The Court of Appeals
Most cases appealed from superior courts go directly to the Court of Appeals. It is a non-discretionary appellate court--it must accept all appeals filed with it. The Court of Appeals has authority to reverse (overrule), remand (send back to the lower court), modify, or affirm the decision of the lower court.
The court decides each case after reviewing the transcript of the record in the superior court and considering the arguments of the parties. Generally, the court hears oral arguments in each case but does not take live testimony.
Most cases appealed from superior courts go directly to the Court of Appeals, though certain, specific types of cases go directly to the Supreme Court (see Supreme Court).
The Court of Appeals is divided into three divisions. Each division serves a specific geographic area of the state. Division I, located in the One Union Square Building in downtown Seattle, has 10 judges. Division II in Tacoma has seven judges. Division III has five judges and is located in downtown Spokane.
The 22 judges on the Court serve six-year staggered terms to ensure that all judges are not up for reelection at the same time. Each division is divided into three geographic districts and a specific number of judges must be elected from each.
District 1: King County, from which seven judges must be elected.
District 2: Snohomish County, from which two judges must be elected.
District 3: Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties, from which one judge is elected.
District 1: Pierce County, from which three judges are elected.
District 2: Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason and Thurston Counties, from which two judges are elected.
District 3: Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum Counties, from which two judges are elected.
District 1: Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Stevens Counties, from which two judges are elected.
District 2: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Walla Walla and Whitman Counties, from which one judge is elected.
District 3: Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas, Klickitat and Yakima Counties, from which two judges are elected.
To qualify for a position on the Court of Appeals, a person must have practiced law in Washington state for five years and, at the time of election, lived for a year or more in the district from which that position was drawn. Vacancies are filled by the Governor and the appointee serves until the next general election.
A presiding chief judge for all three divisions is elected for a one-year term. Duties of the presiding chief judge include coordination of business matters among the three divisions. Each division elects its own chief judge to handle administrative details at the division level.
Court Support Personnel
Clerk of the Court -- Appointed by the court, the clerk is its chief administrative officer. The clerk is responsible for filings, and plans, organizes and supervises the administration of the clerk's office, manages court facilities, and sets court calendars.
Commissioner -- Judges of each division also appoint commissioners who decide some motions that come before the court. Commissioners also perform additional duties that promote the effective administration of the court.
Law Clerks -- Each judge is assisted by clerks trained in the law. The clerks research the law and assist in writing court opinions.
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