Pierce County selects new DAC director

Chief Deputy Michael Kawamura was named Department of Assigned Counsel director yesterday by Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg. He succeeds Jack Hill, who retired at the end of June.

Kawamura, 47, was selected from among three candidates with the other two being from outside county government. Ladenburg was impressed by his comprehensive knowledge of the law of Washington, ability to manage a large department of lawyers, calm personality and ability to handle difficult situations.

“Mike has the respect of the judges and the Bar Association from his years of experience in Pierce County, and his management style will fit well with other legal deparments. He believes strongly in fair representation of the accused, but will be a team player.”

The new DAC leader plans no immediate structural changes in the 93-employee department, which includes 70 attorneys. “I have a lot of respect for what Jack created. The overall structure works well,” he said. Kawamura said he hopes to continue motivating the staff to do good work. “That was something Jack was able to do well,” the new director said.

Kawamura joined Pierce County in 1988 after graduating from Gonzaga Law School. “When I started, it was a job, but it became far more than that.” The fact his parents were sent by the U.S. to internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II shaped his view of the legal system. “I find I want to help people who don’t have a lot of places to turn,” he said.

His first assignment was handling District Court misdemeanor cases.

Later he started handling felony cases and eventually capital case litigation. He became supervisor of the felony unit and was promoted to assistant director in 2002. Kawamura and his wife, Wendy, have three children.