Before King County adopted local rules requiring the issuance of a case schedule, attorneys used to have a more significant role in how quickly or slowly cases progressed. Now, however, trial dates (and numerous other procedural deadlines linked to the trial dates) are established as soon as a case is filed with the King County Superior Court.
Once the clerk of the court receives a summons and complaint, the clerk assigns the case to a particular judge and issues the case schedule. Typically, the case schedule sets the trial date approximately 18 months out.
Between the date the case was filed and the trial date there are numerous intermediate dates establishing deadlines for procedural steps like serving the complaint on the defendant, confirming with the court that no other parties will be joined in the action, disclosing witnesses and completing discovery. It’s important that both attorney and client track these dates. As soon as we receive a case schedule we enter it on both the handling attorney and paralegals’ calendars
and provide a copy for our clients.
If the procedural deadlines in the case schedule are not met, there can be some unwanted consequences. (It’s my belief that plaintiffs are held to a much higher standard in terms of complying with the case schedule than defendants – however, that opinion may be subject to a small degree of bias.) For instance, if witnesses are not timely disclosed the court might exclude them from testifying at trial.
Attorneys and clients should regularly discuss major upcoming events on the case schedule to ensure that the plaintiff is not only aware how the case is progressing but also can provide the attorney with information (such as the identity of potential witnesses) that increase the likelihood of success.