Escalating Cost of Civil Litigation Task Force

In January 2011, the WSBA Board of Governors created the Task Force on the Escalating Cost of Civil Litigation to assess the costs of civil litigation in Washington state courts and develop recommendations to control costs. The task force charter adopted by the Board defined costs as attorney time and expenses advanced for the purpose of litigation. The charter directed the task force to focus on the types of litigation that are typically filed in superior courts and district courts of Washington and to survey neighboring and similarly situated states to compare the cost of litigation in Washington.

Seattle attorney and former Board member, Russ Aoki, chaired the 17-member task force along with 10 other WSBA members. The task force also included two members who practice in federal courts, one who is licensed and practices in Oregon, a judge from each level of court (limited jurisdiction, superior, and appellate), and a representative of the court clerks' association. Member roster

The task force issued its final report on June 15, 2015, and introduced the report to the Board of Governors at the July 24-25, 2015, board meeting. The Board held presentations and public discussions on each of the report's recommendations during its January, March, and April 2016 meetings. The Board also received numerous written comments from individual members and stakeholders. At the June 3, 2016, meeting, the Board held a first reading and took provisional votes on the task force recommendations.  The Board is expected to take a final vote on their full response to the recommendations at its July 22-23 2016 meeting. 

Provisional Votes 

June 3, 2016


Initial Case Schedule — Yes: 13; No: 0; Abstain: 1

Judicial Assignment — Yes: 14; No: 0; Abstain: 0

2-Tier Litigation — Yes: 1; No: 10; Abstain: 3

Mandatory Discovery Conference — Yes: 12; No: 2; Abstain: 0

Mandatory Disclosures — Yes: 9; No: 4; Abstain: 1

Proportionality and Cooperation:

Governor Furlong moved to bifurcate. Seconded. Motion passed unanimously —
Proportionality: Yes: 2; No: 12; Abstain: 0
Cooperation: Yes: 14; No: 0; Abstain: 0

Presumptive Discovery Limits — Yes: 1; No: 12; Abstain: 1

E-Discovery — Yes: 0; No: 10; Abstain: 4

Motions Practice — Yes: 6; No: 7; Abstain: 1

Pretrial Conference — Yes: 12; No: 1; Abstain: 1

District Court: 

Governor Cava moved to vote only on jurisdiction and to amend the overall recommendation to bring in line with decisions made on other recommendations in the ECCL Task Force report. Seconded by Governor Furlong.

Yes: 12; No: 1; Abstain: 1

 

Governor Risenmay moved to reject the recommendation to expand District Court jurisdiction to include unlawful detainer proceedings. Seconded by Governor Pickett.

Yes: 8; No: 5

 

Governor Furlong moved to reject the recommendation to expand District Court jurisdiction to include expansion of anti-harassment orders involving real property. Seconded by Governor Jarmon.

Yes: 8; No: 5

Alternative Dispute Resolution — Yes: 11; No: 2; Abstain: 1

Work of the Task Force

The task force met from July 2011 to May 2015 and identified several factors that impact litigation costs. See meeting minutes.

  • Attorney time (legal fees)
  • Case management (case schedules, trial dates, fast track)
  • Case type
  • Access to justice (making legal services more affordable)
  • Pro se litigants
  • Public perception of the legal system; impact on diverse Washington communities
  • Use of alternative dispute resolution
  • Litigation costs
  • Economic motives that may increase the cost of litigation

Five subcommittees were formed to examine the factors in context in greater detail and develop recommendations. The subcommittees were greatly assisted by other WSBA members who were not formal members of the task force, but held specialized knowledge and expertise.  The subcommittees were: Pleadings and Motion Practice (chaired by Eric de los Santos); Discovery (chaired by Todd Nunn); Alternative Dispute Resolution (chaired by Jerry McNaul); Trial Procedure  (co-chaired by Hon. Richard McDermott and Gail Nunn); District Court (chaired by Hon. Marcine Anderson).

Civil Litigation Survey

In the fall 2013, the task force surveyed more than 6,000 Bar members on their perspectives regarding the high costs of civil litigation and possible approaches to reduce costs. The survey was directed to WSBA Sections involved in litigation, minority bar associations, the Washington State Association for Justice, and Washington Defense Trial Lawyers. See ECCL Survey questions and member responses.

In February 2015, the task force distributed a preliminary draft report which included the results of the survey and reports from the subcommittees to stakeholders for comment. Following the comment period, the task force met again to consider the feedback received and to incorporate revisions to the report's recommendations. The final report was issued on June 15, 2015.

Contact Us

      ECCL@wsba.org

Russ Aoki
Aoki Law PLLC
1200 Fifth Ave., Suite 750
Seattle, WA 98101-3106

Jeanne Marie Clavere, WSBA Staff Liaison
jeannec@wsba.org

ECCL Task Force Final Report

June 15, 2015

ECCL Task Force Survey

Survey questions and member responses

Interim Reports

Interim reports provided to the Board of Governors