Graduate Spotlight: Judge David Keenan

The North Seattle College communications team recently checked in with one of North’s stellar alumni, Judge David Keenan. Judge Keenan’s day job is to preside over criminal and civil trials at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in King County’s Superior Court. Prior to being elected to the court, he worked in complex civil litigation at a global law firm and his accolades have included arguing before the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and being awarded the Washington State Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. But his journey to the bench wasn’t always an easy one. Keenan, a North Seattle native, shared his story with us and how--through hard work and the community he found in North--he was able to turn his life around.

Judge Keenan quick facts:
He earned his GED at North in 1988, his high school diploma at North in 1989, and his A.A. at North in 1992.

How did you choose NSC?
I was not a traditional learner, and the accessibility, flexibility, and welcoming community at NSC attracted me.  I arrived as a high school dropout, working full-time, and the faculty and staff at NSC encouraged me to further pursue my education, and I eventually transferred to the University of Washington after earning my A.A. at NSC.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A police officer.

Why did you want to study law? How did you decide on your career path?
I chose the law because I wanted to help people from marginalized communities. I was raised in public housing on welfare by a single mother, was arrested as a juvenile, and dropped out of high school. I pursued a career as an attorney in part so that I could advocate for people who had experienced challenges in their lives, and I later ran for election to King County Superior Court in order to bring that perspective to the judiciary.

What is your favorite part about being a judge?
My favorite part of being a judge is helping heal conflicts while putting my education, professional, and life experiences to work in my decision-making.

What adversities did you overcome to get to where you are today, and how did North play a part in that?
I grew up in poverty, was suspended long-term multiple times from the Seattle Public Schools before dropping out, and was arrested multiple times. The NSC community welcomed me without judgment, guided my academic development, and constantly encouraged me.

What was your experience like at NSC? Any faculty members that may have made a lasting impact?
I loved being around other non-traditional learners at NSC, because that helped me to feel welcome rather than being self-conscious.

How did NSC affect your educational pathway or life?
NSC inspired in me a lifelong love of learning, and set me on the path that would eventually help me earn my B.A. and J.D.

Why is higher education important?
The needs of our community never cease growing in number and complexity, and I continue to educate myself so that I can be effective in supporting all that I care about.

What advice would you give a new NSC student?
I would advise new NSC students to begin to plan very early for what they want their educational and professional development to look like. Consult with staff, faculty, and other students, and do not just let your education happen to you; rather, take charge of your path!

About Judge Keenan
Judge Keenan earned his J.D. from Seattle University School of Law while working full-time, graduating summa cum laude as the Dean’s Medalist. He has worked nearly 15 years in federal law enforcement, most recently serving as a Senior Special Agent with the federal government. Additionally, he served eight years as an attorney working in securities and complex commercial litigation for a global law firm and two years as a King County Superior Court Judge.


Posted on: December 13th, 2018 at 15:53:40

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