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. A lovely tribute to Judge Steiner can be found here. 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 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 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.
Judge Ballinger lives in Seattle with her husband and their daughter.
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
Columbia University School of Law | New York, New York | J.D. 1998
Whitman College | Walla Walla, Washington | B.A. 1993
Local Rules Committee, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington
Judiciary & Litigation Committee, King County Bar Association
Local Rules Committee, King County Superior Court
Civil Law & Rules Committee, Superior Court Judges’ Association
Volunteer, Various High School and Law School Mock Trials / Moot Courts
Court Rules & Procedures Committee, Washington State Bar Association (term expired)
Legal Community Engagement
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
Huston Camp & Conference Center, Gold Bar, WA, Oversight Committee
U.S.A. Swimming, Official (Starter)
Blue Ridge Swimming, Official Coordinator
Non-Legal 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.