In the event of an infectious disease outbreak, the courts may be called upon to issue numerous isolation and quarantine orders. Judicial surge capacity may be obtained through several logistical and procedural measures.
7.31 Additional Judicial Personnel
A. Additional Judges. The number of judges available to hear matters in the superior court may be augmented through several mechanisms.
NOTE: The appointment of additional personnel to hear cases may also be necessary if the judges themselves are unable to sit due to illness.
- Use of elected sitting judges from other courts in the state. The presiding judge of King County Superior Court may assign an elected sitting judge from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Court, or Municipal Court to serve as an elected judge pro tempore. See Wash. Const. art. IV, § 7; RCW 2.08.180; AR 6(b). Consent of the elected judge pro tempore is required, but consent of the parties or attorneys is not. AR 6(b).
- Use of visiting superior court judges from other counties. The majority of superior court judges may request a visiting superior court judge from another county by:
- Directing the request to the Governor who shall then request and direct a judge of a superior court of another county to hold a session in the requesting county, RCW 2.08.140; or
- Directing the request to a superior court of another county which judge shall then be empowered to if he or she deems it consistent with the judicial business in his or her county, to hold a session of the requesting superior court in the requesting county. RCW 2.08.150.
- Appointment of other pro tempore judges. A case in superior court may also be tried by a pro tempore judge who is a member of the bar, agreed upon in writing by the parties litigant, or their attorneys of record, approved by the court, and sworn to try the case. RCW 2.08.180. The judge pro tempore must take the oath prescribed by RCW 2.08.180 before entering upon his or her duties. The judge pro tempore must be a member of the bar.
- Appointment of commissioners. The judges of the superior court may appoint commissioners who will have the powers prescribed by statute. See generally chapter 2.24 RCW. Commissioners may be authorized to preside over some aspects of public health matters and they may handle other matters within their authority to help account for the absence of judges who are handling the public health matters or who are unable to sit due to illness.
- Qualification criteria. Court commissioners must be citizens of the United States and take the oath prescribed by law. RCW 2.24.010, .020.
- Powers. The statutory powers granted to court commissioners are listed in RCW 2.24.040. As related to public health hearings, a court commissioner may:
i. Grant and enter defaults and judgments thereon;
ii. Issue temporary restraining orders and temporary injunctions, and fix and approve bonds thereon;
iii. Act as a referee in matters referred to it by the superior court;
iv. Hear and determine all ex parte and uncontested civil matters of any nature;
v. Administer oaths; and
vi. Compel the attendance of witnesses.
- Appointment of other officers. A superior court judge may appoint other officers as necessary to conduct the court’s business. See RCW 2.32.180 (appointment of court reporters).
7.32 Consolidation of Cases
A. Consolidation. In any proceedings brought for isolation or quarantine, the court may order consolidation to promote the fair and efficient operation of justice and having given due regard to the rights of the affected persons, the severity of the threat to the public’s health, and the availability of witnesses and evidence. WAC 246-100-065; supra § 5.31.E.1.
B. Criteria for Consolidation. The court may order the consolidation of individual claims into group claims where:
- The number of individuals involved or to be affected is so large as to render individual participation impractical;
- There are questions of law or fact common to the individual claims or rights to be determined;
- The group claims or rights to be determined are typical of the affected persons' claims or rights; and
- The entire group will be adequately represented in the consolidation. Id.; supra § 5.31.E.2.