S-1207.1  _______________________________________________


                    SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5084



State of Washington      55th Legislature     1997 Regular Session


By Senate Committee on Government Operations (originally sponsored by Senators Roach, Schow, Benton, Swecker, Zarelli, Morton, Hochstatter, Johnson, McCaslin, Winsley, Stevens and Oke)


Read first time 02/17/97.

Modifying the definition of a qualified party and the amount of attorneys' fees they may recover in an action appealing a state agency directive.

    AN ACT Relating to attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses awarded against the state; amending RCW 4.84.340 and 4.84.350; and adding a new section to chapter 4.84 RCW.




    Sec. 1.  RCW 4.84.340 and 1995 c 403 s 902 are each amended to read as follows:

    Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout RCW 4.84.340 through 4.84.360.

    (1) "Agency" means any state board, commission, department, institution of higher education, or officer, authorized by law to make rules or to conduct adjudicative proceedings, except those in the legislative or judicial branches, the governor, or the attorney general except to the extent otherwise required by law.

    (2) "Agency action" means agency action as defined by chapter 34.05 RCW.

    (3) "Fees and other expenses" includes the reasonable expenses of expert witnesses, the reasonable cost of a study, analysis, engineering report, test, or project that is found by the court to be necessary for the preparation of the party's case, and reasonable attorneys' fees.  Reasonable attorneys' fees shall be based on the prevailing market rates for the kind and quality of services furnished, except that (a) no expert witness shall be compensated at a rate in excess of the highest rates of compensation for expert witnesses paid by the state of Washington, and (b) attorneys' fees shall not be awarded in excess of one hundred fifty dollars per hour unless the court determines that an increase in the cost of living or a special factor, such as the limited availability of qualified attorneys for the proceedings involved, justifies a higher fee.

    (4) "Judicial review" means a judicial review as defined by chapter 34.05 RCW.

    (5) "Qualified party" means (a) an individual whose net worth did not exceed ((one)) two million dollars at the time the initial petition for judicial review was filed or (b) a sole owner of an unincorporated business, or a partnership, corporation, association, or organization whose net worth did not exceed ((five)) seven million dollars at the time the initial petition for judicial review was filed, except that an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the federal internal revenue code of 1954 as exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the code and a cooperative association as defined in section 15(a) of the agricultural marketing act (12 U.S.C. 1141J(a)), may be a party regardless of the net worth of such organization or cooperative association.


    Sec. 2.  RCW 4.84.350 and 1995 c 403 s 903 are each amended to read as follows:

    (1) Except as otherwise specifically provided by statute, a court shall award a qualified party that prevails in a judicial review of an agency action fees and other expenses, including reasonable attorneys' fees, unless the court finds that the agency action was substantially justified or that circumstances make an award unjust.  A qualified party shall be considered to have prevailed if the qualified party obtained relief on a significant issue that achieves some benefit that the qualified party sought.

    (2) ((The amount awarded a qualified party under subsection (1) of this section shall not exceed twenty-five thousand dollars.))  Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply unless all parties challenging the agency action are qualified parties.  ((If two or more qualified parties join in an action, the award in total shall not exceed twenty-five thousand dollars.))  The court, in its discretion, may reduce the amount to be awarded pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, or deny any award, to the extent that a qualified party during the course of the proceedings engaged in conduct that unduly or unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the matter in controversy.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.  A new section is added to chapter 4.84 RCW to read as follows:

    The office of financial management shall report annually to the legislature on the amount of fees and other expenses awarded during the preceding fiscal year under RCW 4.84.350.  The report shall describe the number, nature, and amount of the awards, the claims involved in the controversy, and other relevant information that may aid the legislature in evaluating the scope and impact of the awards.


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