HON. MICHAEL WASHINGTON
"I knew I wanted to be an accountant and SDSU had the best accounting program west of the Mississippi."
But a career in the legal field is not what Washington ('90, accounting) was initially
pursuing when he entered SDSU. He said "I knew I wanted to be an accountant and SDSU
had the best accounting program west of the Mississippi." And it didn't hurt that
San Diego also "had great golf courses" added Washington, who lettered in golf and
tennis at Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, Calif.
His studies at SDSU got off to a bit of a rocky start: Although he got an "A" in his first college accounting course, his managerial accounting class did not go as well. "Up to this point, accounting had always been easy for me, but when I got a 42 out of 200 points on the first exam, I was stunned and too embarrassed to share my score with others," Washington recalled. Little did he know that 42 was the second highest exam score in the class. "It turns out that the high score was only 55!" he said. "The professor had made his point – this was different level of accounting and his students were going to have to prepare intensely if they planned to succeed."
After graduation, Washington worked briefly as an accountant, but his career plans changed when he met his wife who was working as a paralegal. Several of the attorneys he met through her encouraged him to attend law school which he did. He graduated from the California Western School of Law in 1994 and started working for the San Diego County Public Defender's Office shortly thereafter.
Judge Washington with his wife, Vanessa Banks
"Relentlessly pursue your dreams and find time to unselfishly do good for others. By pursuing your dreams, your life will always have purpose. By doing good for others, your life will always have meaning."
Washington chose to specialize in criminal law because "there is no more exciting type of law to practice," he observed. "Criminal law has so much drama, it is no surprise that so many TV shows and movies focus on that type of courtroom drama."
Even though he changed career goals, Washington noted that his accounting degree came in handy in the world of criminal law. "Some of the crimes I defended involved complex financial crimes," he said. "Since many attorneys hate math, my accounting background would always give me a decided advantage in the courtroom."
His future courtroom experiences will be from a different perspective, as he was sworn in as a judge on September 13, 2013. And as he enters the next phase of his career, he offers this advice to SDSU students: "Relentlessly pursue your dreams and find time to unselfishly do good for others. By pursuing your dreams, your life will always have purpose. By doing good for others, your life will always have meaning."