Born: Friday, July 31st, 1925
Died: Thursday, May 16th, 1996
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington
Education: Seattle University (1943-1945)
Georgetown University, B.A. (1946); LL.B. (1949)
Career: State Legislature (1952-1974)
Court of Appeals (1977-1980)
Served: Friday, January 2nd, 1981 to Monday, January 11th, 1993
Chief Justice: Monday, January 14th, 1991 to Monday, January 11th, 1993
Political Party: Democrat
Appointing Governor: Ray (Democrat)Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s often quoted statement that the “life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience,” indeed captures the essence of Fred H. Dore’s high-court career. Dore’s presence on the court represents a lasting marriage between politics and judging. As the court considers issues of public policy, politics and the law become inextricably mixed, requiring jurists to view questions of law through a political perspective. After more than two decades in the forefront of politics, Justice Dore was in a position of being able to balance the competing demands of the traditional view of judging as merely discovering the law, with the modern version that regards law as an extension of politics.
Fred Dore gained his interest in politics from his family, many of whom were active in the Republican party in the Seattle region. His time as a student at Georgetown in Washington, D. c., further piqued his curiosity. Finally, acquaintances and clients urged him to become politically involved. Despite his Republican heritage, Dore became drawn to the Democrats because theirs appeared to him to be the only party attempting to deal with social inequities. His victory in the 1952 race for the state house of representatives proved noteworthy in that he was the only non-incumbent Democrat to buck the Dwight Eisenhower landslide and win a seat in the lower house. At age twenty-seven, he also was among the youngest to serve in the legislature.
Dore regarded himself as a populist legislator. He chaired the Judiciary Committee, served on other key committees, and became assistant floor leader. In 1957 he sponsored the court administrator law, designed to maximize efficiency of the state’s judiciary.
In 1959 King County commissioners appointed Dore to a senate vacancy in Seattle’s Thirty-seventh District. While in the upper house he chaired the Public Utilities, Financial Institutions, and Appropriations committees, and served on the Commerce, and Constitution and Elections committees. He sponsored or cosponsored bills dealing with education, aid to the needy, consolidation of the system of courts of limited jurisdiction, and aid to the handicapped. He successfully sponsored the first legislation in America funding research on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The Dores had lost a daughter to the mysterious disease, and he maintained his interest in SIDS after leaving the legislature, helping to establish a national foundation for research. As chairman of the Joint Interim Committee on Facilities and Operations, Dore became involved in a long-range study of state legislatures with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of the Washington body. The committee’s final report, published in 1965 and co-authored by Dore, recommended a number of innovations, most of which were subsequently adopted. At the national level, he served as a delegate to three Democratic conventions, in 1956, 1960, and 1964.
In 1968 Democrat Attorney General John J. O’Connell vacated his position as the state’s chief legal officer to run for governor. Senator Fred Dore filed for attorney general on the Democratic ticket, running second out of five. A year later, Dore ran for mayor of Seattle, a position held by his uncle in the 1930s. Again, he narrowly lost. In 1972 Dore filed again for attorney general, winning the Democratic primary but losing to the Republican incumbent, Slade Gorton, in the November balloting.
Someone bombed Dore’s Seattle home in 1970. He never discovered who was responsible or why they felt compelled to victimize him. Although it meant relinquishing his legislative seat, Dore moved his family to north Seattle because of fear of further violence. Nonetheless, he soon returned to his legislative desk. He challenged the Republican incumbent in his new district, the Forty-fifth, and won handily, becoming one of a handful of senators to be elected to represent two different legislative districts. However, a redistricting bill in 1974 gerrymandered Dore out of the Forty-fifth District and, forced to run in the Forty-fourth, he lost his reelection bid to Republican Lois North by some 300 votes. For the moment, Fred Dore was without a public office after more than two decades of service.
During his legislative days Dore had changed his solo practice into a partnership under the name of Dore, Cummings, and Dubuar. He handled criminal, personal injury, probate, and other general practice cases. He also served as general counsel for United Parcel Service and did regulatory work for Eastern Washington Natural Gas. His United Parcel case, successfully argued before the state supreme court, authorized UPS to enter the general freight business for small packages. United Parcel built upon that victory to become shippers of general freight throughout the United States and world. “In retrospect,” Dore believed this was probably the most important case” he handled as an attorney.
In another important legal victory, Dare v. Kinnear in 1971, he successfully represented, without a fee, 27,000 north Seattle taxpayers and secured a class action rollback of taxes and a six million dollar refund. He received the North Seattle Exchange Club’s “Book of Golden Deeds” for his efforts. Grateful taxpayers also provided him with considerable support for his judicial campaigns. Throughout his legal career, Dore argued sixteen cases before the state’s high court, winning fifteen. Although partisan politics had thus far captured his attention, after failing in his senate reelection bid, Dore’s interest turned to the nonpartisan judiciary.
Governor Dan Evans, in the last few months of his administration, appointed his close adviser, James Dolliver, to the Washington Supreme Court. In the next election both Dore and Walla Walla Prosecutor Arthur Eggers filed against Dolliver, resulting in, until then, the most expensive race for the court in state history. Although Dolliver outspent Dore by a two-to-one margin, Dore beat both of his adversaries in the primary. He and Dolliver vied for the post in the general election. Dore’s campaign emphasized courtroom experience and his long and varied legal practice as compared to the incumbent’s meager legal experience. Politics, however, not experience, dominated the election. Dolliver had advised Republican politicians and Dore was a lifelong Democrat. Governor Evans mobilized activists within the Republican party. Dore gained labor endorsement and assistance from many Democratic friends and clients. Of those attorneys responding to the state bar poll, seventy percent favored Dolliver. Television played a major role in deciding the outcome. Dolliver’s supporters closed out the campaign with TV spots in the last ten days, which likely made the difference. He turned the race around, defeating Dore by 41,000 votes after having trailed him by nearly 100,000 in the primary.
Dore had known Democratic Governor Dixy Lee Ray from serving as trustee of the Pacific Science Center while Ray directed the center. He supported Ray in her gubernatorial race. In 1977, Governor Ray appointed him to division one of the court of appeals. A year later he won election to the post, and then again to a full term in 1979. But, the state supreme court remained his goal.
Dore correctly viewed the state’s court of last resort as a policy-making and precedent-setting body. Also, if he timed it right, he could run for the high bench and still retain his court of appeals spot if unsuccessful.
Justice Charles Horowitz became seventy-five in January 1980 and had to step down at the end of the year under the mandatory retirement law. Judge Dore filed for the post against a fellow court of appeals Justice from division two, Edward Reed. The campaign issues centered around the contestants’ political and judicial experience. Reed had served on the state’s judiciary for ten years, possessed modest Republican credentials, and was regarded as conservative. Dore gained the endorsement of the State Labor Council and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, and was viewed as liberal. Of those who responded to the state bar poll, sixty-five percent preferred Reed. In a weakened condition from an illness, Dore nearly withdrew from the contest. But he remained and, through the last minute use of television, soundly trounced his opponent in the primary by more than 80,000 votes, moving to the November election unopposed. Although Dore won election to the supreme court, the record will show he was appointed. Governor Ray selected him to complete a few days of Horowitz’s short term. Justice Fred H. Dore took his oath of office on January 2, 1981, ten days before he would have taken over as an elected judge.
Fred Dore came from a family of lawyers. His grandfather, John Fairfield Dore, a Boston attorney, moved his family to Seattle at the turn of the century. His two sons, Fred and John, became attorneys. John became mayor of Seattle in the 1930s, serving two terms, while Fred was elected justice of the peace. In 1922 Fred, Sr. married Ruby Kelly and they had four children. The father died in 1932, leaving Ruby to raise the family.
Fred, Jr. attended O’Dea Catholic Prep School in Seattle, graduating as salutatorian in 1942. A bad back kept him out of the service during World War II, and he enrolled in business and accounting courses at Seattle University, a Jesuit school with an atmosphere that reinforced his Catholic upbringing. As a freshman he won awards for public speaking. During a career-day presentation he heard an attorney from the Seattle law firm of Bogle and Gates speak about how law can make a contribution to society. He transferred to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service to finish his undergraduate work, then enrolled in the university’s law school.
As a first-year student, he was a finalist in the school’s moot court competition, and won the competition the next year. He graduated twenty-fourth in his class in 1949. Upon returning to Seattle he joined the respected law firm of Padden and Moriarity, remaining with them until going on his own in 1952.
Dore felt his legislative experience provided him “a real advantage.” Many issues the justices confront come from “across the street” at the legislature and his twenty-two years of legislative experience give him an understanding of the process, problems, and personalities involved in creating legislation. “Legislative intent,” an important judicial criterion, is no mystery to him. The give and take of the legislative process trained Dore in advocacy skills, persuasion, and compromise. Learning these skills assisted him in serving on a court occupied by independent-minded and strong-willed lawyers who can sometimes be persuaded, rarely influenced, and never manipulated. Dore feels at ease with a collective approach to decision-making as a result of his legislative experience. In an effort to prove to others, his colleagues, and possibly himself that “politicians” can also be good judges, Dore works hard:
Now that I am here I see in many ways the supreme court as more powerful than the governor and the legislature, because we say what they mean no matter what they say … That’s why you should be well prepared … If you’re consistently reliable in what you say then others depend upon you. If you’re wrong and half accurate, then people don’t rely on you. That’s what you want to develop among your colleagues-that you are reliable.
Justice Dore writes a considerable number of dissents. Between 1985 and 1988 he wrote 110 opinions, of which fifty-three were dissents or concurrences. Twenty-two of these were solo opinions. On occasion he succeeds in persuading his colleagues to join him, making his opinion that of the majority. The adoption of his dissent in Donovick v. Seattle First (1988) by the U. S. Court of Appeals in Whitehead v. Derwinski (1990) is illustrative of the effectiveness of his dissents. In the first five years of his tenure he had over a dozen dissents become majority opinions. Since taking his seat on the bench, he has also written his share of the court’s majority opinions.
Initially, the justice tended to assume a hard-line toward criminal appeals, but has moderated somewhat. He clearly takes a liberal view regarding free speech, press, religion, and assembly issues.
Justice Dore’s voting found him in agreement most of the time with the late Justice Hugh Rosellini and William Goodloe. On criminal appeals he tended to join Justices Carolyn Dimmick, Barbara Durham, or Rosellini, but again, in more recent years he joined the more moderate members of the bench.
Judge Dore has been on the state’s court of last resort for ten years and future issues, different colleagues, and changing contexts may alter his behavior. However, his politics now are in a delicate balance with the law, a combination that, in the hands of the less skilled, could be ineffective. His competitive nature reinforced by law school, legal practice, and courtroom advocacy, and refined in the legislative halls and on the campaign trail-lends itself to resolving many of the policy issues confronting the court. However, the collective demands of the high court’s decisional process are not always met through a competitive approach.
In January 1991 Fred Dore became chief justice. His agenda as chief included working toward establishing superior courts on the east side of Lake Washington, extending the use of video tape records in judicial proceedings, and further articulating constitutional and human rights. The chief justice dedicated himself to “support the proposition that everyone in the state seeking legal consultation can secure it for a reasonable fee, from the thousands of lawyers who cry out for legal employment.” His ability to urge his colleagues to join him in pursuit of these goals will largely determine his success.
Recently, Justice Dore has suffered from a blood condition which, on occasion, requires rest and supplemental oxygen from a portable unit. Both the justice’s doctor and the judicial conduct commission have concluded that the malady does not hinder his judging. The commission dismissed the matter, finding no evidence of disability.
Fred Dore married Walla Walla’s Mary Shuham in November 1956. They had six children: Margaret, Fred, Teresa, Christine who died of SIDS, Timothy, and Jane. The justice has actively participated in a number of professional and service groups, serving as a member of the Uniform Law Commission, Judicial Council, Washington Statute Law Committee, Washington State Arts Commission, American Bar Association, and as a trustee of the Pacific Science Center. His hobbies are “politics, hard work, supporting my family, getting my family educated, golf, and bridge.”
Dore’s oral history interview is in the supreme court collection, Washington State Archives. Also see “Alumnus of the Year,” Seattle University News (1989), pp. 1-2; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 23 Mar. 1984; Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer, 29 Nov. 1987; and The Olympian, 17 Jan. 1991.
The preceding biography is from Charles Sheldon's The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991, © 1992 by the Board of Regents of Washington State University. Reprinted here with permission and licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License by The Temple of Justice Project.