Orphaned as a child, attorney seeks to serve as judge

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Marcus Naylor

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Marcus Naylor was born into a South Korean orphanage and was without a family until he was 9 years old. Taken from his native country, he was adopted by a family in the United States that did not speak Korean.

He spoke no English at the time. Naylor’s adopted family taught him a commitment to service, which has been exemplified through his 20-plus years as a public defender. He is now running for a seat as a King County District Court Judge.

Naylor is one of three candidates vying for the open seat in northeast King County, which serves the Eastside. The primary takes place on Aug. 5, with the top two vote getters moving on to the general election in November.

As an advocate for those accused of crimes, Naylor has earned the respect of his peers and judges for his work inside the courtroom. Naylor has served as a pro-tem judge for the past three years. As a pro-tem (short for the Latin term, pro-temporare), Naylor fills in for absent judges and serves in their role. As a pro-tem, he served as judge to a variety of civil and criminal cases.  He was recommended to serve as a pro-tem by judges that have seen him at work. The work as a substitute judge has given Naylor experience he can utilize as a full-time judge.

This is Naylor’s first time running for a public office. “I’m beginning to enjoy it,” Naylor stated. “I initially found it difficult because campaigning requires [you] to step out of your comfort zone and they tend to ask you to do things that most people avoid,” referring to his campaign staff’s advice to him for self-promotion and highlighting his accomplishments to others. Despite these initial issues, he enjoys meeting people and groups, and he is learning a lot about the process of running for office. “I am humbled by the fact that there are complete strangers that are willing to contribute or volunteer for the campaign.”

Since graduating from Seattle University School of Law, Naylor has committed his legal career to public service. He has served more 20 years as a public defender for the Northwest Defenders Division, where he has represented accused criminals in all the courts of King County. In addition, he has served as a manager of the office and supervising attorney for other attorneys within the office.

Naylor grew up alone and on the streets of South Korea. He spent time in an orphanage, but ran away from time to time. “I did not think the orphanage was bad,” recalled Naylor, “I liked the freedom to roam and be out on the streets.” When on the streets, Naylor did what was necessary to get food and clothing. The orphanage always found Naylor and returned him. When Naylor was 9, he was informed that he had been adopted and would be sent to America to meet his new family in Wilmer, Minn. Naylor compares the town to that of Issaquah.

“My initial reaction (to the news of his adoption) was shock and awe that I was going to be adopted,” Naylor said. Without much power to debate the situation, Naylor was sent along with infant children to Minnesota to meet his new family. He recalls being the oldest of those who were being adopted.

Naylor’s biological mother contacted him 15 years ago and through her he found out that he had a half-brother. He was able to visit them both in South Korea. Although his biological mother has since died, he still is in touch with his half-brother.

Upon his arrival to America, Naylor recalls he had a new family with two new sisters. He found himself in the middle of America in a predominantly white community. His new family did not speak Korean, and he did not speak English. It took Naylor two years to learn English and catch up in school.

“I listened and watched as much as I could,” Naylor said of his learning process. As the only minority in the community, Naylor experienced prejudice from adults and children, and did not know how to react.

As Naylor’s parents were Lutheran, he chose to attend college at Trinity Lutheran, a small Christian liberal arts college in Everett. Naylor enjoyed the outdoors and fell in love with the area. He decided to stay in Washington and attended law school at Seattle University.

After law school, Naylor decided to practice in criminal law and become a public defender.

“The issue of equity and social justice is important to me and I thought criminal law was interesting,” he said, “[t]o access justice and assist people on an individual basis, and the idea of being an underdog in a trial was attractive to me.”

In addition to his years as a public defender, Naylor has volunteered his time as an attorney for the Neighborhood Legal Clinic and served on various boards that help individuals access justice.

As a judge, Naylor said he would continue to support his belief in ensuring that everyone has access to the legal system.

“Everybody says ‘access to justice,’ but what people do not realize is that the poor do not have access to justice,” Naylor explained. “I realized through volunteering with the Neighborhood Legal Clinic and my practice, I see so many minorities that have real and good claims, but do not have access due to a language barrier or economic grounds.” He believes that court forms should be in more than just one or two non-English languages to eliminate a barrier for those that do not read those languages. He also thinks that attorneys should do more pro bono (volunteer free of charge) work for individuals without the means to pay.

In addition, he suggests that the courts should reflect the diverse backgrounds of the people.

“I met Marcus in 1996, when I was a new attorney working at Northwest Defenders. Marcus was always willing to be a mentor and to share knowledge and insight into how to handle cases and clients,” stated criminal defense attorney Jennifer Cruz. “As a person of color, it is important to see other qualified persons of color in leadership roles. We need more diversity on the bench to reflect our diverse population.”

Naylor lives in the city of Sammamish with his wife and children. (end)

Naylor is endorsed by Justice Mary Yu and Judge John Chun.

For more information about Naylor and his campaign, please visit www.marcusnaylor.com.

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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