By Judge Beth M. Andrus
Chief Civil Judge
You have been litigating for 12 months and your trial date is fast approaching. Rumors abound as to whether the judge who handled your discovery motions and summary judgment will be the judge assigned to preside over your trial. What will happen to your trial date if you are reassigned to a different judge? How and when will you know who the trial judge will be?
I will provide answers to these and many other frequently asked questions regarding the civil trial assignment process in King County Superior Court.
Q: How many civil cases actually resolve by trial these days?
In 2016, King County Superior Court conducted 136 civil jury trials and 164 civil and non-UFC family law bench trials. Eighty of these trials occurred in cases filed at the Kent Regional Justice Center. Another 220 trials were in cases filed at the King County Courthouse in Seattle.
The percentage of civil cases resolved by trial has decreased over the course of the last 20 years, which is attributable in significant part to the ubiquity of pretrial mediation in this legal community. But King County Superior Court judges continue to preside over civil trials, Monday through Thursday, every week of the year.
Q: My case is already assigned to a judge. Will my assigned judge preside over my trial?
The answer to this question depends on where your case is pending and to which department your judge has been assigned.
Cases pending in Seattle
When you file a civil case in the Seattle courthouse, your case is automatically assigned to a judge for pretrial management. Both criminal and civil department judges carry a civil caseload for this purpose.
If your assigned judge is on the civil trial rotation, the court presumes that this judge will keep your case for trial. If the judge has multiple cases scheduled for trial in the same week, the judge has the discretion to keep one of the trials and to place any conflicting trials on standby for assignment to the next available judge for trial. The judge will continue to manage the case until it is reassigned.
If your assigned judge is on the criminal trial rotation, the court presumes that the judge will not retain the case for trial, but will place it on standby to be reassigned for trial to an available judge on the civil trial rotation. The judge will continue to manage the case until it is reassigned.
Cases pending in Kent
All civil cases filed in the RJC are automatically assigned to a Kent judge for pretrial management, but there is no presumption that your assigned judge will retain your case for trial. Instead, your case will be placed on standby to be reassigned to the next available judge for trial.
If there are no RJC judges available to preside over your trial, your trial may occur in Seattle, rather than Kent.
Trial assignment process
...login to read the rest of this article.