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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 dispute resolution at JAMS more than 45 years of legal experience as JAMS neutral, judge, and trial lawyer. He served 22 years on the Thurston County Superior Court, retiring in 2013 with a statewide reputation as a jurist committed to hard work and intellectual curiosity in all matters related to law and justice. He joined JAMS with the same commitment, and brings an engaged, evaluative approach to his practice as a mediator, arbitrator, and discovery master.

Thurston County is the primary situs for claims brought against state agencies and appeals brought pursuant to the APA. Judge McPhee has extensive experience in administrative rules cases ranging from the Washington spotted owl recovery rules, the public financing for Safeco Field, and the discharge of dioxins in state waters. He has decided appeals in state rate setting cases for Medicaid, telecommunication companies and public utilities. He heard and decided tort and contract claims brought against states agencies involving hundreds of millions of dollars, including class actions. He heard and decided the constitutional adequacy of state funding for special education and the roll of the state teachers union (WEA) in the political process.

Judge McPhee is uniquely qualified to adjudicate Public Record Act cases. He heard and decided numerous cases for every major state agency and many local governments and ports. He co-chaired a task force to develop the protocol for state agency submission of records for in camera inspection.

Representative Matters

  • Mediated claim by telecommunications company for excise tax refund on revenue received from an interstate ISP
  • Mediated dispute between State Agency and Port over ownership of intensively developed property and the right to share in rental income; dispute had existed since 1930s, with numerous prior attempts at settlement
  • Mediated dispute between Hospital District and State Agency regarding classification of land use for taxing purposes
  • Mediated dispute between regional energy company and county over property taxes, exemptions and property valuation
  • Mediated penalty phase of Public Records Act case involving citizen and Public Utility
  • Mediated amount of penalty in action brought by Public Disclosure Commission against national trade organization for misleading political advertisements
  • Mediated claim for damages exceeding $1.5 million brought by private timberland owner against State Agency arising out of trade of hundreds of properties statewide, including misrepresenting restrictions on a parcel in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Mediated claim by Attorney General’s Office against a national business accused of operating a scam business selling real estate information to Washington residents. The claim for penalties exceeded $3 million
  • Mediated tort claims brought by claimants against various public agencies for employment discrimination, negligent training and supervision of case workers, wrongful (negligent) harvesting of marine resources, and trespassing
  • Mediated public records dispute between County and Private Landowner regarding use of vacant land next to Landowner’s property
  • Mediated dispute between State and manufacturing association regarding funding for an initiative
  • Mediated public records dispute between State and individuals regarding lead exposure while working on a remodel project of a gun dealer
  • Arbitrated dispute concerning claims for exemption in Public Records Act case brought by motorcycle club association against a City

Judicial Experience – Representative Cases

  • Evergreen Freedom Foundation v. Washington Education Association. Claim brought against WEA for campaign finance, reporting, and contribution violations of state and federal law. After a long, contentious bench trial, judgment was entered and was affirmed on appeal by State Supreme Court.
  • Sanders v. State of Washington. Suit by sitting Supreme Court Justice against Washington Attorney General for violation of Public Records Act seeking $1 million penalty. Bench trial decision was affirmed on appeal by State Supreme Court. This case is one of a myriad of cases brought under the Public Records Act and Public Disclosure Act decided by Judge McPhee.
  • School Districts’ Alliance v. State of Washington, A statewide alliance of school districts sought judgment that the state was unconstitutionally underfunding special education. Bench trial decision was affirmed on appeal by State Supreme Court.
  • North American Dealers Co-op v. Office of Insurance Commissioner. Bench trial regarding legality of car dealers’ money back guarantee program.
  • 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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