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Since Governor Jay Inslee appointed her to the King County Superior Court in December 2021, Judge Ballinger has worked tirelessly to meet the court's mission: to provide a forum for disputes that is compassionate and just. 

Her first two years were spent handling child welfare cases.  Each day, she strove to ensure that the many participants in each child welfare case not only were heard, but felt heard.  From their first day in court, she worked hard to know the families she served so that she could timely address their particular needs.  And over the two-year period she sought to improve justice on a structural level.  This included spearheading a workgroup that rewrote the court rules for child welfare cases to make them more understandable and fair.  She also regularly met with stakeholders to solicit their suggestions to improve the substantive and procedural fairness in her court.   

Now assigned to a criminal and civil rotation, Judge Ballinger presides over criminal, civil, and family law trials while managing hundreds of civil cases.  Having tried many criminal and civil cases to verdict, she is well-equipped to make the quick decisions necessary during trial.  She appreciates how difficult trial can be and attempts to mitigate the impact on the mental health of litigants, witnesses, jurors, and lawyers.  Her experience handling many complex civil cases means that she has already navigated many of the legal, evidentiary, and analytical issues involved in these cases.  

In the short time she's been on the bench, Judge Ballinger has taken on several leadership roles in the Court and the community.  She serves on the Court's Executive Committee, is a trustee of the King County Bar Foundation (which raises funds for minority law scholarships at Seattle University and the University of Washington), is co-chair of the King County CSEC (commercially sexually exploited children) Task Force, and serves on various local and statewide rules committees.  

Judge Ballinger is honored, privileged, and delighted to serve.  She brings to the bench enthusiasm for the law and the legal process, a strong work ethic, excellent analytical and writing abilities, and a commitment to do justice.


Like many of the judges with whom she serves, Judge Ballinger is committed to eliminating barriers to accessing justice, including those caused by biases, physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities, lack of financial resources, and language differences.  If you or someone you know experiences a barrier to accessing justice in the King County Superior Court, Judge Ballinger encourages you to contact her.


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Work at the Court

Judge Ballinger comes from a family devoted to public service: her father earned a ROTC scholarship to Oregon State University and served in the Navy, her mother was an elementary school teacher before and after raising kids, both her brother and her sister are middle school teachers, and her husband is a retired rescue helicopter pilot.  Judge Ballinger has been inspired by each of them to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time as she strives to fulfill the mission of the King County Superior Court: to serve the public by ensuring justice through accessible and effective forums for the fair, understandable, and timely resolution of legal matters.


After completing her studies at Whitman College and the Columbia University School of Law, Judge Ballinger served as a law clerk to federal judge William L. Dwyer, a deputy prosecuting attorney handling criminal matters in King County and Clallam County, and, occasionally, as a pro tem judge.  In addition, she was an associate at Perkins Coie.  Most recently, she was a partner at Harrigan Leyh Farmer & Thomsen LLP handling complex civil disputes at trial and on appeal.  She is particularly proud of her representation of a federally recognized Indian tribe, including the successful defense of its sovereignty at the U.S. Supreme Court (138 S. Ct. 1649) and of its treaty-reserved fishing rights at all federal court levels.


In December 2021, Governor Inslee appointed Judge Ballinger to the position previously held by the late Judge David Steiner.  The appointment followed a rigorous selection process in which four bar associations awarded her their highest rating of Exceptionally Well Qualified (King County Bar Association, Cardozo Society, Washington Women Lawyers—King County Chapter, Washington State Veterans Bar Association).  Upon her appointment, Governor Inslee said, “Kristin brings an incredible breadth of experience.  She has years of civil and criminal law experience, including substantial trial experience.  She will be an outstanding addition to the King County bench.”


Judge Ballinger lives in Seattle with her husband and looks forward to visits home from their daughter.

Life Experiences

Harrigan Leyh Farmer Thomsen LLP | Seattle, Washington | 2013 – 2022

Partner (2017 – 2022); Associate (2013 – 2016)


Pro Tem / Commissioner | 2005 – 2007, 2013 – 2014 | Port Angeles & Port Townsend, Washington

  • Pro Tem District Court Judge (Clallam County & Jefferson County)

  • Pro Tem District Court Commissioner (Clallam County)

  • Pro Tem Hearing Examiner (Clallam County)


Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office | 2004 – 2005 | Port Angeles, Washington

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney


Perkins Coie | 2003 – 2004, 1998 – 1999 | Seattle, Washington



King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office | 2001 – 2003 | Seattle, Washington

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney


Hon. William L. Dwyer, U.S. District Court (W.D. Wash.) | 1999 – 2001 | Seattle, Washington

Law Clerk

Work Experience

Columbia University School of Law | New York, New York | J.D. 1998

Whitman College | Walla Walla, Washington | B.A. 1993



Executive Committee, King County Superior Court

Trustee, King County Bar Foundation

Co-Chair, King County CSEC Task Force

Local Rules Committee, King County Superior Court

Civil Law & Rules Committee, State Superior Court Judges’ Association

Local Rules Committee, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington

Judiciary & Litigation Committee, King County Bar Association

Volunteer, Various High School and Law School Mock Trials / Moot Courts


Court Rules & Procedures Committee, Washington State Bar Association

Huston Camp & Conference Center, Gold Bar, WA, Oversight Committee

U.S.A. Swimming, Official (Starter)

Blue Ridge Swimming, Official Coordinator

Habitat for Humanity, Seattle, Family Selection Committee Member

Rachael’s Women’s Center, Washington D.C., Program Manager (Per Diem Full Time Volunteer)

ACLU Chapter, Whitman College, Founding Member

Community Engagement

Ranked Practitioner, Chambers & Partners. One of 40 persons in Washington who Chambers deemed a Ranked Practitioner in General Commercial Litigation. The Chambers Review most recently described her as having “significant trial and appellate capabilities” and as “an impressive lawyer.” Previously, the Chambers Review stated, “Kristin Ballinger handles a wide range of commercial disputes, and has significant trial and appellate capabilities. Her clients describe her as ‘extremely diligent, a careful listener and a skilled communicator.’”


Fellow, American Bar Foundation. The Foundation describes its Fellows as a “global honorary society of attorneys, judges, law faculty, and legal scholars whose public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the highest principles of the legal profession and to the welfare of their community.” 


Best Lawyers, U.S. News. Recognized in Commercial Litigation and Litigation – Intellectual Property, one of 118 and 66 (respectively) lawyers in the state to be so recognized.


Super Lawyers Magazine. Named to the 2021 Washington State Super Lawyers list, an honor received by no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state each year.


Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Columbia University School of Law. Named a Stone scholar (“[a]warded in recognition of superior academic achievement”) each of the three years she attended the law school.


Passed with Distinction, Senior Assessment in Major Study, Whitman College. As a history major, she was required to prepare a 40-minute oral presentation (followed by its defense, for a total oral examination time of 50 minutes) and pass a comprehensive written examination.  She passed each examination with distinction. 

Recognition as a Lawyer and Student

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