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Deborah Fleck

Judge Deborah D. Fleck (Ret.)


Case Manager
Michele Wilson
T: 206-292-0457
F: 206-292-9082
1420 Fifth Ave., Suite 1650, Seattle, WA 98101

Biography

Available to conduct virtual/remote mediations, arbitrations and other ADR proceedings on a variety of online platforms, including Zoom.

Judge Deborah Fleck (Ret.)
 handled a wide range of complex civil cases during her 21 years on the bench, and is highly respected for her work ethic, fairness and intellect. She is also highly regarded among colleagues on the bench and in the bar for her hard work, tenacity and commitment to improving the justice system in Washington State.  Her leadership on race and justice issues, adequate and stable funding for the trial courts, issues involving families and children including establishing mediation programs, and public education about access to the justice system are some of the highlights of her judicial career. 

Judge Fleck is well known as a mediator for her thorough preparation and for communicating her confidence in the parties' ability to reach resolution through hard work and creative problem-solving. She builds rapport with parties and their counsel, and is able to bring her judicial experience to bear in reaching reasonable and fair solutions for the parties in cases she mediates. She is recognized for her ability to identify risks and finesse through barriers to resolution, with counsel at times commenting that they had no expectation that a case would settle. She is known as an advocate for settlement, a mediator who doesn't give up until a case is resolved. During her judicial career, she served as Chief Judge of the Regional Justice Center and Chief Judge of the Unified Family Court which resulted in the implementation of Early Resolution Case Manager attorneys providing a Family Law Orientation to pro se parties, followed by on-site mediation for cases not settled prior to trial.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • As Chief Judge of Unified Family Court, implemented use of Early Resolution Case Manager attorneys to provide the Family Law Orientation for pro se parties, with in-house mediations for those not settled prior to trial
  • President of the Superior Court Judges’ Association 2002-2003, established the Trial Court Funding Initiative and the Race and Justice Initiative
  • Co-initiated the King County Family Law Settlement Conference Program with volunteer senior family law attorneys helping low income parties and their attorneys settle thousands of cases since 1997
  • Co-chaired the Board for Judicial Administration, the policy-making body of the judicial branch, with Chief Justice Alexander 2003-2005, and co-initiated the BJA Trial Court Funding Task Force, leading to the Justice in Jeopardy Initiative bringing over $80 million/biennium in new state funding for Washington trial court operations, parent dependency representation, criminal indigent defense and legal aid for the poor through effective efforts with the Washington State Legislature
  • Chaired the Minority and Justice Commission’s Workforce Diversity Committee for 15 years, published the Diversifying the Bench guidebook and the How to Build a Diverse Court:  A Guide to Recruitment and Retention manual
  • Member of the King County Superior Court Executive Committee 2001-2003, 2008-2013
  • Chaired and served on many committees at the local and state level, including the Superior Court Judges’ Association Family and Juvenile Law Committee and its Legislative Committee

Representative Matters

Business/Commercial

  • Presided over the failure of a complicated casino business venture with multiple parties, involving issues including contribution and indemnity, fraud, reformation of contract related to personal guarantee of a multi-million dollar bank loan, stock pledge, unjust enrichment, misrepresentation and bankruptcy
  • Presided over jury case involving claims of tortious interference with business expectancy, breach of Unfair Business Practices Act, and business disparagement
  • Arbitrated trademark infringement of hotels by unlicensed use after franchise terminated
  • Mediated dispute over purchase and sale of an Alaska fishing lodge and restaurant including dispute over boat fishing permits
  • Mediated an accounting dispute between two company owners
  • Mediated business dispute between former spouses over Seattle restaurant
  • Mediated several cases involving claims such as fraud, negligence, violation of the CPA and the ADA, undisclosed defects and breaches of implied warranties by purchasers of new and used motor vehicles (motor homes, cars and trucks) against dealerships
  • Mediated settlement of a dispute over a contract to create a website for a small business

Construction

  • Presided over construction defect, contractor claims, and various real estate cases as well as claims against a condo association for failure to comply with its fiduciary duty to repair
  • Mediated dispute regarding building of luxury home which was not certified, contained unpermitted items and numerous defects and allegations that the lot size had been altered after sale

Employment

  • Arbitrated employment claim for $650,000 based on racial discrimination, retaliation, and unpaid wages involving an employee of a large national corporation
  • Arbitrated employment claim based on race and sex discrimination including harassment claims involving a loan servicing company
  • Arbitrated discovery issues in a doctor's claims against hospital for age discrimination, wrongful withholding of compensation in violation of the employment agreement, wrongful denial of access to surgical theaters and copy infringement
  • Selected as Hearing Officer in several matters involving adverse change in contract status of certificated employees per RCW 28A.405.310

Estate

  • Arbitrated dispute among family members regarding compliance with CR2A involving caretaking and financial management of wealthy elderly parents with dementia
  • Mediated estate dispute between siblings involving a revocable living family trust
  • Mediated trust estates involving distribution of real property
  • Mediated and arbitrated claims between beneficiaries over distribution of deceased's personal property and reimbursement to the estate
  • Mediated dispute between beneficiaries of two trusts over real property
  • Mediated breach of promissory note stemming from royalty payments owed to family trust

Family Law

  • Mediated and arbitrated property issues including characterization, valuation and division of real and personal property, small businesses, professional practices, stock options and restricted stock units, public and private retirement benefits, airline miles, as well as tax and bankruptcy issues, and allocation of debt and attorney's fees. Some matters involved a self-employed party, an executive in a start-up, a highly paid tech employee, a disabled party, parties who immigrated to the United States, and allegations of substance abuse and domestic violence. Cases ranged from multi-million dollars to very limited estates.
  • Mediated and arbitrated spousal maintenance, child support and parenting plans including residential schedules, relocation, extra-curricular activities, domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, mental/emotional abuse, non-parental custody, manipulation of children, travel (domestic and international), immigration and cases subject to the Hague Convention
  • Mediated disputes regarding treatment for mental health issues of children
  • Presided over similar cases described above while serving on the bench, as well as represented parties in such cases in private practice
  • Presided over a case brought several years after dissolution of marriage involving failure to disclose interest in a multimillion-dollar start-up
  • Presided over a post dissolution case involving claims of failure to disclose and securities fraud involving a major tech firm

Government

  • Mediated a slip and fall on a city street against a municipality
  • Handled the summary judgment in the baseball stadium case, Citizens for More Important Things v. King County, an action under Art. VII of the Washington Constitution challenging ordinances passed by King County which implemented various funding provisions of The Stadium Act, Laws of 1995; plaintiffs’ claims included that the expenditure of public funds by the County for pre-construction costs prior to the County obtaining a binding commitment from a major league baseball team were not expenditures for a valid purpose

Insurance

  • Handled numerous summary judgment motions every two weeks for several months in a complex toxic tort insurance coverage case; after issuing lengthy written decisions on the summary judgment motions, urged the parties to voluntarily re-engage in ADR and the case settled

Personal Injury

  • Arbitrated with tri-party panel a UIM claim for personal injuries
  • Arbitrated wrongful death of disabled person in an automobile accident
  • Arbitrated bicycle/auto accident case
  • Mediated a personal injury claim by driver of company vehicle
  • Mediated a personal injury case involving PIP issues
  • Mediated a personal injury claim involving the traumatic amputation of a worker's three large toes
  • Mediated a personal injury claim involving burns from hot food spilled by employee on customer
  • Mediated a bicycle accident personal injury claim against a municipality
  • Mediated tort of outrage - intentional infliction of emotional distress and/or libel/slander
  • Mediated a slip and fall on a city street against a municipality
  • Mediated UIM claims

Professional Liability

  • Mediated a legal malpractice claim
  • Presided over a medical malpractice case involving serious injuries at birth, including novel issues relating to liability; lengthy sessions with counsel led to jury instructions with no exceptions taken; case resulted in a multi-million dollar verdict that was not appealed
  • Managed and presided over multiple cases involving claims against a doctor for sex abuse of his patients
  • Mediated claims against former lawyer for legal malpractice and professional negligence arising out of a foreclosure action

Real Estate

  • Mediated dispute over covenants, common areas and easements
  • Mediated a pre-suit commercial landlord/tenant matter where the parties settled by negotiating a new lease
  • Arbitrated a dispute between former and current member managers of large apartment complex over financial obligations, payments and required exchange of financial information
  • Mediated a case of breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation regarding agreements to purchase real property
  • Mediated a water rights/ownership dispute involving a residential well
  • Mediated claims for specific performance and negligence arising out of a real estate purchase and sale agreement
  • Mediated a dispute between a property owner and a neighborhood association
  • Mediated a partition action between two sisters involving valuable properties acquired decades earlier by their parents
  • Mediated unlawful detainer action involving mobile home for park rule violations
  • Arbitrated breach of rental agreement for high value residence, including claims of invasion of privacy
  • Civic Virtue Award, Center for Civic Education, 2018
  • Seattle University School of Law, Distinguished Law Graduate Award, 2010
  • Award of Merit, Washington State Bar Association’s highest award, 2009
  • Outstanding Judge Award, Washington State Bar Association, 2005
  • President’s Award, King County Bar Association, 2005
  • Vanguard Award, Washington Women Lawyers, King County Chapter, 2004
  • Judge of the Year Award, Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, 2000
  • Jurist of the Year Award, Washington State Bar Association, Family Law Section, 1999
  • President, Superior Court Judges' Association, 2002-2003, established the Trial Court Funding Initiative and Race and Justice Initiative
  • Chair, SCJA Family and Juvenile Law Committee 1998-2001; member 1993-2013; convener, Judicial Leadership Colloquium, 2000; initiator of Juvenile Court Vision Retreats beginning in 1999; sole judicial officer on the ad hoc legislative committee that developed the family law Relocation Act
  • Chair, SCJA Legislative Committee 2008-2012; member 1999-2013
  • Co-Chair with Chief Justice Alexander, Board for Judicial Administration, 2003-2005; 12 year BJA member 2001–2013; co-initiated the BJA Trial Court Funding Task Force, leading to the Justice in Jeopardy Initiative resulting in over $80 million per biennium in new state funding for trial court operations, parent dependency representation, criminal indigent defense, and legal aid for the poor; former Chief Justice Alexander has called this effort to obtain stable, adequate, and long term funding of the trial courts “the most significant reform effort of the judicial branch of government since statehood.”
  • Co-chaired the BJA’s Trial Court Funding Task Force’s Implementation Strategies Work Group, served on the Task Force’s steering committee and the Funding Alternatives Work Group
  • Editor, Trial Court Funding Task Force Report, 2004: Justice in Jeopardy: The Court Funding Crisis in Washington State
  • Co-chair with Chief Justice Alexander and Chief Justice Madsen of the BJA’s Justice in Jeopardy Implementation Committee, 2005–2013
  • Served on the BJA Executive Legislative Committee, 2003-2005; 2008-2012
  • Member, BJA Public Trust and Confidence Committee, 2000-2007
  • Chair, BJA Long Range Planning Committee, 2003-2005, developed the BJA Long Range Plan; member 2002-2012
  • Member, Project 2001, BJA Task Force addressed court structure resulting in Trial Court Coordinating Councils, stronger presiding judge rule, and portability of judges between superior and district courts requiring constitutional amendments
  • Member, Domestic Relations Committee, 2000
  • Member, Minority and Justice Commission and chair of its Workforce Diversity Committee, 1998 – 2013, published the Diversifying the Bench guidebook and the How to Build a Diverse Court: A Guide to Recruitment and Retention manual
  • Member, Minority and Justice Commission’s Evaluation and Implementation Committee 1998-2012, led efforts to redraft Criminal Rule 3.2 relating to pre-trial release to clarify the presumption of release and the factors and analysis for judicial decisions in pre-trial release; led efforts to redraft Criminal Rule 2.2 to initiate felonies by summons rather than warrant unless certain conditions are met
  • Served as a representative of the SCJA in drafting GR 22, relating to sensitive court records in family law cases and GR 31 relating to access to and dissemination of electronic court records
  • Participated through the BJA and the SCJA in drafting GR 31.1 relating to access to court administrative records
  • Chaired and served on additional committees at the local and state level
  • Vice president of the Washington Judges’ Foundation, providing grants to the YMCA Mock Trial, We the People, and Street Law civics education programs and grants to help fund Teen Court expansion
  • Judge at regional, state, and national competitions of We the People, 1998-2009; organized presentation at judicial conference; worked with WSBA, OSPI, and Seattle Schools superintendents in efforts to provide broader access to this program
  • Judge King County Superior Court, 1992 -2013
    • Chief Judge, Unified Family Court, 2011-2013
    • Chief Judge, Regional Justice Center, 2001-2003
    • Served in the civil, criminal and juvenile court departments
  • Small firm general practice in Snohomish and King Counties for 16 years
  • J.D., Seattle University School of Law (formerly University of Puget Sound School of Law), 1976; Law Review Case and Comment Editor
  • B.A., University of Washington, 1972

Counsel Comments

    • "Judge Fleck is one of the best mediators with whom I have worked. Her tenacity made a decisive difference in the outcome; as well as her willingness to let the negotiations take their own shape and ‘change’ at the end of the day. Everything that could have been done was done to perfection by Judge Fleck. That is why the case settled. Judge Fleck was a brilliant, thorough, well-prepared and kind Judge, and if possible, she is even better as a mediator”

      -Seattle Family Law Attorney
    • "Thank you for your tremendous effort and guidance through this lengthy mediation process...We have settled due, in no small part, to your commitment to this process."

      -Divorce/Family Law Partner at Seattle Firm
    • "We are all very aware of how differently this case could have turned-out without your deep concern, commitment, and perseverance. We are all so very fortunate for your involvement, which truly was outstanding."

      -Family Law/LGBTQ Legal Issues Shareholder at Seattle Firm
    • [Judge Fleck's] stamina and patience are incredible. This would not have been solved without [her]. 

      -Seattle Civil Litigation Partner
    • "Judge Fleck did a very good job and was great to work with. She was good in closing the deal which is the key to a good mediator."
    • "[Judge Fleck's] patience and frank words at times worked well to bring reason into play."
    • "Under considerable pressure [Judge Fleck] did a beautiful job holding us all together until we got to the finish line. She was graceful, patient, and filled with aplomb."
    • “It was such a pleasure working with you over the past two months... I think these parties made good progress toward redefining their roles in a different relationship, particularly in the area of future co-parenting. Your attention to the underlying emotional issues and your demeanor played huge roles in how the family may move forward more positively.”
    • On Judge Fleck’s mediation style: “I loved it. She had the right approach with my client, empathy, compassion and her experience as a family law judge deciding these custody matters. It took all of that to get my client agree to compromise on time in the parenting plan. Miraculously, my client did not have buyer’s remorse the next day.” 
    • “This (mediator fee) is the best money I have spent on this case. Judge Fleck was very good- tough but fair. She quickly grasped the situation and got rid of the extraneous issues right away so we could focus on getting it settled. She was the person for the job.”
    • “Judge Fleck was great. Solid connection with the facts and my client (who was very difficult). She had a lot of positive confidence that the case would settle throughout the day which was conveyed to the parties in a way that allowed them to hang in there with the expectation that a settlement would be reached. I would definitely like to work with her again.”

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Practice Areas

  • Arbitration
  • Business/Commercial
  • Employment
  • Estate/Probate
  • Family Law
  • Insurance
  • Personal Injury/Tort
  • Real Property
  • Securities
Available nationwide

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