Motion for Revision Family Law: Changing a Court Commissioner’s Ruling

​In Clark County, Washington and in many other counties throughout Washington, Superior Court Commissioners handle family law matters routinely. Superior Court Commissioners are not elected judges part are judicial officers hired by the court to decide legal matters as authorized under Washington law. Washington law makes clear that Court commissioners play an important role in the Washington State court system. The commissioners help alleviate the large caseloads facing superior court judges and facilitate the efficient administration of justice. State v. Smith, 117 Wn.2d 263, 280, 814 P .2d 652 (1991). ​Superior court commissioners derive their powers from Washington State’s Constitution and statute. WASH. CONST., art. IV,§ 23; ch. 2.24 RCW. Superior Court commissioners are conferred with most of the powers of a superior court judge, but they cannot preside over jury trials. WASH. CONST. art. IV,§ 23. 1 While superior court commissioners operate largely like their judicial counterparts, they are not subject to affidavits of prejudice under RCW 4.12.050. State v. Espinoza, 112 Wn.2d 819, 829, 77 4 P .2d 1177 (1989). Instead, a party dissatisfied with a commissioner’s ruling can seek relief via a Motion for Revision. Smith, 117 Wn.2d at 280. The right to seek a revision of a commissioner’s order or judgment permits a litigant appearing before a commissioner to be treated similarly to one appearing before a superior court judge. Id. at 276.

Motion for Revision – Family Law

In Clark County, Superior Court, Court Commissioners handle family law matters generally from the temporary orders hearing until the matters are set for trial before the assigned judicial department.  I feel confident in saying that all family law lawyers have at some point received a ruling from a Commissioner on a child custody, child support, temporary order, or other family law matter, that not only did they not agree with because it was averse to their client’s interest, but also seemed to be in contradiction to the law and evidence presented.  If that happens to you, then you should consider a Motion for Revision. ​A Motion for Revision is brought under the authority of RCW 2.24.050.  The statute states essentially that “all of the acts and proceedings of the court Commissioners” are subject to review by the Superior Court.   In order to review the decision of the Commissioner a party must file a written motion for revision within ten days after the entry of the order or judgment of the Commissioner. If the demand is not made within the time specified by the statute then the revision cannot proceed.  Also, if you are filing a Motion for Revision in Clark County, you must also be aware of the Clark County Local Rule 53.2, Revision of a Commissioner’s Order.

Clark Count Local Rules – Family Law

​Specifically, Local Rule 53.2 of the Clark County Local Rules sets out several other requirements.  First, in addition to filing the motion within 10 days of the ruling/order/judgment of the Commissioner, the party filing the Motion for Revision must provide the other side with written notice of hearing that gives the other parties at least 5 days notice, excluding weekends and legal holidays, of the time, date and place of the hearing on the motion for revision.  The motion shall specify the error claimed by the Commissioner.  Further, the party seeking revision of a Commissioner’s order must schedule the motion for hearing on the assigned Family Law Judge’s Motion Docket.  The motion must be scheduled and heard by the assigned Judge within 21 days of entry of the Commissioner’s order.  If the assigned Judge does not have a Motion ​Docket within 21 days of entry of the Commissioner’s order, the motion shall be heard on the first available Motion Docket thereafter, unless otherwise ordered by the Judge or Commissioner.  Failure to hear the motion within 21 days or the first available Motion Docket thereafter shall result in dismissal of the motion.  These are very specific and strict local rules that must be followed to the letter or the court will dismiss the motion for revision.

Local Rule 53.2 makes clear that Motions for Revision of a Commissioner’s order shall be based on the written materials submitted or available to the Commissioner, including papers and pleadings in the court file, as provided in RCW 2.24.050, at the time the commissioner made his or her ruling. 

Oral arguments on motions to revise are limited to 5 minutes per side.  However, usually the judge gives more time to both sides, depending on how busy their docket it.  No additional affidavits or other non-brief materials shall be filed.

Motion for Revision Considerations Part 2