Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
Board for Judicial Administration welcomes new leadershipJanuary 25, 2001
Nearing its second year of existence, the reconstituted state Board for Judicial Administration (BJA) is taking historic strides to speak with one voice for the judiciary.
Last year, membership was broadened for each level of court-and this year, a district court judge will co-chair the statewide judicial administration board together with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court-a first in state history. By a unanimous vote on May 18th, members of the BJA elected Kitsap County District Court Judge James M. Riehl to the position of 'member-chair' to lead the organization in conjunction with the Chair, Chief Justice Gerry Alexander. New membership for the 2001-2002 term will also take the helm at their first meeting, scheduled for June 10th in Olympia. (See below for a full listing of BJA representatives.)
Charged with the adoption of policies and providing leadership for the administration of justice in Washington Courts, the BJA represents the more than 400 elected judges presiding at four levels: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, superior courts and courts of limited jurisdiction.
Genesis for change
While in existence since 1987, the BJA composition and structure changed dramatically last year, based on recommendations of the Commission on Justice, Efficiency and Accountability Governance Subcommittee.
The subcommittee suggested redefining BJA to broaden the membership to not be viewed as a "top-down" dominated organization. Washington's presiding judges agreed, meeting for the first time in August of 1999, when they voted that such a change would be the top-ranked solution to solving four major problems facing their courts: Inadequate resources, loss of independence, under-enforced judgements and warrants and impediments to caseflow.
Under court rules adopted by the Washington Supreme Court soon after, the BJA increased representation of all levels of court, including the new position of "member-chair". Membership of the BJA now also includes five members from the appellate courts, five members from the superior courts, and five members from the courts of limited jurisdiction. Also included is a non-voting member from the Washington State Bar Association, and the State Court Administrator.
The major transformation occurred under the leadership of former Chief Justice Richard Guy and member-chair Spokane County Superior Court Judge James M. Murphy, then presiding of the Superior Court Judges' Association. "The vision that former Chief Justice Guy had was remarkable," recalls Murphy. "His leadership brought together a coalition of diverse interests that had never been forged before."
Murphy adds that the members came a long way in setting aside court-level differences, opting instead for cooperation and support of each level. "The reconstitution has lead to real progress for the direction of courts in Washington State."
New bylaws were also adopted by the membership during their first year, changing voting procedures for the organization. Each judicial member now has one vote, with all decisions of the BJA being made by a majority vote of those present, provided there is one affirmative vote from each level of court. During its first year of existence, Guy and Murphy were joined by the following members: Justice Barbara A. Madsen and Judges William W. Baker; Frank L. Kurtz; Karen G. Seinfeld; Ronald Kessler; Jay B. Roof; Vicki L. Hogan; James F. Gavin; James M. Riehl; Robert McSeveney; Stephen J. Holman; Christine Cary and Michael P. Roewe. Non-voting members included Richard Eymann; Mary McQueen; Wayne Blair and Jan Eric Peterson.
New leaders take the helm
Representatives for the year 2001-2002 were selected recently at spring conferences, based on processes established by their respective associations or court level. Voted on by their peers, each representative takes on a leadership role in policy-making decisions for the judiciary.
Chief Justice Alexander says he looks forward to working with Judge Riehl as the member-chair of the BJA. "He's truly an outstanding judge, which is evident in the unanimous election by the members of the BJA," Alexander praised. Riehl looks forward to the opportunity to serve, and feels the election of a limited court jurisdiction judge to the position speaks loudly to the commitment of the BJA to transform to a 'one voice' organization. "It shows a great commitment to share the responsibilities associated with an independent judiciary."
On a higher level, both Riehl and Murphy say they see the transformation from the outside looking in. "The Legislature and those outside of the judiciary are starting to recognize the BJA as being the voice for the judiciary…which shows we're definitely moving in the right direction," Riehl concluded.
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