Judge Deborah Fleck (Ret.) has a wealth of experience in Family Law dispute resolution. She is well known for her ability to recognize when cases are ripe for settlement and has a reputation for helping parties achieve resolution, even in stressful and emotionally charged situations that occur in family law disputes.
As a neutral, Judge Fleck has handled numerous family law cases involving issues of asset division, spousal support and parenting plans. As a judge, she handled family law cases and 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. Prior to her 21 years of service as a judge, Judge Fleck practiced law for 16 years, representing men and women in cases involving business, real property, stock options and retirement plan characterization and valuation, debt allocation, parenting plans, as well as issues of spousal maintenance and child support among other issues.
Judge Fleck is highly respected by lawyers and her judicial colleagues for her work ethic, fairness and intellect. She is also held in high regard among colleagues on the bench and in the bar for her hard work, tenacity and commitment to improving the justice system in Washington State. Judge Fleck’s leadership on race and justice issues, issues involving families and children including establishing mediation programs, initiating the Justice in Jeopardy Initiative successfully improving trial court funding by the state, and public education about access to the justice system are some of the highlights of her judicial career.
- 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 dollar estates to those with limited assets
- Arbitrated cases regarding final parenting plans and child support
- Arbitrated a complex post dissolution educational issue with racial and cultural issues involved in where a young child would attend school
- Arbitrated parenting plan and child support between biological mother and adoptive mother. Case involved allegations of substance abuse and anger issues
- Mediated matter involving parenting issues of young children that included sensitive issues related to abuse and restraining orders
- Mediated dissolution of a long term marriage involving property and spousal maintenance where one party was self-employed and the other was permanently disabled
- Mediated dissolution of marriage matters with multi- million dollar estates involving real property, stocks and other assets, child support and parenting plans. One case involved a party having an executive position with a start-up.
- Mediated case involving marriage dissolution filed out of state with minimal assets combined with high earnings for one party and multiple children, some of whom were minors and some of whom were disabled
- Sensitive mediation of parenting plan for a toddler that involved allegations of sexual abuse
- Mediation of parenting plan where one party’s relationship with the teenage child was disrupted; assisted the parties in developing a reunification plan
- 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, 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
- 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
- "I really appreciate your skill as a mediator and professionalism. I have had more than one client say that they feel they can trust you, in that you are looking out for the child and giving unbiased advice, even if you do not agree with the client's specific requests."
-Seattle Family Law Attorney
- "Judge Fleck I am so glad for your steady hand, keeping us on course and helping each side continually examine their positions and those of the other side."
-Partner at Seattle Firm
- "Judge Fleck, thank you for your patience and guidance yesterday. Your stamina is impressive."
- Family Law Attorney at Seattle Firm
- "Thank you for your steady hand and guiding voice, shepherding us through mediation. If I had known how beneficial this would be, I would have sought it out much sooner.”
- Party in Mediation case
- "I also would like to thank you for your TREMENDOUS help in getting this complicated issue resolved without litigation. Your care, patience, and calm determination were exactly what we all needed to get this done."
-Party in an Estate case
- "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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