Some attorneys overplay their
cards and undermine their credibility.
... I don’t see Jack doing that.”
– KING COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE JOHN ERLICK
of Tacoma. The two-story building houses
the six-lawyer Connelly Law Offices.
Now, despite his busy practice, he’s
running for the seat of retiring state Sen.
Debbie Regala as a Democrat. In 2005,
as president of the Washington State
Association for Justice, he led plaintiff’s
lawyers in a successful campaign to defeat
a ballot initiative that would have capped
noneconomic damages and attorney fees in
medical malpractice cases.
At Connelly’s century-old, bayfront
home, he gets out of his black Land Rover
and is greeted by his 6-year-old son, Luke,
who breathlessly announces that Grandma
just cut her finger and had to go to the
urgent care center. Peter, 9, asks Dad to go
on a treasure hunt. James, 14, arrives home
from crew practice and decides to go up to
the rec room over the garage with a buddy
and make waffles. “Don’t burn it down,”
Connelly calls out.
With seven children at home, ages 4 to 16,
and two older ones away at school, Connelly
says it’s just too distracting to live at the
house when he’s in the middle of a trial. So
he stays with his colleagues at his “lucky
hotel” near the courthouse in Kent from
Monday through Thursday during trials. His
wife, Angela, hires college students to help
with the kids.
“I move out so I can focus exclusively on
Angela says she and Jack try to imbue
the trial,” Connelly says, sitting on an easy
chair with 4-year-old Veronica fidgeting
beside him. “Kids are so fun to have and
such a challenge that I feel guilty if I’m not
focusing on them.”
When he’s not in trial, Connelly manages
to get home in time to drive the kids to their
frequent sports practices and attend their
games. Defense attorney Bobrick says those
events are a factor in scheduling depositions
with him. “He would make it clear he had
to stop at such-and-such time to make a
family commitment,” she says admiringly.
their children with the importance of making
a difference in the world. “I know it’s in Jack’s
heart to fight for the vulnerable,” she says.
Connelly likes the smaller firm environment,
where everyone is doing the same kind of
work and there are less office politics.
Connelly’s office hallway is lined with
framed articles of the big cases he and his
colleagues have won. He still seems moved
by his clients’ triumphs and travails.
In 2007, he tried a negligence case
against a major ski operator on behalf of a
college wrestler injured in a ski jump crash
that left him a quadriplegic. He argued that
the company operating the terrain park
was negligent in building the jump with too
small a landing area. There had been only
one successful case previously on that issue,
and that verdict was overturned on appeal.
His firm spent $350,000 on experts and
other costs. “As it approached trial, I thought
I should have my head examined,” he says.
Connelly recalls that on the witness stand,
the young man focused on the things he still
was able to do, such as becoming an excellent
writer. At one point Connelly asked him about
his mother, who was sitting in the courtroom,
listening in tears. The young man winked at her
and said, “I’ve got the best mom in the world.”
“It was a beautiful moment from a kid
who’d been a tremendous athlete and
now all he could do was move his head,”
Connelly says. “I think we almost won the
case on that wink.”
Connelly landed a $31 million award (later
reduced to $14 million for assumption of
risk) for the young man. But he particularly
cherishes the newspaper headline: “Terrain
park safety becomes top priority after key
lawsuit.” Smiling, Connelly says,“This is the
kind of headline that turns me on. It’s the
reward for what we do.”
Another case Connelly relishes is too
new to be up on the wall. Last November,
he and his young partner, Micah LeBank,
won a products liability case against a baler
machine-maker on behalf of a worker who
lost an arm in a factory accident. To combat
the defense argument that the worker