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Judge Michael J. Finkle


Michael J. Finkle is a judge of the King County District Court in Issaquah, Washington. He currently handles primarily civil matters, but also has an extensive background in criminal law. In addition to serving previously as a criminal trial judge, Judge Finkle has presided over the district court’s Regional Mental Health Court and Regional Veterans Court.


Judge Finkle serves on the “Trueblood General Advisory Committee,” or GAC. The GAC is part of the governance structure for a settlement agreement to improve the state’s response to those people who have a mental illness and come into contact with the criminal justice system. He also has served on King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) Oversight Committee, which administers a multi-million-dollar budget devoted to helping stabilize people who have mental illness or chemical dependency and diverting them from jails and emergency rooms by giving them proper treatment.


Throughout his career, Judge Finkle has been deeply involved in working to improve the criminal justice system. He recently led the group that created the Redmond Youth Court, chairs a statewide work group that is responsible for creating and maintaining standard form orders in criminal cases in which defendants have a mental illness that could interfere with their ability to proceed on the case, and serves on a statewide committee drafting a judges’ bench book relating to civil commitment.


Judge Finkle previously served on the District and Municipal Court Judges Association (DMCJA) board, co-chaired the Therapeutic Courts Committee, and chaired the Legislative Subcommittee of that committee, for the DMCJA. Judge Finkle serves on the board of the Judicial Assistance Services Program. In 2013, he co-chaired a statewide work group that examined laws governing therapeutic court practices in Washington; the legislature adopted the work group’s recommendations in 2014. In 2012, Judge Finkle chaired the work group that created King County District Court’s Regional Veterans Court, and previously served on a national advisory panel examining constitutional issues relating to mental health courts. In 1997, he served on the statewide task force that recommended creating mental health courts in this state. Soon after, he participated in forming Seattle Municipal Mental Health Court, the fifth mental health court in the nation (King County Regional Mental Health Court was the second.)


Judge Finkle has served on several other work groups and task forces devoted to increasing access to justice while protecting public safety.  For example, he served on the State Bar’s Diversity Committee for two years, the state’s Designated Mental Health Professional Protocol Advisory Committee for two years, and the Sexual Offender Civil Commitment Subcommittee of the State Bar’s Committee on Public Defense for two years.  Judge Finkle also served on the task force that recommended creating a domestic violence unit within the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. He helped create that unit and served as its interim co-director for one year. He also served on a Domestic Fatality Review work group.


Judge Finkle has volunteered as a judge for the state Ethics Bowl program, the YMCA High School Mock Trial Program, high school speech and debate tournaments, and the AOC’s Judges in the Classroom program.  He served as an adjunct professor of law at Seattle University School of Law for nearly 20 years and has taught on the faculty for the Kessler-Eidson Trial Advocacy Program at Emory Law School in Atlanta. He was also a faculty member of the National Judicial College, the Washington State Judicial College, and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Judge Finkle taught in the Trial Advocacy Program for the State Bar from 1991-2000 and received a special recognition award from the Bar in 1997. He is a Past President (2000) and former Board Member of the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys (WSAMA). In 2010, he received WSAMA’s Ernest H. Campbell Award for sustained excellence in the practice of municipal law, and in 2003, he received its inaugural “Outstanding Service Award.”


Judge Finkle has given over 125 presentations nationally, regionally, statewide, and in Canada on law-related topics such as understanding mental health law and policy issues. His audiences have included judges, prosecutors, public defenders, private criminal defense attorneys, law enforcement, mental health professionals the elderly, students from elementary school through law school, and members of the general public.


Judge Finkle’s publications include:

  • Determining a Criminal Defendant’s Competency to Proceed With An Extradition Hearing (co-author), Volume 43, Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (2015)
  • Commitment Based on Mental Illness, Ch. 4C, Washington Health Law Manual (3rd ed. 2007 and 2015, 4th ed. 2019)
  • Limited Jurisdiction Section of Criminal Chapter, King County Bar Association’s Washington Lawyers’ Practice Manual (co-chief author) (2002-2004, 2011-15)
  • Mental Health Courts: Judicial Leadership and Effective Court Intervention (co-author), Volume 51, ABA Judges Journal (2012)
  • Competency Court: A Creative Solution for Restoring Competency to the Competency Process (lead author), Volume 27, Behavioral Sciences and the Law (2009)
  • Washington’s Criminal Competency Laws: Getting From Where We Are to Where We Should Be, Volume 5, Seattle Journal for Social Justice (2006)
  • Ethics Primer for Government Lawyers (co-editor and contributing author) (1998 and 2nd ed. 2010).
  • For Whom the Period Tolls: Discovery of Loss Provisions in Fidelity Insurance Policies, 9 Century City Bar Association Journal 19 (1984).
  • Voluntary Affirmative Action Under Title VII: Standards of Permissibility, 28 UCLA Law Review 291 (1980)

Judge Finkle graduated from the UCLA School of Law, where he was a managing editor and staff member of the UCLA Law Review; he also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University and a Master of Business Administration from Seattle University.


Judge Finkle began his legal career in 1981 as a business lawyer at a medium size private law firm. In 1986, he entered public service as a deputy city attorney with the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. He was assigned to the Criminal and Special Operations Divisions. His duties included trying criminal cases, handling writs and appeals, and advocating for the rights of indigent tenants as a member of the city’s elite Housing Enforcement Section in a large-scale civil unfair business practice lawsuit. In 1990, Judge Finkle joined the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, where he served as a supervising attorney in the Criminal Division until he took the bench in 2010.