The WSBA Board of Governors created the Task Force on the Escalating Cost of Civil Litigation in 2011 to assess the costs of civil litigation in Washington courts and develop recommendations that could reduce costs. Costs were defined as attorney time and expenses advanced for the purpose of litigation. The task force examined the types of litigation typically filed in superior and district courts and surveyed neighboring and similarly situated states to compare the cost of litigation. See ECCL Task Force charter.
The task force issued its final report on June 15, 2015. The report was presented to the Board of Governors in July 2015. The Board held public discussions on the task force recommendations at its January, March, and April 2016 meetings. During this period, members and stakeholders provided their comments on the report's recommendations in writing and in person to the Board. On June 3, 2016, the Board held a first reading and took provisional votes on the recommendations. The Board issued its final response on July 22, 2016. See the WSBA president's letter to the Washington Supreme Court and Report of the Board of Governors.
Work of the Task Force
Seattle attorney and former Board member Russ Aoki chaired the 17-member task force, which included WSBA members who practiced in federal courts, one who practiced in Oregon, judges from each level of court (limited jurisdiction, superior, and appellate), and a representative from the court clerks' association.
The task force met from July 2011 to May 2015. See meeting minutes. They identified multiple factors that impact litigation costs:
- 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 analyze the factors in-depth. Each subcommittee was organized around a specific area of litigation practice:
- Pleadings and Motion Practice Subcommittee, chaired by Eric de los Santos
- Discovery Subcommittee, chaired by Todd Nunn
- Alternative Dispute Resolution Subcommittee, chaired by Jerry McNaul
- Trial Procedure Subcommittee, co-chaired by Hon. Richard McDermott and Gail Nunn
- District Court Subcommittee, chaired by Hon. Marcine Anderson
The subcommittees were also assisted by 32 non-task force WSBA members who had knowledge and expertise in the areas studied.
Civil Litigation Survey
In fall 2013, the Task Force surveyed more than 6,000 Bar members for their perspectives on the high costs of civil litigation and possible approaches to reduce costs. Members of WSBA Sections involved in litigation, minority bar associations, the Washington State Association for Justice, and Washington Defense Trial Lawyers participated in the survey. See ECCL Survey questions and member responses.
In February 2015, the Task Force distributed a preliminary draft report to stakeholders which included the results of the survey and reports from the subcommittees. The task force met again to consider the feedback from stakeholders and to revise some of its recommendations. The task force's final report was issued on June 15, 2015.
WSBA Staff Liaison: Jeanne Marie Clavere