COURT FUNDING TASK FORCE
Participating: Wayne Blair, Sophia Byrd, John Cary, Mike Doubleday, David Donnan, Robert Dowdy, Tammy Fellin, Joan Ferebee, Judge Deborah Fleck, William Fosbre, Judge Gordon Godfrey, Judge Bruce Hilyer, Ron Mattson. Mary McQueen, Barb Miner, Jane Noland, Glenn Olson, Linda Storck, and Judge David Tracy
Staff present: Gil Austin, Jude Cryderman and Jeff Hall
Wayne Blair gave an overview of the work group activity with some work groups meeting every few weeks. The full Task Force meeting is set for May 22, in the SeaTac area. Presentations will be made by each of the work groups to assess the overall direction of the Task Force.
Mary McQueen highlighted the presentation at the Superior Court Judges’ Spring Conference. The judges participated in work sessions to review and comment on the ideas being considered by the CFTF. They were also asked to respond to the proposed Principles. Judge Godfrey spoke about the frustration of superior court judges over the lack of staff and time to conduct the courts’ work; Judge Fleck spoke of the additional statutory mandates judges are expected to undertake and the problem it is for judges to find time to prepare for their cases. Judge Fleck spoke about the proper number and types of cases that a judicial officer can handle and an appropriate job. Judge Godfrey said the discussion focused on the lack of staff for the clerk’s office and lack of other court staff. In addition, the judges discussed the lack of resources for the defense bar and included other entities that work in the court context.
Wayne Blair mentioned that he would attend the DMCJA & Clerk’s Conferences to report on the work of the task force.
Minutes of the April 17, 2003 meeting were tabled for members to review prior to approval.
Review of Court Principles
Ron Hjorth reviewed the second draft of the principles.
The last clause of the third sentence should reflect that county commissioners should not manage the details of the courts’ resources.
Discussion that the courts are not self sustaining and rely on other branches for their funding allocation.
Discussion of Principle 1 having a preamble that would provide a “civics lesson” about our government being a democratic system of government consisting of three co-equal branches of government.
Discussion of how the Principles should be developed to encompass the task for defining the way in which court funding is established.
Wayne Blair proposed that an introductory sentence as suggested by John Cary on the form of our government as outlined above.
Last clause of Principle 2 should be incorporated into Principle 5.
Mary McQueen recommended that the word discretion be added to Principle 3. She also suggested that the Principles be short, concise statements.
Ron Hjorth recapped changes thus far: 1) develop an introductory statement, 2) remove “;”, and 3) drop last clause in Principle 2 and include in Principle 5.
Discussion of courts having the discretion to utilize the funds allocated to them. Question of the relationship of the funding allocation for all branches of government and the second part of Principle 3 and the shared responsibility of the legislative and judicial branches in allocating and expending funds that are allocated to the courts. Members were reminded even though the courts might have discretion for money allocated, they are still required to follow the law.
Mary McQueen pointed out that the budget process is established by the legislative branch of government. She continued, once the allocation amount is established, it is the judiciary responsibility to manage those moneys.
Discussion of a re-drafted set of Principles prepared by J. Fleck.
Principle 4 has the word “reasonable” before discretion.
Preference is for the re-drafted version of Principle 5.
Discussion of overlap of Principles 7 & 8 and whether these could be incorporated together. Suggestion that Principle 7 should replace the word “sustaining’ with “funding.” Principle 8 is deleted.
Principle 4’s change is “are responsible for managing” and striking “must have discretion for the distribution of .”
Principle 5 use “legislative bodies” instead of “government.”
The second draft of the Principles is attached.
Judge Godfrey said the purpose of the work group is how to obtain funding. He points out that courts must be provided with funding that is reasonably necessary to function as demonstrated by evidence that is clear, cogent and convincing.
Discussion of whether it is the responsibility of the work group to do anything beyond determining how the courts are funded and where the money comes from. Wayne Blair stated the work group is reading too much into their charge.
Inventory of Funding Alternatives
Jeff Hall asked that the members provide items or functions that relate to the judiciary system. The resulting chart is attached.
Discussion of how to proceed with analyzing this list of possibilities. Glenn Olson suggested the members do briefs. He said the briefs would consist of three parts: 1) a brief background statement, 2) a problem statement, and 3) a solution. The members agreed the “briefs” were the best way to proceed. Briefs are due by May 20th.
Robert Dowdy suggested that it might be necessary to determine 1) how to raise additional dollars, 2) how to save money, and 3) what amount the state or local entity should be responsible for sharing. Accordingly, it should be known what constitutes a need for judicial funding if there is a standard for court operations.
Ron Hjorth summarized: 1) expenses can be reduced by finding efficiencies, 2) determine appropriate level of funding from various entities, 3) demonstrate ways revenues could be raised; 4) determine how much money is necessary.
A topic for the next meeting is a way for counties and state to possibly raise more revenues.
Next meeting is May 29 at Two Union Square in Seattle.
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