Thomas Samuel Zilly

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Thomas Samuel Zilly
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
Assumed office
January 1, 2004
Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
In office
April 20, 1988 – January 1, 2004
Appointed byRonald Reagan
Preceded byWalter T. McGovern
Succeeded byJames Robart
Personal details
Thomas Samuel Zilly

(1935-01-01) January 1, 1935 (age 88)
Detroit, Michigan
EducationUniversity of Michigan (BA)
Cornell University (JD)

Thomas Samuel Zilly (born January 1, 1935) is a Senior United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, Washington.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Zilly received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 1956 and a Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School in 1962. He was a United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant (J.G.) from 1956 to 1962, serving on active duty from 1956 to 1959. He entered private practice in Seattle, Washington, working from 1962 to 1988 at the law firm Lane Powell Moss & Miller. He was a Judge pro tem of the Seattle Municipal Court from 1972 to 1980.[2]

Zilly served as president of the Seattle-King County Bar Association in 1986-1987 and on multiple Washington State Bar Association committees, including as a hearing officer for its disciplinary board and as a bar examiner.[citation needed]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On February 16, 1988, Zilly was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington vacated by Judge Walter T. McGovern. A hearing on his nomination was held on March 28, 1988, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it on April 14, 1988.[3] Zilly was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 19, 1988, and received his commission the following day. He assumed senior status on January 1, 2004.[2]

In November 1988 Zilly ruled that the US Fish and Wildlife Service had unlawfully failed to list the northern spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act.[4]

In August 1997, Zilly certified a class-action lawsuit by 64 prison inmates who alleged they had been subjected to X-ray bombardment of their testes during a Cold War experiment conducted at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla during the 1960s.[5]

In June 2002, Zilly ruled that the University of Washington had not engaged in "reverse discrimination" against white law school admission aspirants who had not been admitted to the class entering in fall 1994.[6]

On January 28, 2017, Zilly ordered[7] a temporary injunction preventing the removal from the United States of two Yemeni citizens under Donald Trump's order to ban all immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations.[citation needed]

In February 2019, Zilly ordered the Department of Defense not to discriminate against U.S. armed forces members who are naturalized citizens by requiring them to undergo periodic security checks. The plaintiffs in the case were 17 individuals who had enlisted via the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program.[8]

In September 2020, Zilly denied a government motion to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Che Andre Taylor, who had been shot dead by Seattle police officers in 2016.[9]

Zilly presided over the first trial in the Western District of Washington ever conducted via the online platform Zoom during October 2020.[10]


  1. ^ Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments. United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. 1989. p. 908. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b Thomas Samuel Zilly at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  3. ^ "PN850 — Thomas S. Zilly — The Judiciary". U.S. Government. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  4. ^ Egan, Timothy (18 November 1988). "Ruling on Owl Stirs New Hope for Trees". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  5. ^ Steele, Karen (14 August 1997). "Judge Throws Out Oregon Man's Suit On Cold War Tests Rules He Waited Too Long; Local Case Still Active". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Law School Admissions Legal, Judge Rules in 'Reverse Discrimination' Lawsuit". Columns: The University of Washington Alumni Magazine. University of Washington. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  7. ^ Zilly, Thomas (28 January 2017). "Order Granting Emergency Motion for Stay of Removal, John Doe I et al. v. Trump et ux" (PDF). U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Judge Orders Pentagon To Stop Discriminating Against Naturalized Citizen Soldiers". National Public Radio. 2 February 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  9. ^ Carter, Mike (September 5, 2020). "'They said, he's dead': Judge in Seattle won't dismiss civil rights lawsuit by family of Che Taylor". The Seattle Times. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  10. ^ Alder, Madison (October 9, 2020). "Zoom Trial Judge Recommends Jurors Get Time for Virtual Chitchat". Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law. Retrieved 27 April 2021.


Legal offices
Preceded by Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
Succeeded by