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William Downing

Hon. William L. Downing (Ret.)

Case Manager
Michelle Nemeth
T: 206-292-0441
F: 206-292-9082
1420 Fifth Ave., Suite 1650, Seattle, WA 98101


As a trial court judge for nearly 28 years, Hon. William L. Downing (Ret.) brings to JAMS expertise in many different areas of law. He has handled thousands of cases as a King County Superior Court Judge, and is widely respected by the legal community as being fair and genuinely neutral.

As a judge, he has concentrated almost exclusively on civil litigation of all types. He has established a reputation as being hard-working and even-handed but, beyond that, someone with keen insights into the perspectives of the litigants, the attorneys, and the jury’s likely view of a case. 

As an author of many high school mock trial exercises, Judge Downing’s goal has been to help young people appreciate the importance of examining any issue from all sides, a skill he employs everyday as a neutral.

In addition to his experience as a jurist and attorney, as Chair of the Bench-Bar-Press Liaison Committee, Judge Downing has mediated hundreds of disputes involving the balancing of interests involved in access to public records.

Judge Downing is also a sought-after lecturer and has spoken on topics such as Discovery, Electronic Evidence, Expert Witnesses, Technology & the Courts, and Trial Practice.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • King County Superior Court Trial Judge for nearly 28 years
  • Mediated hundreds of disputes involving the balancing of interests with regard to access to public records issues as Chair of the Bench-Bar-Press Liaison Committee for more than 16 years
  • Served as Chair of the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions Subcommittee on Medical Malpractice for more than 20 years
    • In this capacity and as Co-Chair of the full Committee, he worked to bring experts to consensus about often difficult legal propositions.
  • After handling a series of high profile mass murder cases as a top prosecutor in the 1980s, he joined the bench and shifted his focus almost entirely to civil litigation.

Representative Matters


  • Handled allegations of breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, tortious interference, trade secret violations
  • Cases have dealt with sales of coffee shops, laundries, and restaurants; dissolution of medical practices, law firms and architects’ partnerships
  • Seafirst v. Pretzer, aff’d in unpublished opinion, 81 Wn. App. 1053 (1996). Case regarding a creditor’s duty of disclosure to a surety

Class Action

  • Including litigation involving a national retail sales force, delivery drivers, insurance claims processing and other contexts

Construction Defect

  • Has handled cases involving the building of condos, prisons, and a variety of other types of buildings


  • Cases have involved the tech industry, maritime industry, restaurants, retail sales, government, with defendants such as Worldcom, Brusco Tug & Barge, Denny’s, Bose, Costco, Gene Juarez, Seattle, and Snohomish County
  • Long v. Brusco Tug & Barge, aff’d 185 Wn. 2d 127 (2016)
    • Allegations of retaliation for engaging in protected activity regarding handicap discrimination

Family Law

  • A wide array of  issues involving characterization, tracing, valuation and division
  • In re: Marriage of Short, 125 Wn. 2d 865 (1995)
    • A landmark case dealing with Microsoft stock options
  • Andersen v. King County, 158 Wn. 2d 1 (2006)
    • A matter involving a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Larson v. Calhoun, 178 Wn. App. 133 (2013)
    • A case involving hundreds of millions of dollars in assets (including a major league baseball team) 

Personal Injury

  • Actions against government entities, nightclubs, private security companies, motorists
  • Rollins v. King County, aff’d 148 Wn. App. 370 (2009)
    • Landmark case involving injuries allegedly caused by the interplay between negligence of a defendant and intentional conduct of a third party
  • Montgomery v. Brewhaha, aff’d No. 73447-4-I (Wash. Ct. App. Aug. 8, 2016)
    • Liability of a nightclub owner for a gun death resulting from lax security screening

Professional Liability: Medical Malpractice

  • Cases involving obstetricians, oncologists, orthopedic surgeons, nurses and other health care providers
  • Rufer v. UWMC, 154 Wn. 2d 530 (2005)
    • Complex multiparty case involving allegations of product liability and medical negligence leading to an unnecessary hysterectomy

Professional Liability: Legal Malpractice

  • Cases involving allegations concerning bankruptcy, family law and criminal practices

Product Liability

  • Matters regarding asbestos, automotive passive restraint systems, medical devices, home heaters and other products
  • Authored many high school mock trial cases on topics such as whistle-blowing, invasion of privacy, police use of force and corporate responsibility
  • William L. Dwyer Inn of Court
  • Washington Pattern Jury Instructions Committee, 1985–present
    • Co-chair, 2000-2016
  • YMCA High School Mock Trial
    • State Program Committee Chair, 1998-2006
    • King County District Convener, 1989-2016                           
  • Bench-Bar-Press Liaison Committee, Chair 1999-2016
  • Washington State Center for Court Research Advisory Board, 2006-2008
  • Distinguished Alumnus, University of Washington School of Law, 2008
  • WSBA President’s Initiative (“Foundations of Freedom”), 2006-2007
  • Robert F. Utter Award, YMCA Youth & Government, 2007
  • Outstanding Judge Award, King County Bar Association, 2006
  • Judge of the Year, American Board of Trial Advocates (Washington Chapter), 2006
  • YMCA Youth & Government Board of Directors, 1999-2006
  • Judge of the Year, Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, 2005
  • Jurist of the Year, Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section, 2005
  • Judge William Nevins Award for Distinguished Service in Public Legal Education, Washington Judges Foundation, 2001
  • Superior Court Judges’ Association Civil Law & Rules Committee
    • Chair, 1998-2000

Selected Publications

  • “When ‘the client’ is all the faceless people,” Seattle Times, May 30, 1989
  • “Professor favors judges who love literature,” Book Review, Trial News, May 1996
  • “Profile: Justice James M. Dolliver,” Bar Bulletin, Dec. 1998
  • “Press and courts working together benefits all,” Seattle Times, June 23, 2000
  • “Skip the LSAT & Bag the Bar,” Book Review, Jurist, December 2000
  •  “Why do Mock Trials? Good Question!,” National High School Mock Trial Newsletter, Fall 2004
  •  “New rule means courtroom cameras will get their day in court,” Seattle Times, December 30, 2004
  • “American Justice Soiled?,” Book Review, Bar Bulletin, June 2005
  • “March of the Plea Bargains,” Book Review, WSBA Bar News, March 2006
  •  “My Judicial Detachment,” The Marshall Project, January 5, 2015
  •  “Probing for Sense Beneath a Senseless Seattle Crime,” Book Review, NWLawyer, February 2016

Selected Speaking Engagements

  • “Ethical & Effective Advocacy,” Washington Attorney General Conference, Tumwater, November 16, 2016
  • “Law & Medicine,” WSAJ, Seattle, November 3, 2016
  • “Building Trial Skills,” NITA, Seattle, September 11, 2016
  • “Jury Selection,” WSAJ, Suncadia, June 16, 2016
  • “Lessons from the Bench,” KCBA YLD, Seattle, June 14, 2016
  • “Court-Media Relations,” AOC, January 29, 2016
  • “Poetry & the Law,” Port Townsend Salon Series, January 22, 2016
  • “Best Courtroom Practices,” WDTL, Seattle, December 3, 2015
  • “Deception in the Courts,” Seattle University, November 24, 2015
  • “Technology in the Courtroom,” American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, March 23, 2015
  • Judge, King County Superior Court, 1989-2017
  • (Senior) Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, King County, 1978-1989
  • Deckhand: American Commercial Barge Line (New Orleans, LA), Federal Barge Line (New Orleans, LA), F/V Patti Lu (Blaine, WA), 1973-1975
  • J.D., University of Washington School of Law, 1978
  • B.A., Vassar College, 1971

Counsel Comments

    • "[Judge Downing is] patient, calm and confident and persausive as to the benefits of settlement for both sides. [This is] my first experience with Judge Downing as a mediator...he proved to me he will do very well in his new role." 

      - Healthcare Partner at Seattle Law Firm 
    • "I am writing to relay how utterly impressed I am with Judge Downing. He did a great job with two extremely difficult and complex cases. He is an asset to JAMS."

      -Insurance Attorney
    • "My clients and I sincerely appreciate having the benefit of Judge Downing's sage advice, expertise, and professional manner."

      Seattle Attorney
    • "It was a pleasure working with Judge Downing and we appreciate his patience with all of us and the ever-present smile on his face throughout a long and potentially taxing day. We appreciated and valued his independent perspective on the case."

      -Portland Attorney
    • "I really enjoyed having Judge Downing as the mediator for this case. He developed a genuine connection with my clients and did an excellent job of getting the parties to reach a final resolution that will save everyone a tremendous amount of time and expense. His professionalism, ability to think creatively, wisdom and kindness make him an excellent mediator that I would, without hesitation, recommend to both defense and plaintiff's counsel."

      -Washington Attorney
    • "[Judge Downing] listened to the human impact and emotions of the dispute patiently and with empathy, which was very helpful."

      -Managing Partner at Complex Litigation Firm



Practice Areas

  • Business/Commercial
  • Class Action/Mass Tort
  • Construction
  • Employment
  • Family Law
  • Insurance
  • Personal Injury/Torts
  • Professional Liability
  • Real Property
Available nationwide


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