Courts of Limited Jurisdiction –
Present: Judge Ann Schindler, Co-Chair; Ron Ward, Co-Chair; Wayne Blair; Judge Sara Derr; Mike Killian; Pam Springer; Linda Bell; Mike Kenyon, Tricia Crozier; Judge Wesley Saint Clair; Judge Stephen Holman; Judge Robert McSeveney; Ted Gathe; Joan Ferebee; Diane Carlson; Glenda Ward; Karen Reed; Retired Judge Larry Wilson; Ann Danieli
Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC): Janet McLane; Doug Haake
Introduction and Welcome
Co-chairs Ron Ward and Judge Ann Schindler welcomed the group and thanked everyone for their participation. Members introduced themselves and briefly described their experience with limited jurisdiction courts.
Why Are We Here? What’s Expected?
Wayne Blair gave some background on the reasons for the Court Funding Task Force and reported that the full Task Force met twice (October and November 2002 – minutes at Tab 1 in notebook) and formed five work groups:
This group’s charge will be to: confirm the core mission of the trial courts in Washington; describe in what manner long-term, inadequate funding of the trial courts adversely impacts the core mission of the trial courts; what constraints are placed on the trial court system as a result of inadequate funding?; what are the consequences to citizens of the State of Washington and to the users of the trial courts that result from long-term inadequate funding?; quantify the extent to which annual funding of the trial courts is inadequate; how much additional annual funding (from whatever source) is needed for the trial courts to have sufficient funding to perform their core mission?; recommend to the Task Force how much money the trial court system needs annually to carry out its core mission in accordance with approved performance standards to ensure “justice for all.”
This group will be one of the largest workgroups and will study court funding issues in CLJs that result from multiple delivery systems in the same geographical area; recommend to the full Task Force whether structural changes should be made to the current system, and what method of delivering services to the public works best. This work group will consider the question of consolidation of municipal and district courts and other models for providing court services to local communities.
This group will study the current funding structure for the court system and distribution of court revenue between state and local government; examine whether the revenue from courts should be redistributed, and if so, recommend in what ways this should occur. Wayne added that this group will focus on how much cities, counties and/or the state pays for courts and where the money comes from.
This group will inform the public, legislators, other elected officials, and decision-makers about the adequacy of trial court funding today and the long-term consequences to the citizens of the State of Washington that result from inadequate funding. This group will be instrumental in communicating the findings and recommendations of the Task
Implementation Strategies Work Group
This group will work with the other work groups to determine the best options and necessary strategies for improving the funding support for the trial courts and the legal and practical implications of each approach. They will devise a suggested timeframe for the most viable alternatives. They will then undertake the necessary effort, as authorized by the BJA, to fully implement the recommendations of the Task Force as it relates to changing the funding responsibility for the trial courts.
Mr. Blair noted the timeline (Tab 1, p 41) for the Court Funding Task Force, and acknowledged that all of these efforts are going to require considerable work. Meetings of the work groups are planned through summer 2003.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction – Statutory Framework
Overview of RCW Title 3
Janet McLane presented an overview of the court models that are authorized under RCW Title 3: district courts, independent municipal courts, and municipal departments of district court. Another model - municipal contract with the county- is authorized under the Interlocal Agreement Act (RCW 39):
The group then reviewed a chart of the current authority of each court of limited jurisdiction (Tab 2, p.50). Current information shows there are 125 Independent municipal courts operating in the state of Washington, 92 municipals that contract with a county district court, 13 courts that contract with other cities within their county and 19 cities that have municipal departments in the district court. The subject-matter jurisdictional distinctions between district and municipal court were reviewed by Doug Haake (Tab 2, p 48).
The work group also reviewed a statewide table showing the statutory authority of each court of limited jurisdiction, and a listing of part time and full time judges and staff in the courts of limited jurisdiction. (Tab 2, p. 50 -78)
Doug Haake pointed out that accountability for statewide information is desired, but courts are not required to report the legal authority under which they operate or other organizational information to AOC and the Supreme Court.
CLJ Expenditure and Revenue Overview
Janet McLane presented an overview of the revenue and expenditure picture in courts of limited jurisdiction using the following slides:
ACTION: The state’s share of CLJ revenue from fines and penalties is distributed to the Public Safety and Education Account (PSEA). Members asked for more detailed information about the programs that are funded from the PSEA.
Highlights of Previous Court Improvement Studies
Janet McLane presented an overview of recommendations from various court improvement efforts beginning with efforts in the early 1970’s through the Project 2001 study, as illustrated in the slides below.
Judge Larry Wilson described the assessment survey that the Wilson team completed in 1997 which entailed visits to approximately 120 courts across the state and extensive information gathering across a wide range of operational and judicial/court management work areas. Judge Wilson observed that the report concluded inefficiency in the courts is a problem, parallel with a need to increase financial support for courts.
ACTION: Judge Schindler asked Judge Wilson to identify the most significant recommendations from his report to present at the March meeting with the expectation that these might help focus attention on areas of emphasis for the work group.
Topics for Future Meetings
Judge Schindler noted that significant information needs to be gathered for review by this group, with the following particular questions in mind:
Judge Schindler asked the group to consider what other areas need to be explored. What information should be collected? Each member had a chance to give their view of problems that need to be addressed or general comments or concerns they have, and the issues that should be addressed in this forum.
Current Legislative Issues
Judge Schindler briefly described the circumstances in King County that have resulted in legislation being introduced to allow cities to contract with other cities for court services. (Tab 4 in notebook)
Next Meeting Date and Time
The group agreed to meet next on March 19, 2003 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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