Letter from the President
Stephen L. Bulzomi 2013-2014 WSAJ President
Thank you for the privilege of serving as President of WSAJ for 2013-2014. As I undertake this task I feel humbled to be following in the footsteps of the many outstanding lawyers who have led this organization over the years. I want to thank my immediate predecessor, Becky Roe, for her stewardship of WSAJ over the past year. Thanks to Becky’s leadership, WSAJ remains a formidable force for the cause of justice in Washington.
From the darkest days of 1986, to the triumphs of I-330, R-67 and I-1082, this association has served as a beacon for the cause of justice and the rights of ordinary people to seek redress for wrongs done to them. This has occurred because of the unwavering commitment of our members, leadership and WSAJ staff to serve our cause.
I grew up as the sixth of twelve children in an Italian/Irish Catholic family in the Green Lake neighborhood in Seattle. My father had barely eight years of formal education, but he never let his lack of education deter him from working every day to care for his family. My mother was an honors graduate from Seattle University, and made raising her family her career. They taught us the value of imagination, persistence, hard work and self-reliance. Most importantly to me, I acquired a lifelong affinity for the cause of the underdog, which has served me well throughout my legal career.
I first became involved with WSTLA in 1984 during my third year of law school. One of my classmates (who, ironically, has made a career as a defense lawyer and served as president of WDTL) recruited me to help set up the student chapter of WSTLA. He became president and I became vice president of the chapter. At about the same time, I was hired as a law clerk by Manza, Moceri, Gustafson and Messina, a leading Tacoma personal injury firm. They hired me as an associate the next year and I have been with the same firm ever since. After passing the bar, my involvement in WSTLA (and WSAJ) continued. I served as the Tacoma Pierce County Roundtable Chair for several years, and joined the Board of Governors in 1998. I am indebted to this organization for mentoring, teaching and guiding me throughout my legal career. Without WSAJ, I would have struggled to serve my clients as well as I have.
We all benefit from WSAJ’s record of success in rebuffing attacks on the civil justice system. That success, however, resulted from disaster. In 1986 the Liability Reform Coalition swept into Olympia. As a result, our legislature passed one of the most sweeping packages of tort deform legislation that had ever been enacted in the country. WSTLA President Tom Chambers famously declared “You have awakened a sleeping giant.” Our leadership and membership went to work.
The EAGLE program arose out of the ashes of that defeat. Thanks to the commitment of our members, WSAJ has become and remained a powerful force of persuasion and reason in Olympia, and has successfully protected the rights of our clients. WSAJ is one of the most effective and admired trial lawyer associations in the country. Without the EAGLE program, there would be no Gerhard Letzing, Suone Cotner, Larry Shannon, Michael Temple and superb WSAJ staff to guide our efforts. Our unity and willingness to sacrifice, plus the righteousness of our cause, have carried the day. The price of our success is vigilance - we must always be ready to step up and fight the next battle.
The WSAJ Amicus Foundation has become a respected voice in the courts of this state. The foundation has been instrumental in undoing some of the worst excesses of the 1986 legislation, such as the 1989 Sofie decision which invalidated caps on damages. It is critical that we maintain support for the foundation’s mission in the cause of justice in our courts.
Finally, the population as a whole is aging, and WSAJ is no exception. Consequently, WSAJ faces changing demographics in its membership. Half the lawyers in the state of Washington will retire or move to part-time over the next five years, including many WSAJ members. Our association has become younger and more diverse. In the coming years we must adapt so that we meaningfully serve those members - they are the future of WSAJ. We must recruit and develop the next generation of trial lawyers.
I am proud to serve as your president, and look forward to the continuing growth and success of WSAJ.
Stephen L. Bulzomi
Donate Now to the WOW & Diversity Bar Review Scholarship Fund