APRIL 20, 2016 – John McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, has joined Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle as chair of the firm’s government investigations and crisis management group.
McKay was appointed U.S. Attorney by President George W. Bush in 2001 and served in that position until 2007. He previously spent many years in private practice, representing local and national companies in complex commercial litigation.
As U.S. Attorney, McKay played a vital role in the fight against terrorism. He helped lead the investigation and prosecution of James Ujaama, who pled guilty to assisting the Taliban and later cooperated in terror investigations. He also spearheaded sentencing of Ahmed Ressam, who sought to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.
In 2007, McKay received the U.S. Navy’s highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service award, for his innovative leadership in creating a center for real-time analysis of criminal and terrorist threats and a cutting-edge method for sharing law enforcement records.
Under McKay’s leadership, the Seattle U.S. Attorney’s office became a national leader in prosecuting computer crimes, identity theft, and multinational criminal drug organizations. McKay spearheaded successful civil and criminal investigations into hospital overbilling of Medicare and Medicaid.
At Davis Wright Tremaine, McKay will work closely with attorneys across the firm, including two former colleagues from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Mark Bartlett and Jeff Coopersmith. Davis Wright has a long history of helping companies navigate critical government enforcement cases and investigations. The firm has a special focus on companies in highly regulated industries, such as health care, energy, communications, and finance.
"Davis Wright stands for legal excellence and industry expertise," said McKay. "That combination, along with the team’s depth in Seattle and reach across the country and abroad, gives clients a tremendous advocate to represent their interests in highly challenging situations."
"Litigation and investigations involving the government always present high stakes, whatever the forum, matter of law, or industry," said Rob Maguire, chair of the litigation practice at Davis Wright Tremaine. "John’s exceptional expertise and long history with high-stakes matters will be tremendous resources for our clients."
McKay has had a career-long commitment to improving access to justice. He served for four years as president of Legal Services Corporation, the federally chartered nonprofit that funds and monitors free civil legal aid throughout the U.S. He was also chair of the Equal Justice Coalition, which advocates for civil legal aid in Washington state. He recently oversaw a two-year Justice Sector Assistance Project for the U.S. Department of State, helping to support the rule of law in the Palestinian territories.
McKay started his career as a legislative assistant to longtime Washington state Congressman Joel Pritchard. He later served as a White House Fellow and Special Assistant to the FBI Director during the administration of George H.W. Bush.
McKay has worked continuously to expand access to the legal profession. He was a founder and director of the Northwest Minority Job Fair and served on the Washington State Bar Association’s task force on Opportunities for Minorities in the Legal Profession. He was most recently a professor at Seattle University School of Law, known as the most diverse law school in the Northwest, where he taught constitutional law and national security law as well as courses on ethics and leadership.
McKay’s numerous honors include the Washington State Bar Association’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award and its Award of Merit—the association’s highest honor—as well as awards from the Legal Foundation of Washington and the American Jewish Committee.
McKay’s dismissal as U.S. Attorney by the Bush Administration in 2007 created significant controversy. The Washington State Bar recognized McKay with its "Courageous Award" for "bringing credit to the legal profession" through his handling of the affair.
McKay received his B.A. from the University of Washington and his law degree from Creighton University.