ROLFE and KIRSTINE GODFREY, husband and wife and their marital community composed thereof, Respondents,
STE. MICHELLE WINE ESTATES LTD., dba CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE, a Washington Corporation; and SAINT-GOBAIN CONTAINERS, INC, Petitioners, and ROBERT KORNFELD, Additional Respondent.
coming before the court have a fundamental right to an
impartial decision-maker. Marshall v. Jerrico, Inc.,
446 U.S. 238, 242, 100 S.Ct. 1610, 64 L.Ed.2d 182 (1980)
(citing Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 259-62,
266-67, 98 S.Ct. 1042, 55 L.Ed.2d 252 (1978); Mathews v.
Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 348-49, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d
18 (1976), and quoting Joint Anti-Fascist Comm. v.
McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 172, 71 S.Ct. 624, 95 L.Ed. 817
(1951) (Frankfurter, J., concurring)). To protect this
fundamental right, Washington statutes liberally allow
litigants to disqualify a judge assigned to their case
without establishing actual prejudice-but, usually, only
before that judge has made a discretionary ruling or order in
the case. Former RCW 4.12.040, .050 (2009); Laws OF 2009, ch.
332, § 20.
those statutes, though, a party does not lose the right to
remove a judge when the judge takes certain categories of
actions, including arranging the calendar. Former RCW
4.12.050. We hold that a stipulated order extending discovery
deadlines that does not delay the trial or otherwise affect
the court's schedule is an order arranging the calendar
under former RCW 4.12.050. Accordingly, the affidavit of
prejudice was timely, and the case should have been
reassigned to a different judge. We affirm the Court of
Appeals on different grounds and remand for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
bottle shattered in Rolfe Godfrey's hand while he was
working as a bartender, injuring him. Godfrey filed a
products liability lawsuit against the winery, Ste. Michelle
Wine Estates Ltd., and the bottle manufacturer, Saint-Gobain
Containers Inc. (collectively Ste. Michelle).
case was assigned to Pierce County Superior Court Judge
Garold E. Johnson, who set the initial case schedule,
including discovery deadlines. The case was later reassigned
to Judge Katherine M. Stolz, who, upon a stipulated and
jointly proposed order, extended the parties' deadlines
to disclose their witnesses. This case turns on the nature of
that stipulated order. Two months later, and before Judge
Stolz made any other rulings in the case, Godfrey filed an
affidavit of prejudice and a motion for Judge Stolz's
recusal under former RCW 4.12.040 and .050. Judge Stolz
denied the motion, concluding that the earlier stipulated
order to extend witness disclosure deadlines involved
discretion and, thus, the affidavit of prejudice was not
timely. Later, Judge Stolz presided over the bench trial.
Ste. Michelle prevailed, and Godfrey appealed.
appeal, Godfrey argued that the trial court erred in
rejecting his affidavit of prejudice and motion for recusal
as untimely because Judge Stolz's order extending witness
disclosure deadlines was not an "order or ruling
involving discretion" under former RCW 4.12.050. He also
argued that the trial court abused its discretion by imposing
certain sanctions following a discovery dispute late in the
pretrial phase. The Court of Appeals held the trial court
erred in rejecting Godfrey's affidavit of prejudice,
reasoning that "[r]ulings on pretrial stipulated orders
relating to scheduling and deadlines" are not
discretionary for the purposes of timeliness under former RCW
4.12.050. Godfrey v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Ltd., No. 46963-4-II, slip op. at 5 (Wash.Ct.App. July
19, 2016) (unpublished) (Godfrey I). The Court of
Appeals did not reach the sanctions issue. Godfrey
I, slip op. at 2 n.1.
Michelle petitioned for review, which we stayed, pending our
decision in State v. Lile, 188 Wn.2d 766, 398 P.3d
1052 (2017). Later, we remanded to the Court of Appeals for
reconsideration in light of Lile. Godfrey v. Ste.
Michelle Wine Estates, Ltd., 189 Wn.2d 1016 (2017). The
Court of Appeals again concluded that Godfrey's affidavit
of prejudice was timely because the stipulated order
extending witness disclosure deadlines was not discretionary
under Lile. Godfrey v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Ltd., No. 46963-4, slip op. at 2 (Wash.Ct.App. Dec. 27,
(Godfrey II). Ste. Michelle petitioned the court for review
again, which we granted. Godfrey v. Ste. Michelle Wine
Estates Ltd., 193 Wn.2d 1013 (2019).
affidavit of prejudice untimely under former RCW 4.12.050
when it is submitted after entry of a stipulated order
extending discovery deadlines?
may be disqualified for prejudice. Our statutes set forth a
mechanism to disqualify a superior court judge without
showing actual prejudice. Former RCW 4.12.050; Lile,
188 Wn.2d at 774-75. At the relevant time, the statute
provided that a party could disqualify a judge by timely
filing a motion supported by an affidavit indicating that the
party believes that it cannot have a fair and impartial trial
before that judge. Lile, 188 Wn.2d at 775. A timely
affidavit of prejudice must be granted. Harbor Enters.,
Inc. v. Gudjonsson, 116 Wn.2d 283, 291, 803 P.2d 798
timely, an affidavit of prejudice disqualifying the judge
must be filed
before he or she shall have made any ruling whatsoever in the
case, either on the motion of the party making the affidavit,
or on the motion of any other party to the action, of the
hearing of which the party making the affidavit has been
given notice, and before the judge presiding has made any
order or ruling involving discretion, but the arrangement of
the calendar, the setting of an action, motion or proceeding
down for hearing or trial, the arraignment of the accused in
a criminal action ...