Justice in Jeopardy Implementation
September 9, 2009
Members present: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, co-chair: Judge Deborah Fleck, co-chair; Mr. Jim Bamberger; Mr. John Cary; Judge Andrea Darvas; Judge Sara Derr; Judge Tari Eitzen (by phone); Mr. Jeff Hall; Mr. Kirk Johns (by phone); Mr. Mark Johnson; Judge Eileen Kato; Ms. Joanne Moore; Ms. Yvonne Pettus; Judge Glenn Phillips; Ms. Gail Stone, Judge Karen Seinfeld, Mr. Scott Smith
Staff present: Ms. Karen Castillo; Ms. Wendy Ferrell (by phone); Ms. Mellani McAleenan; Mr. Ramsey Radwan
Call to Order The meeting was called to order by Justice Alexander, who then asked everyone to introduce themselves.
Approval of Minutes:
Chief Justice Alexander introduced the discussion regarding the June 18, 2009 meeting minutes. Judge Fleck referred to the changes she had suggested in a revised copy distributed at the meeting. There was additional discussion. Chief Justice Alexander moved that the minutes be approved with the changes suggested by Judge Fleck. The June 18, 2009 minutes were approved by consensus as amended .
Mr. Ramsey Radwan began his presentation with reference to three information sheets he had provided in the meeting packet, saying that his report is given in the context of the 2010 legislative session. He provided his estimates of what he sees as potential reductions to the current AOC budget. He said that the level of reductions will be based on whether or not the legislature applies reductions across the board, or sets aside the pass-through monies before applying any reduction, or allows for reductions to the pass-through monies as well. There were several questions and a brief discussion following Mr. Radwan’s report.
AWSCA Superior Court Budget Reduction Survey
Judge Fleck explained that this was a survey done by the Association of Washington State Court Administrators, and it was provided to her by Judge Eitzen. Judge Fleck said she thought the committee would be interested to see what local reductions look like. Judge Eitzen clarified that the ten percent cut listed for Spokane County is, at this point, an assumption and not a fact. She said that it is possible that, like Spokane County, some of the responses to the survey were based on what court administrators think will happen and not what has actually happened. Judge Fleck noted that King County will not have their budget until late November of this year. But it is helpful to look at which courts are impacted and what they’ve had to cut, she added. There was further discussion about the Survey and about the court closures that have been the result of the funding cuts.
Mr. Hall reported that the Cowlitz County Superior Court had requested the AOC to conduct an analysis of their funding level. AOC is developing a report based on five comparison courts to present a relative study of the funding level in Cowlitz County. He said that a separate report will be prepared that then provides a professional judgment as to the adequacy and sufficiency of the Court’s funding. He also noted that AOC is considering replicating the superior court budget survey for the limited jurisdiction courts.
Judge Kato informed the members that the National Center for State Courts website has an interactive map that is very informative about court funding across the country.
· Savings Subcommittee
Ms. Moore reported on the activities of this subcommittee, which is comprised of herself, Mr. Bamberger, Judge Quinn-Brintnall, Judge Darvas, Ms. McAleenan, and Ms. Byrd-McSherry. After reviewing several ideas, she said, they came back again to the issue of decriminalization of DWLS. There was additional discussion on that issue, with members expressing opinions both for and against it.
Ms. Moore reported that they are still tracking the parents’ representation results and said that the newest report shows that there have been more reunifications, and more cases are being decided earlier by the courts, which ultimately saves in court costs. Judge Fleck added that several additional ideas for court savings are being explored by the SCJA. She said that she hopes that, when they approach the legislature and ask them not to cut court funding any further that they will also be at the table with some suggestions.
Discussion followed, with one person expressing concerns that these efforts to “share the pain” may be misinterpreted by the legislature as “best practices court efficiencies”, and that this current effort needs to be clearly distinguished from that.
· Revenue Subcommittee
Mr. Bamberger said that the Revenue Subcommittee came to the acknowledgement that there are stark differences in opinion and philosophy within the group regarding whether and under what circumstances the court should be seen as assisting the legislature with their constitutional responsibilities of setting funding and expenditure levels. He said that they ruminated quite a while, but didn’t ultimately come up with any recommendations for ways to generate revenue.
There was discussion regarding the Judicial Stabilization Trust Account, the current surcharge on court fees, and inflationary adjustments to court fees. Mr. Hall said that the issue of court fees is a matter for the BJA and the WSBA to address. Chief Justice Alexander expressed opposition to the idea of increasing filing fees any further, saying that this is an access to justice issue.
Judge Fleck distributed a two-page hand-out and discussed the items therein. She explained that the handout is still in draft form, but it provides ways that we can communicate and keep people informed on issues related to JIJ and the court system. For this year, she added, the major goal needs to be focused on stopping additional cuts to court funding. She noted that the SCJA has developed a communications and media work group, opining that one of the failures in the past four years has been in not communicating with our partners. There is work that needs to be done with regard to internal stakeholders, and many things we can do to communicate with the public. If the JIJIC has this communication and media work group, there are things that the work group could do, she said.
It was suggested that the message we have regarding the relationship between the access to justice and the quality of our democracy should include a broader group of partners, and not simply focus on the trial courts. Also, the question needs to be asked and answered: “Why is trial court funding so important?”
It was decided that Ms. Ferrell, Ms. Byrd-McSherry, Ms. McNamara, Ms. McAleenan, and Judge Fleck will comprise the outreach work group.
Identification of Legislative Priorities – 2010 & 2011
Ms. McAleenan noted that the previous discussion has touched significantly on this issue already. She commented that the list of legislative priorities that was developed last year and then tabled because of the budget crisis will be kept on hold until better economic times. She said that, based on today’s discussion, there doesn’t appear to be any readiness on the part of the committee to put anything proactive on the legislative agenda for 2010. She added that it is a given that we’ll be playing a lot of defense this year to protect what funding we have.
For the 2011 session, Ms. McAleenan commented that she envisions that the list of items that were tabled in 2009 could be brought forward for 2011, depending on the condition of the economy at that time.
There was additional discussion and Mr. Hall commented that the discussions that are currently going on at the SCJA and the BJA will ultimately inform us on our decision regarding the JSTA and how to deal with it in 2011.
Judge Fleck informed the members that the November issue of the WSBA Bar News is dedicated solely to the topic of Justice in Jeopardy.
Chief Justice Alexander questioned the necessity of a meeting in November, since there are no proactive legislative priorities. Judge Fleck said that the work groups will continue their work and at some point, may need additional guidance. It was decided that such guidance can be given via teleconference.
The next meeting of the JIJIC is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, November 19th from 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. and will be a teleconference.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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