By: Penny Gans | WAMS Staff
Judit Gebhardt is a passionate woman whose intense curiosity and readiness to take advantage of opportunities have given her a variety of life experiences that enhance her skills as a professional neutral. Judit has been a WAMS panel member since 1988 and is a recently retired Industrial Appeals Judge. In her thirty-two year judicial career, Judit conducted bench trials and delivered more than 1,600 decisions in work-related personal injury, occupational disease and toxic exposure cases as well as medical standard of care, workmen’s compensation fraud, wage loss, pension, and consumer protection matters. She is an avid student of medical developments and stays current by attending jury trials to hear expert testimony. Judit has a wealth of knowledge about entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security), knowing that ten to twenty percent of injury cases have an entitlement element lurking somewhere.
As a judge, Judit’s decisions required careful listening, a critical skill that has served her in good stead as a mediator. She believes that mediation is very personal, especially for the plaintiff, so she actively engages with the parties so they know their situation has been understood. In her words, “Resolution usually occurs when parties are able to consider all opportunities and reach the best decision.” Her experience as a judge has convinced her that mediation is a safer environment than the courtroom for allowing parties to reach a conclusion that will be more satisfying than if a judge or jury make the decision for them. As a mediator, Judit does not direct the parties to a solution, but she provides information and perspective to facilitate settlement. When she feels that a case should have settled, she continues to work with the parties after the mediation is over to bring resolution.
In addition to mediating a wide range of cases, Judit is frequently asked to arbitrate UIM, tort, and commercial disputes or for the State of Washington’s Lemon Law program. She has also taught Evidence, Worker’s Compensation, and Administrative Law in various CLE courses and has served as chair of the Administrative Law section of the Washington State Bar.
Raised in a conservative, German-speaking household in Oregon, Judit’s first passion was classical ballet and her first job was helping her father in the family bakery. She became politically active in high school and found a mentor in independent senator Wayne Morse, whose reelection campaign she managed in Washington County and who encouraged her to consider law school. At Portland State University, Judit studied math and psychology and helped develop a Women’s Studies program. At Willamette University Law School, she developed a Family Law Center and spent three years as a family law litigator while gaining her JD in 1976. She became a Hearing Examiner for the Department of Employment Security before being appointed to the Washington State Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.
In her personal life, Judit also enjoys exploring how pieces best fit together. She is an avid quilter, creating heirloom quilts for friends and family members based on collaborative designs worked out on a computer. Her other ongoing project is the completion of a 1500-piece Tiffany-style stained glass lamp. Judit’s interest in stained glass resulted in her becoming the owner of a publishing house specializing in instructional materials for stained glass hobbyists. Judit is most passionate about her family, especially her two grandchildren. She has always encouraged them to do as she has always done: to relish their choices and always follow the paths that interest them. Her caring, down-to-earth manner, confidence, and love of the dispute resolution process allow everyone who encounters Judit to know they are in good hands.