to offer an alternative to sitting in jail for those with mental health issues. King County Regional Mental Health Court was a pioneer in reducing the criminalization of the mentally ill as it focused on keeping communities safe. With Judge Chow’s help, the court instituted the therapeutic belief that crime can be prevented by other means than just jailing the mentally ill. This new thinking markedly decreased recidivism. Domestic violence offenders and people with substance use disorders are just some whose lives were restored to regain a productive place in society. The pioneering court was responsible for cutting jail time for one class of inmate by 80%, saving King County untold tax dollars.

Prior to his election to the bench, Judge Chow acquired valuable trial experience as deputy prosecuting attorney for King County under Prosecutor Norm Maleng.

Then, as legal counsel to the Office of Mayor for the City of Seattle, Judge Chow was liaison to city departments under the direction of Mayor Charles Royer. He oversaw operations for criminal defense systems, which now account for 75% of budget allocations, including police, jails, courts, prosecutors, and law-enforcement. Working with the mayor, Mark assisted in a successful city-wide campaign to make all departments in government more responsive to the needs of children and families.

In private practice, Judge Chow was a partner in the law firm of Li, Klien, Chow & Bell, specializing in immigration and criminal defense. In his practice, he helped countless clients realize their dream of legally residing in the U.S.

Also, as an active participant in the District and Municipal Court Judges’ Association (DMCJA), Judge Chow was instrumental in developing education curricula on gender and diversity issues by way of its education committee. Under his leadership, Judge Chow institutionalized a program of study in Judicial College for new judges. It was the first educational curriculum on gender and diversity issues established for judges.

Outside the courtroom, Judge Chow speaks at educational institutions and judicial conferences facilitating subjects involving mental health, and domestic violence issues. Additionally, he was invited to help create mental health courts in Washington, D.C.; Texas; Tennessee; Hawaii, and other areas. Moreover, Judge Chow frequently speaks to groups of students learning English as a second language (ESL) about the framework of the American legal system.

Judge Chow is the recipient of the President’s Award from the Asian Bar Association, and the Washington State Psychiatric Association's “Randy Revelle Lifetime Achievement Award.” Judge Chow also coached youth football, and volunteers at the Chong Wah Benevolent Association.