John Budlong, attorney and longtime “warrior for justice,” passed away December 24, 2016.

His friends and colleagues remember him fondly as a shining example for other lawyers, and whose enthusiasm would make anyone hard pressed to find someone more passionate about the law. “He was so engaged and enthused about what he was doing, and that had ripple effects, drawing others in,” said attorney David Beninger.

A triple Dawg, Budlong earned his bachelor’s degree and studied Russian history and language in the International Studies graduate program before completing his J.D. from UW Law in 1982. He went on to try major medical malpractice, product, seaman, workplace, auto and insurance lawsuits against major defendants and insurers.

Throughout his career, Budlong worked to protect and advance the cause of civil justice. In his representation of injured clients, he aimed not only to get justice for them but to significantly change the law through case decisions. He consistently fought for full discovery and proper jury instructions, and against improper apportionment of damages and caps on damages in his cases at trial and on appeal. “John created a road map for his cases and for other attorneys to follow, demonstrating how to doggedly pursue and be successful at showing judges that defense often disguises documents as privileged,” said attorney Victoria Vreeland.

For over two decades, Budlong testified regularly in the Washington State Legislature on proposed tort and insurance legislation. A leader in political and legislative efforts that addressed corporate, government, insurance and medical lobbies, he served as either the chair or as a member of the Legislative Steering Committee from 1992 to 2016, in addition to other offices, and WSTLA president in 2009. “There is no lawyer, no person in the state who has done as much to help WSAJ protect the civil justice system in the last 20 years than John,” stated Larry Shannon for the 2016 Pillar of Justice Award Ceremony, which honored Budlong. “He has contributed more time, more brain power, more miles to and from Olympia, and has added more quality input to legislation – in all areas.”

Committed to lifelong learning, Budlong was a mentor and teacher to many lawyers. He wrote about trial strategy, evidence, tort law, joint and several liability, legal ethics and insurance litigation in a number of legal publications, and spoke on these topics for many years. Budlong spoke at WSTLA, ATLA and other legal education seminars, and was often a guest speaker at UW Law.

“He always made time for guest lectures in both my Pre-Trial and Forensics courses, mentoring a number of the students thereafter,” said Bill Bailey, UW Law professor. “On a personal level, John always was so supportive of me over the course of our long friendship, never more than when I came to teach here full-time, in a sense starting over after 40 years of practice.”

Budlong was recognized for his work in advancing civil justice and received a number of awards, including the WSTLA President’s Award in 2002, and was named trial lawyer of the year by the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association for his efforts to “preserve the civil justice system and protect the public” in 2006. In 2016, he received the Pillar of Justice Award from the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ).

A lifelong fisherman and hunter, Budlong’s outdoor interests were likened to his relentless pursuit of insurance companies and defense counsel. “He was an honorable warrior, a modern day samurai - respected by his adversaries, and after the fact liked by them, as well as a great teacher and mentor for allies,” said Beninger. “That's hard to do and balance.”

His penchant for strategy and articulate delivery left an indelible mark on all who knew him.

“I mostly will always remember his unique voice and how nearly every sentence had nuance and was always delivered with a sly smile,” said Joe Brotherton, ’82.

Budlong was tireless in his efforts to protect people, and would not quit until he got the results his client deserved. “Many of his cases went on for eight or more years, with multiple appeals and remands. He had many, many clients who stayed in touch with him, thankful for how he changed their lives,” said Vreeland.  “He was truly a bright and shining star in the world of plaintiff’s trial lawyers representing injured people.”