Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
A new Board for Judicial AdministrationFebruary 07, 2000
A unanimous vote by the Washington Supreme Court last month led the way for a change in composition and operation of the state's Board for Judicial Administration (BJA).
Under new court rules, the BJA will increase representation of all levels of court, including a new position of "member-chair," who will chair the Board in conjunction with the Chief Justice of the Washington Supreme Court.
Charged with the adoption of policies and providing leadership for the administration of justice in Washington courts, the BJA meets on a bimonthly basis to take positions on legislative and administrative matters.
Genesis for the change
Advocated last year by the Commission on Justice, Efficiency and Accountability (JEA) as a way for the courts to respond to change and effectively solve problems, the JEA Governance Subcommittee final report stated a need for the change.
"While the Board for Judicial Administration was created to bring the various judicial constituencies together to formulate policy on issues of mutual interest, the Board has historically represented the various judicial stakeholder groups," according to the report. "The current representative mind set results in the Board's diffused allegiance and reluctance to attack controversial issues."
The subcommittee suggested redefining BJA to broaden the membership so that it is not viewed as a "top-down" dominated organization. Meeting for the first time last August, Washington's Presiding Judges agreed, voting 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.
Given the support of presiding judges and the unanimous vote by the Washington Supreme Court, membership of the BJA will now include five members from the appellate courts, five members from the superior courts, and five members from the courts of limited jurisdiction. Also included will be a non-voting member from the Washington State Bar Association, and the state court administrator, also a non-voting member.
Most members will be selected this spring, based on processes established by their respective associations or court level.
At their meeting on January 21, Spokane County Superior Court Judge James M. Murphy was elected to the new "member-chair" position. Murphy also serves as president of the Superior Court Judges' Association.
"I see great potential in the newly-constituted Board for Judicial Administration," commented Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard P. Guy on the changes. "Our hope is that the change will provide leadership for the courts at large, while allowing the judiciary to speak with one voice."
New voting procedures
Another possible change ahead for the BJA is the abolishment of the "unanimous vote" needed for Board action.
According to new proposed BJA bylaws, all decisions of the Board would be made by a majority vote of those present, provided there is one affirmative vote from each level of court. The Board will take a vote on the new bylaws this March.
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