Hon. Deborah D. Fleck (Ret.)

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F: 206-292-9082
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Hon. Deborah Fleck (Ret.) joins JAMS after serving over two decades on the King County Superior Court.  During her 21 years on the bench, Judge Fleck handled a wide range of complex civil cases 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 for her ability to recognize when cases are ripe for settlement and has a reputation for helping parties achieve resolution. 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.

Download: "What Counsel Say About Hon. Deborah Fleck (Ret.)"

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

  • Mediated settlement of a dispute over a contract to create a website for a small business
  • 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

Construction

  • Presided over construction defect, contractor claims, and various real estate cases; claims against a condo association for failure to comply with their fiduciary duties to repair

Employment

  • Selected as Hearing Officer in several matters involving adverse change in contract status of certificated employees per RCW 28A.405.310

Family Law

  • Mediated and settled issues of parenting, child support, property, stock value and distribution, and spousal maintenance; 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, allegations of substance abuse and domestic violence and financial assets ranging from multi-million to very limited
  • Arbitrated matters involving parenting plans, child support
  • At trial, in settlement conferences and in practice, handled cases involving spousal maintenance, child support, disputed property characterization, valuation and division, including small business valuation, professional practice valuation, stock options, retirement benefits, and public entitlements as well as debt, tax, bankruptcy, and discovery issues and attorneys’ fees
  • At trial, in settlement conferences and in practice, handled highly contested parenting plans, parenting plan modifications and non-parental custody cases involving issues of substance and alcohol abuse, sex abuse, mental and emotional abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, manipulation of children, relocation, and cases subject to the Hague Convention
  • 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 to settlement 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

  • Mediated settlement of a slip and fall on a city street against a municipality
  • Mediated UIM claims

Professional Liability

  • Mediated settlement of 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

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
  • Presided over various real estate cases

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • 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

Background and Education

  • 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

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