How David Burman helped decide
a historic governor’s race
BY ROSS ANDERSON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY REDSTONE PICTURES
WITH ITS TAN BRICK-AND-SANDSTONE FAÇADE AND HIGH-ARCHED
windows overlooking the town park, the Chelan County Courthouse is
one of those venerable public monuments that lend dignity to small-town America and its legal institutions. So it was this courthouse, in
May 2005, that became the venue for a historic trial at which election
officers and political scientists converged to debate which candidate
had prevailed in the 2004 gubernatorial election—one of the closest
in U.S. history. At stake, they said, was the very credibility of the
democratic election process.
One could imagine Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan
holding forth from those courthouse steps. The case drew in some
of the state’s finest lawyers to Wenatchee; among them was David
Burman, a square-shouldered trial attorney at Seattle’s Perkins Coie,
whose affable style eventually helped win a ruling for Gov. Chris
Gregoire and the Democrats.
To do this, Burman had to immerse himself in the complex
“David is dogged about his practice,” says Robert F. Bauer, a
statistical theory that became the basis of the Republican challenge,
then dismantle that argument. “The small-town courthouse brought
a little drama to the trial,” Burman recalls. “It was a period of intense,
long working days, seven days a week. Election contests like this are
very, very unusual. And we were dealing with a challenging legal
theory, interesting legal issues and factual issues.”
Seven years later, Burman keeps a copy of the trial transcript on a
shelf in his 42nd-story corner office overlooking downtown Seattle,
the Pike Place Market and Elliott Bay. That trial was a high point in
a 35-year career filled with important cases dealing with civil rights,
school desegregation, freedom of speech and intellectual property.
His clients range from Costco and Google to the Democratic Party.
He’s argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
longtime colleague at Perkins who recently served as White House
counsel to President Obama.
· PARTNER, PERKINS COIE
· BUSINESS LITIGATION
· WASHINGTON SUPER LAWYERS:
2003-2012; TOP 10: 2005-2006, 2009,
2011-2012; TOP 100: 2003-2012