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Thomas McPhee

Judge Thomas McPhee (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator and Referee/Special Master

Case Manager
Michele Wilson
T: 206-292-0457
F: 206-292-9082
1420 Fifth Ave., Suite 1650, Seattle, WA 98101

Thomas McPhee is available to conduct cases virtually. JAMS is equipped to provide virtual ADR services on a variety of online platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and more.


Judge Thomas McPhee (Ret.) brings to JAMS more than 40 years of legal experience, including 22 years on the Thurston County Superior Court. He has tried nearly every type of case imaginable, earning a reputation for being one of the hardest working jurists in the region. Judge McPhee conducted more than 300 settlement conferences and required dispute resolution in all civil cases assigned to him. At JAMS he serves as a mediator, arbitrator, and special master with experience administering disputes regarding electronically stored information.

Judge McPhee has extensive experience with business and commercial matters.  As a lawyer, he represented corporations, associations, and owners in such diverse fields as construction, health care, and mobile home retail sales. He tried business and commercial cases in state and federal courts. As judge and JAMS neutral, his experience includes shareholder disputes, insurance disputes, accounting matters, breach of contract cases, franchise matters, and licensing disputes. Judge McPhee has considerable experience with tax matters, as the court where he sat has exclusive jurisdiction for most state tax refund claims and constitutional challenges to state taxation laws.

Representative Matters

  • Mediated breach of contract claim by insurance agency involving sale of agent’s “book of business”, including issues of standard of conduct, confidentiality, and trade secrets.
  • Arbitrated breach of contract claim against auto dealer group involving stock options and bonuses.
  • Mediated claim for breach of contract to merge two engineering firms, involving contract interpretation and performance, collusion, and misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • Mediated claim for breach of contract to administer and conduct SuperFund cleanup site, involving contract interpretation and environmental legal standards.
  • Mediated claim for years of fraud and misappropriation involving auto dealer’s accounting and inventory records.
  • Mediated shareholder dispute between engineering firm and engineers, whose companies had merged, involving issues of payment and quality of work.
  • Mediated dispute between insurance agency and broker over terms of contract buy-out.
  • Mediated dispute among partnership groups for largest supplier of electronic equipment to Alaska fishing and crabbing industry, with business locations in Seattle and Dutch Harbor. Claims involved failure to account, fraud, and money laundering.
  • Mediated dispute over collapse of joint venture and merger between two architectural/engineering firms, involving collusion, interference with business, and accounting fraud.
  • Mediated cases involving dissolution and liquidation of closely held corporations, including sub-S liabilities and buyouts – e.g., dissolution of a tech startup, involving issues of distribution of partially finished intellectual properties.
  • Mediated claim for municipal sales tax refund by national telecommunications company regarding municipal sales tax on telecom services. Case involved agreement to trade credits for services over a period of time to avoid municipal budget crises.

As Judge

  • Adjudicated a wide range of breach of contract cases and construction warranties, many involving public agencies – e.g., jury/bench combined class action trial against state DSHS for breach of contract resulting in judgment exceeding $50 million. Case turned on implied warranties and contract provisions. Affirmed on appeal.
  • Adjudicated cases related to two distinct types of franchise claims:
    • Private claims between franchisor and franchisee, mostly for breach of contract or specific performance – e.g., claim by food industry franchisees for fraud, alleging a pyramid scheme by franchisor;
    • Enforcement actions brought by government agencies for violation of Washington franchise law – e.g., claim by state insurance commissioner alleging auto warranty franchisor’s alleged violation of state insurance and franchise laws
  • Extensive experience as judge for enforcement of state licensing laws, primarily professional or public safety related licenses. My court in the state capital has exclusive jurisdiction over many of these actions.
  • Adjudicated a joint venture dispute among three groups of individual partners and their shell corporations arising from a joint venture to import batteries and construct regulators to power electric cars. Claims involved breach of contract, accounting fraud, and conversion of import licenses.
  • Adjudicated dispute among family member-partners in multi-state auction business. Issues centered mainly on business valuation and accounting.
  • Adjudicated the constitutionality of the taxing scheme for construction of Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.
  • Adjudicated tax refund claim brought by operators of intermodal freight operations at the Port of Seattle, involving the taxation of giant cranes at the port.
  • Administered claim of negligent investment of state pension funds. Pretrial management of massive accounting records discovery issue.
Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS.

  • Presenter, Mediation Ethics, Washington Defense Trial Lawyers CLE, 2014
  • Named Judge of the Year, Washington State Association for Justice, 2013
  • Member, The Sedona Conference, Working Group 1: Electronic Document Retention and Production
  • Former Trustee, Superior Court Judges’ Association
  • Former Chair, Board for Judicial Administration Litigation Time Standards Task Force
  • Former Chair, SCJA Guardianship Tools for Court Workgroup
  • Former Member, Family and Juvenile Court Improvement Program Steering Committee
  • Former Member, Justice in Jeopardy Implementation Committee
  • Former Member, SCJA Judicial Education Committee
  • Former Member, SCJA Guardianship and Probate Committee
  • Past President, Thurston County Bar Association
  • Past President, Thurston Youth Services
  • Former Member, WSBA Education Committee
  • Presenter, Electronically Stored Information and Discovery, AGO CLE, 2012
  • Presenter, Judicial Review of APA Cases, AGO CLE, 2010
  • Presenter, Dependency, FCIGP, 2009
  • Presenter, Guardianship Case Management, SCJA CJE and Court Administrators Conference, 2009
  • Presenter, Lincoln on Professionalism, WSBA CLE, 2009
  • Presenter, Unified Family Court Practice, Family Court Improvement Grant Program, 2007
  • Presenter, Civility & Professionalism in the Courtroom, WSBA Young Lawyers CLE, 2005
  • Presenter, Motion Practice, TCBA CLE, 2005
  • Presenter, Public Disclosure Act, AGO CLE, 2003
  • Presenter, Trial Briefs, WSBA Young Lawyers CLE, 2002
  • Presenter, Pre-trial Preparation, WSBA Young Lawyers CLE, 2001
  • Judge, Superior Court, Thurston County, WA, 1990-2012
    • Presiding Judge, Thurston County, two terms
  • Trial lawyer, Olympia private practice, 1973-1990
  • Trial lawyer, Washington Attorney General’s Office, 1969-1973
  • J.D., University of Oregon, 1969
  • B.A., Political Science, Washington State University, 1966

Counsel Comments

    • "I truly appreciate Judge McPhee’s attention to every detail, and straight forward manner. He’s at the top of my list for Washington mediators from now on."

      -Defense Counsel
    • “It’s an honor to work with Judge McPhee because of his acumen, diligence, and sense of fairness.”

      -Washington State Attorney
    • "Based on my experience, it seems to me that there are two character traits of mediators that seem to contribute most to the satisfactory resolution of a dispute. First, the ability to listen respectfully to a party's position; and 2) the ability to provide a credible analysis of the risks associated with not resolving a dispute. I think you [Judge McPhee] effectively displayed both of these."
    • "It was evident [throughout the arbitration] from your questions and propensity to think creatively outside the contours of arguments made by counsel that you [Judge McPhee] immersed yourself in the case and worked hard. Both sides appreciated your evenhandedness, level of involvement, and especially your good humor."
    • "While maintaining his neutrality, Judge McPhee was able to identify key questions regarding strengths of the parties’ positions that helped move the parties towards settlement. He also was effective in helping us to understand how our proposals were likely to be received by opposing counsel."
    • "[A decisive difference in the outcome of the case was made because of Judge McPhee’s] excellent listening and preparation."
    • "[Judge McPhee] brought a realistic, neutral perspective to the parties’ chances of prevailing in litigation."
    • "Judge McPhee was very well prepared. It was obvious he had read the materials and thought about the issues. He asked very good questions that helped the parties move from their established positions."
    • "[A decisive difference in the outcome of the case was made because of Judge McPhee’s] evaluative approach with my client."
    • "[Judge McPhee] kept working at a resolution when it didn’t appear possible."
    • "[A decisive difference in the outcome of the case was made because of Judge McPhee’s] patience and understanding of the law."
    • "[Judge McPhee’s] extensive experience as a trial court judge in the county where the matter was pending and experience in working with the State of Washington and trespass claims [made a decisive difference in the outcome of the case]."



Practice Areas

Available nationwide


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