Mediator Focus: William J. Rush

By: Penny Gans | WAMS Staff

rushBill Rush is a gracious and wise “old school” lawyer with a twinkle in his eye and lifetime of stories to tell. For the last twenty-five years, WAMS clients have benefited from his broad legal experience and mediation skills. Bill’s introduction to mediation came through his participation in the voluntary Federal Court 39.1 alternative dispute resolution program that began on a trial basis in 1968-69. Then in 1986, WAMS founder Michael Gillie invited him to join Harry Goldman and Larry Levy on the WAMS mediator panel, trained by ADR pioneer Alan Alhadeff. Unlike his two mediator trainee colleagues who have been full-time mediators for many years, Bill has continued his private law practice while mediating hundreds of cases at WAMS.

Mentor, teacher, author, occasional Judge Pro Tem and highly respected member of the Washington State Bar, Bill was born in Tacoma and earned his BA from the University of Puget Sound and his JD from the University of Washington law school. His firm, Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler, was founded in 1959 and presently numbers eight attorneys, all graduates of Washington law schools.

In 50 years of practicing law, Bill has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in matters ranging from medical negligence and product liability to construction, business, and family law. He is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Courts in Washington, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Bill has taken nearly 30 cases to the appellate level, some of which have established legal precedents that are still being cited. His case involving the relationship between emergency room doctors and a local hospital established the Ostensible Agency principal. Another case established rules regarding a general contractor’s overall responsibility for the safety of a worksite. In a third memorable case, Bill won a verdict against the State of Washington when a convict serving a life term in the State penitentiary was included in the warden’s experimental “take a lifer to dinner” rehabilitation program. The convict escaped through the bathroom window of the host’s home, fled to Tacoma, and subsequently shot and killed the owner of a gun shop during a robbery attempt.

As a mediator, Bill feels that his job is to help parties find their own settlement. He believes that the best way to “take the acrimony out of the process” is to separate the parties, although “it’s OK for the parties to be vitriolic with the mediator.” In Bill’s experience, the client is usually well represented by the attorney, who may be aware of facts and issues that are unknown to the mediator. Bill is sensitive to the relationship between attorney and client and is careful to follow the attorney’s wishes as to how he can best work with the client. He encourages attorneys to provide enough case background to enable him to move the negotiations expeditiously toward settlement.

When not working with clients, Bill stays fit playing handball and racquetball and has enjoyed Husky football as a season ticket holder for 50 years. Also an avid traveler, Bill and his wife (a professional photographer) have visited almost every corner of the world. Highlights include a people-to-people trip to China in the early 1980’s to discuss medical malpractice issues with Chinese doctors and court representatives; a behind-the-scenes tour of Oman, Dubai, and Kuwait before 9/11; a 1991 trip to his parents’ Ukrainian birthplace where he met nine first cousins still living there; and journeys to both the North and South Poles. The trip to the North Pole was on a 300-foot Russian icebreaker and included a brief swim in a hole carved out of the ice over 8400-foot deep water while the ship’s armed crew kept a lookout for polar bears. That’s Bill’s idea of fun!

WAMS congratulates Bill on his exceptional career and wishes him many more years of good health and mediation success. Bill, along with Harry and Larry, was honored by WAMS in January for his distinguished career as a WAMS panel member.

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