Courts of Limited Jurisdiction –
June 25, 2003
Members: Co-Chair Judge Ann Schindler; Co-Chair Ron Ward; Justice Susan Owens; Judge Sara Derr; Judge Wesley Saint Clair; Judge Stephen Holman; Judge Robert McSeveney; Judge Stephen Dwyer; Retired Judge Larry Wilson; Glenda Ward; Diane Carlson; Pam Springer; Ann Danieli; Ted Gathe; Leesa Manion (for Dan Satterberg); Deanna Dawson; Linda Bell; Joan Ferebee and Jim Pearman
Guests: Reiko Callner (Commission on Judicial Conduct); Dirk Marler (Department of Licensing); Nina Rivkin (City of Redmond, Mayor’s Office); Larry Mitchell (City of Redmond, Prosecuting Attorney); Glenn Merryman (City of Duvall, Chief of Police); Wayne Blair (Court Funding Task Force Chair)
AOC Staff: Mary McQueen; Janet McLane; Doug Haake; and Jennifer O’Hern
Co-Chair Judge Ann Schindler welcomed everyone at 10:00 AM and stated that presentations will be made by various court users, and we will have the opportunity to listen to their perspectives on how courts of limited jurisdiction operate.
Describe City of Redmond’s basis of knowledge of or relationship to King County District Court. How long has the relationship been in existence? What has worked/not worked in the relationship? How have disputes been resolved? Is there a formal process for addressing problems that arise? How would you characterize the working relationship? Does Redmond work directly with the court, or through the county? Does the city have a relationship with the judge(s) most likely to preside over City of Redmond cases? Any input into which judges will hear Redmond cases?
With the City of Redmond Prosecuting Attorney’s Office since 1993. The following are observations regarding our office’s relationship with King County District Court:
Mr. Mitchell mentioned that some concerns he has for the court’s future are:
In general, they are satisfied. No one says they are willing to walk away from district court services because they are so unhappy. They do have concerns regarding proper treatment in court (representation of plaintiffs and defendants) and staff cut backs, but they don’t want to “junk” the system.
Mr. Blair commented on an article in the Seattle P.I. today that said if the Budget Advisory Committee for King County had their way, they would eliminate district court services. If they did, would the City of Redmond form their own municipal court?
That would not be a good situation and a waste of resources. The district court provides regional services. We would have no other choice, however, to form our own court.
Co-Chair Judge Ann Schindler asked how municipal criminal codes are handled and how city ordinances are enforced.
Redmond does have their own municipal criminal code. The RCWs and state model traffic ordinance were adopted and all cases are heard in district court, except some zoning, which the Redmond municipal court uses a hearings officer with an appeal process going to the Superior Court. Concerns regarding enforcement of city ordinance violations are taken seriously.
Judge Schindler asked about the composition of city cases.
The largest majority are DWLS3 cases. The rest are DUI, various DV cases, theft and possession of drugs.
Mr. Haake asked Mr. Mitchell to expand on the King County Management Committee.
The Court Administrator, the Presiding Judge of District Court, and representatives of all contracting cities (users of district court services) are on the Committee. The committee’s work includes communicating regarding issues that affect the court. If a city has a problem, the issue is raised and resolved here. The Committee meets regularly --once per month. The Defense Bar is not part of this committee, but a defender attends the meetings regarding the services needed.
The Management Committee structure is also included in the contract. The meetings enhance communication between the cities and the county.
Judge Schindler asked if probation services are included in the contract, and if so, how they are paid for.
All probation services are in the contract. If the city has its own service, there is no change in the fee. We are reviewing the contract now to see what best meets the needs of the city.
Judge Schindler asked if defendants on probation are monitored instead of incarcerated and if they need this service.
Yes, probation is critical to keep jail costs down and encourage defendants to get on track and not reoffend.
Judge Dwyer asked if district court judges are available to order search warrants for the City of Redmond; are you charged anything for that?
Yes, they are always available. No charge; part of the contract. He noted that Kirkland, which has a municipal court also takes their warrant requests to the district court. Kirkland is not charged for the service.
Judge McSeveney commented that the workgroup has heard from a number of cities who are dissatisfied with the arrangement they have with the district court. It sounds like Redmond’s experience is different. Have any cities pulled out of Northeast District Court?
Bothell and Kirkland formed their own courts.
Judge McSeveney asked that If Redmond is satisfied with the services they receive from district court, why those courts would pull out.
Speculation: Maybe they feel it’s easier to process cases if they are in front of their own judge in their own court?
You have to keep in mind that times were different when they pulled out. You have to look at the factors in their decision at the time. There was a lot of police overtime occurring because of the court schedules and the political factors involved need to be looked at too. It’s important for cities to have options.
Judge McSeveney commented about the revenue stream and the city being “in the black.” If the contract is based on a “fee per filing,” you keep the revenue. In the current King County contract, the county keeps 75 percent and the cities get 25 percent of the revenue from city cases. The cities don’t pay anything additional for services.
What things need improvement in the process? The service providers (courts) don’t seem to be involved in the process. Is there a broader issue of funding than just the problem with the court contracts?
Yes, it is a broader systemic issue. The focus now is on municipal and district courts, because of the county’s budget crisis.
Nina’s response is right regarding other cities. It is important to look for a way to resolve issues between cities and counties. In King County, the court WAS involved in the negotiation process. It is essential they be involved.
Mr. Blair asked about any views about cities contracting with each other.
Haven’t discussed that with the city council or the Mayor, but city attorneys feel like we should be able to do that. The King County Budget Advisory Committee is grappling with this issue. Contracting with each other would prevent each city from having to provide services on their own, instead of coordinating with other cities. Regardless of the current crisis, it is a good idea.
Mr. Blair asked Mr. Mitchell if he had an opinion regarding the proper way of dealing with DWLS or unenforced warrants.
A DWLS3 diversion program is available in a couple of courts in King County. Redmond will be asking for this program to be available for its cases in its city and in other locations in King County as well.
Judge McSeveney asked Ms. Carlson if Bellevue has a good relationship with the district court.
Always. We go to the regular management meetings also.
Justice Owens reminded everyone of the history of DWLS3. It WAS decriminalized 15 years ago. At that time, it was used as a mechanism to get people to pay traffic tickets. Drivers with two FTAs were not allowed to renew their driver’s license until the obligation was paid. This resulted in a revenue loss, since people did not pay fines for up to four years (at time of license renewal). This issue has been driven by revenue collection all along.
Mr. Gathe asked Ms. Carlson what caused the City of Bellevue to move to their own probation services.
We have an active probation department. Our level of service and ability to provide that service was better.
There is a big risk and expense involved in providing your own probation services, due to potential law suits. County and cities probably both have some burden and discussions are underway about narrowing the scope of probation to manage liability. There also is the unintended consequence of counties eliminating probation just to avoid liability.
King County leads the state in difficult funding issues and probation liability. We will start discussions with King County cities regarding what should and shouldn’t be done regarding supervision. It’s a tough question and issue we need to face in the future.
What legislative actions could resolve this issue? Immunity? There is no easy solution. The state has limited liability of supervision, statutorily.
Mr. Gathe asked Mr. Mitchell if DV Advocates are a core service needing funding. Is this service part of the contract?
Not part of the contract, but it is needed. These services are provided by the prosecutor.
DV cases are county cases. Those services aren’t available in the cities. The DV advocates work with county cases and are not part of the contract.
Describe City of Duvall’s basis of knowledge of or relationship to King County District Court. How long has the relationship been in existence? What has worked/not worked in the relationship? How have disputes been resolved? Is there a formal process for addressing problems that arise? How would you characterize the working relationship? Does City of Duvall work directly with the court? Or though the county? Does the city have a relationship with the judge(s) most likely to preside over City of Duvall cases? Any input into which judges will hear Duvall cases?
The City of Duvall has the following concerns, if the county continues with staff cuts in the district court:
Judge McSeveney asked Chief Merryman if in 1992, there were two part time judges in Duvall. Also if he has noticed a difference between the county’s full time judges, who are experienced, versus the previous part time judges.
Yes, and they were appointed by the mayor. Yes, did see a difference. The quality is now better with the county full time judges. The problem with the part time judges is that they weren’t from the area and weren’t always available, so it was hard for them to understand the community politics and our needs.
Judge McSeveney asked if those part time judges were kept up on issues regarding jail sentencing and jail costs.
We did discuss these with them, but not known if they were aware.
The City of Bellevue management does discuss with the district court judges regarding jails. We believe it’s not inappropriate to discuss the cost implications with them.
When in the Northeast District Court, we regularly discussed jail costs with the cities, but the judges were free to make decisions as they deemed appropriate.
Judge Schindler reiterated that Chief Merryman said that the City of Duvall is in the black and they generated an income. She asked him from what.
From court fines and fees.
Ms. McQueen added that one of the city’s issues was arraignments. She asked Chief Merryman if the problem was because the judge was only part time?
Yes. The city ended up hiring a second part time judge to handle the cases. It was an availability issue.
Judge Saint Clair noted that the King County District court is working on the phone tree issue. They have upgraded the software for real time and have hired a full time staff person to handle those real time transfer calls.
After a brief lunch break, Co-Chair Ann Schindler asked Ms. Callner from the Commission on Judicial Conduct to present her findings.
Describe the basis for your knowledge of/involvement with district and municipal courts. Are you able to compare district and municipal courts within a single jurisdiction? Compare courts across jurisdictions? Can you draw generalized conclusions about differences between district and municipal courts?
What impact do resources of the respective jurisdiction have on your observations about courts? Are there differences in services available in different jurisdictions? Are there differences in pressures to use/not use resources? Do you see prosecution of similar cases treated differently in different jurisdictions?
The pattern of due process violations that the CJC sees are:
Effect on witnesses, etc. of multiple courts and locations? Is there confusion on the part of defendants about which court(s) they need to appear in?
Mr. Haake said that he heard Ms. Callner characterize all court levels as state-level courts. Can you explain?
All courts, including CLJs are within the state’s jurisdiction and are differentiated from federal courts.
Co-Chair Judge Ann Schindler reminded members that when Bob Boruchowitz was here, he spoke of a pattern of due process violations and that these occur much more frequently than the CJC hears of.
Some are under the impression that the CJC targets areas for enforcement. For instance, they have the perception that we are now “doing Pierce,” which is not true. The CJC takes what comes in the door at the time. Media attention to a particular topic tends to produce more complaints.
Ms. McQueen said that the Supreme Court passed the mandatory judicial education (GR 26) rule that says a minimum number of CJE hours are needed for all judges. The state pays for per diem and other costs. A judge’s only cost is mileage. There should be no reason they don’t obtain their CJEs. If they now don’t get their CJEs as required by GR 26, they can be sent to the CJC for that violation.
The CJC is now involved in presentations/education for judges at their conferences. We enforce, but we are considered as part of the judicial branch. Contrary to popular belief, the CJC tries to deflect problems, so that the judicial branch isn’t always in the media.
Co-Chair Ron Ward asked Ms. Callner if the Commission works on a solution if it sees a pattern of violations.
When we receive a complaint, we take a broader look to see if there is a pattern in the state. If we see a pattern, we proceed with pursuing a case.
Ms. McQueen asked Ms. Callner if the CJC happens to see a pattern among judges needing additional education, if they will note that finding.
If it is a systematic pattern, the CJC will ask one of the Commission member judges (non-attorneys and judges from COA, Superior Court and District Court are on the Commission) to take the issue back to their associations. The Commission is now working on drafting a “redacted issues” list.
Mr. Haake asked Ms. Callner if the CJC will enforce the Presiding Judge Rule by investigating a presiding judge who is reported for not fulfilling their responsibilities under that Rule.
Yes. The CJC likes the strong PJ Rule. There is a perception among judges who are independently elected, that they aren’t going to tell on “another elected judge.” The Rule requires PJs to manage workload assignments. The PJ has to do that on their own, and they have responsibility for reporting judges who do not comply with workload or other assignments from the PJ. This will change the culture of “not reporting” ethics violations.
Ms. McQueen stated that the Canons require judges to give attention to the business of the court. If there is a delay in a case, for instance, that could be a violation.
Mr. Blair asked Ms. Callner if, from her observations, there is a difference between the conduct of elected and appointed judges.
Not able to distinguish specific problems that apply to one or the other. Problems exist with both, except elected judges have unique challenges and potentials for code violations at campaign time. Elected judges are under more scrutiny at election time.
What is the basis of your knowledge of/experience with courts of limited jurisdiction?
Been with DOL for two months; but before that, eight years practicing law and 14 years as a district court judge. Was also the past president of the DMCJA. Here as an employee of DOL and not as a judicial member.
What is the nature of DOL’s interaction with courts of limited jurisdiction? To what extent do courts comply with provisions of RCW 45.20.270 that require the abstract of the court’s disposition in a case to be sent to DOL within 10 days? With RCW 46.64.025 that requires courts to forward an FTA notice “promptly”? Are you able to compare district and municipal courts within a single jurisdiction? Compare courts across jurisdictions? Can you draw generalized conclusions about differences between district and municipal courts?
What impact do resources of the respective jurisdictions have on your observations about courts? Do you see prosecution of similar cases treated differently in different jurisdictions? Are there differences in basic forms, procedures, and application of law and court rules between courts? Are there patterns or systemic areas of concern relative to type of court? Limited jurisdiction courts generally?
Do you have observations specifically about he incidence of DWLS and the impact on DOL and the courts? Recommendations for improvement in this area?
Co-Chair Ron Ward asked Judge Marler if DOL has a proposed solution to the DWLS problem.
DOL is interested in working with the courts and Legislators to see what can be done, but they have no specific proposals.
Ms. Danieli asked Mr. Marler what the statutory roadblocks are to accessing DOL records.
Access to DOL records is blocked by statute. You can go to DOL to get a complete record for $5. If you want to find out “what to do to get a specific issue in a case solved,” call an individual like myself at DOL and we will help walk you through. Or the other option is to request legislative change to open DOL records.
Judicial Information System Caseload Data Overview
Janet McLane reported that in looking at the caseload statistics, the objective was to get questions answered. In select cities for 2002, general cases increased in activity compared to 2001. There was a 13.8 percent increase in the number of cases filed; an 8.2 percent increase in contested proceedings; and an 8.7 percent increase in the number of dispositions. It’s probable these increases are influenced, in part, by a traffic-enforcement emphasis adopted by the Washington State Patrol during 2002.
A more in depth examination of criminal traffic patterns in contracting and independent municipal courts, showed that DWLS cases represent a high proportion of the 159,000 criminal traffic cased filed in 2002 (ranging from 40.7 percent in Franklin District to 80.7 percent in Airway Heights municipal court). DUI Charges represent the next highest proportion of total criminal traffic charges. Considerable disparity exists among courts with DUI filings ranging from 6.6 percent to 32.5 percent. These differences most likely reflect varying law-enforcement ticketing and/or prosecutorial charging practices. Averages from selected courts suggest that DUI constitutes the highest proportion of all criminal traffic original charges in district courts (27.9 percent), the next highest in contracting municipalities (20.2 to 23.9 percent), and the smallest proportion in independent municipal courts (13.6 to 17.6 percent). This finding is tempered by considerable within-group variation (for example, independent municipal courts in cities over 5,000 population have proportions ranging from 6.6 to 24.8 percent).
Janet also reported on a couple of other tables, including the likelihood of final charge determination for a DUI original charge, and filing to disposition durations of DUI charges and DUI disposition type. As there are many variations with these selected courts’ statistics, a statewide picture would be more meaningful. Janet will have the AOC Research report statistics for the whole state and she will report back to the Work Group with those findings. There are a lot of disparities in practices dealing with DUI. When we look at the whole state, we will probably see patterns emerge.
Update on Justice Management Institute Survey Project
Janet McLane reported that the survey has gone out in a pilot to Joan Ferebee and Judges Holman and McSeveney. They will try the survey and see if it needs improvements. We hope to get any corrections made and get it out soon to selected CLJs.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Expected Functions Chart (a.k.a. Core Mission)
Janet McLane reported that she looked at DMCJA’s Minimum Standards and JEA Group’s Core Mission document and created the grid in the materials (Tab 8, Page 21 & 22). She asked that members take a look at it and report back to her with comments. She is still in the process of identifying the statutory authority for these functions, so it is still a work in progress.
Topics/Materials for Future Meetings
Next Meeting Date and Time
The group will meet next on July 31, 2003 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Wyndham Seatac Hotel.
Meeting adjourned at 1:45 PM.
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