Commission on Justice, Efficiency and Accountability
February 26, 1998
February 26, 1998
Two Union Square
The meeting was called to order by Mr. Douglas Beighle, Commission chair.
This item was tabled until later in the meeting.
Ms. McLane reported that four half-day regional workshops on court funding had been conducted in December of 1996. These workshops provided an opportunity for judges to discuss their concerns relating to the state's assumption of non-discretionary funds. (A summary of the workshop was provided to the Commission.)
Judge McBeth provided a brief history of the struggles experienced by the courts in their efforts to obtain adequate funding. He continued, the five areas of the state's assumption of non-discretionary funds include: 1) judicial salaries; 2) jury costs; 3) indigent defense costs; 4) expert witness fees; and 5) interpreters. Judge McBeth stated that 80 percent of the judges agreed with the concept of the state assumption of costs for these services, but had concerns ranging from loss of control to competition for funds.
Judge McBeth advised that the courts of limited jurisdiction conducted an efficiency study during 1995-1997. As a result of the study, numerous recommendations for modifying the courts' business practices and responsibilities were made.
Ms. McLane explained the focus groups were asked to examine the following four questions:
1) What areas of your budget requests are chronically under funded or not funded at all?
The Commission continued discussions relating to court funding and the budget as established by the legislature. If the state would assume the five non-discretionary costs (that is, judicial salaries, jury costs, interpreter costs, expert witness costs and indigent defense), the concern is to make sure money comes back to the courts. The courts must not let the counties spend the money saved in other areas of local government. The judges need to understand there will be trade-offs, but the judiciary, as a whole must support the concept.
Ms. McQueen suggested the key is to have the subcommittees go into the community to talk about the issues. The subcommittees could have dialog with the community via focus groups. Judge Agid noted the need to educate. Ms. McQueen said the educating could take place through the focus groups, teleconferences or phone surveys.
The group further discussed the issues relating to adequate funding of the courts.
The Commission briefly reviewed the proposed Mission Statement.
The Statement of Objectives was reviewed. The Commission agreed to omit the reference to the next decade in the introduction and section (b) of the business plan.
Ms. McLane reported the courts of limited jurisdiction have undergone an extensive assessment, conducted by retired Judge W. Laurence Wilson and Carol Wilson, retired court administrator. The survey team visited 136 courts throughout Washington State. She continued, the National Center for State Courts' Trial Court Performance Standards were used as the guide for the survey. The final report contained 102 recommendations for ways to improve the operation of the courts of limited jurisdiction (an Executive Summary was provided).
Judge Donohue reported that Spokane County Superior Court participated in the Trial Court Performance Standards pilot project. He continued, Spokane, Whatcom and Thurston Counties had undergone extensive examinations of how they conducted business using the Standards. The Standards cover a gamut of areas from safety to access to justice.
Ms. Pettus continued, the report by providing a brief overview of the Standards and how they are employed. She stated the Standards were established through a joint effort of the National Center for State Courts and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The 22 separate performance standards are broken down into five performance areas: 1) access to justice, 2) expedition and timeliness, 3) equality, fairness, and integrity, 4) independence and accountability, and 5) public trust and confidence.
Ms. Gould reported that Thurston County, one of the pilot courts, has made changes based on the results of the Trial Court Performance Study.
Judge Donohue reported his subcommittee had its first meeting on Monday. During the meeting, the committee finalized its mission statement. Judge Donohue continued, that the subcommittee will use resources such as the Trial Court Performance Standards and the Court of Limited Jurisdiction assessment as guidelines.
Judge Grosse reported his subcommittee had drafted a joint resolution. Although the resolution was introduced and there was some interest on the part of the legislature, they were unable to obtain sponsors. Judge Grosse continued the subcommittee was focusing on the five non-discretionary areas for state funding from the legislature.
Judge Agid reported the Core Mission consisted of two superior court judges, two district court judges, two municipal court judges and two attorneys. Judge Agid stated one of the issues they will review is the impact add-on responsibilities, i.e., SRA-593, has had on court personnel over the past 10 years.
Ms. McQueen reported the Public Information Officer, Bob Henderson, will be publishing a newsletter that will include updates on the subcommittee progress.
The next meeting of the Commission was set for Wednesday, April 29 at 9:30 a.m. It will be held at Two Union Square in Seattle.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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