If a case has a note in the file that payment of the filing fee is required prior to completion, may the case be dismissed for want of prosecution?

If a case has not been resolved and no action has been taken to move the case towards final judgment, the case can be dismissed for want of prosecution, even if the filing fee has not been paid.

If the note refers to a requirement to pay the filing fee after judgment is entered, then the case is not eligible for dismissal for want of prosecution. CR 41(b)(2) is an administrative mechanism to remove inactive cases from the docket. If the judge has entered final orders, there is no further action required to prosecute the case.

In Vaughn v. Chung, 119 Wn.2d 273, 282, 830 P.2d 668 (1992), the Supreme Court stated:

"CR 41(b)(2) simply creates an administrative mechanism to clear trial court dockets of inactive cases. If the prerequisites are met, a court must dismiss a case for want of prosecution. The result is a smooth, efficient procedure for clearing court dockets of dormant cases"

The term "want of prosecution" is not defined in the court rule. Case law suggests that the term means "taking some action toward moving along with the case." See Snohomish County v. Thorp Meats, 46 Wn.App. 13, 19, 728 P. 2d. 1084 (1986). If the parties have moved the case along toward final judgment, there is no further action that needs to be taken to complete the case for purposes of CR 41(b)(2).

The term "completion" has two meanings. The legal case is complete when the judge enters final orders. Administratively, when the legal case is complete, the clerk's staff enters the "resolution" code into SCOMIS and then enters the "completion" code into SCOMIS, which closes the case. If "payment of filing fee is required prior to completion" refers to the administrative process of "completion" that occurs in SCOMIS before the case is closed, case law or other legal authority has not been found that supports the use of CR 41(b)(2) to dismiss a case because a party has not paid the filing fee. The payment of the filing fee, or lack of payment is more of a collection matter. Payment of the filing fee does not resolve the issue between the litigants.

RN id: 2301