Problem Definition Work Group
Members in attendance:
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
The meeting was called to order at 10:10 a.m. Judge Costello was welcomed to the committee and introductions were made.
Mr. Miles commented on the train wreck analogy in the notes from June 12. He agreed that the train wreck is going to happen, but there is a series of events that lead up to it, an erosion of the system. The meeting notes from June 12 were entered into the record as written.
Trial Court Function Analysis (logical state/local balance)
Ms. Michels reported that the Work Group Co-Chairs met on June 23 for a two-day discussion, to catch up on what the other work groups were doing. They asked for a snapshot of what might be considered state functions and came up with the following:
Judicial Salaries Adding an additional bullet for Court Employees’ salaries was suggested. Discussion followed; some thought it should be left out, others thought it would be appropriate to add staff directly tied to the judge; some employees carry the same judicial immunity as judges.
Ms. Michels said the issue of state vs. local control was discussed. No clear direction came from it, but she wanted the work group to be aware of it.
Mr. Johns asked for clarification of the differences between clerks and administrators.
No final determination was made as to adding Court Employees’ salaries; it was agreed that this needs more discussion. Ms. Michels suggested adding it to the list with a note that no decision was reached.
Criminal and Juvenile Indigent Defense (CJID) Mr. Miles reiterated that he does not believe criminal defense is a court function. Ms. Michels said this subject received extensive discussion at the Work Group co-chair meeting; and that it was not up to this group to say whether it should be in the final decision. She said that his concern is still on the table though.
Mr. Hall also shared some discussion on this subject. He said it was not decided if it was a state or a local function. A sub-group of the Funding Alternatives work group is recommending that criminal and juvenile indigent defense should remain a locally funded piece. One reason is that there is a sense that if CJID is paid for by the state, the logical companion is prosecution for the same reasons. The sub-group made an exception for aggravated first degree murder cases; they thought the defense costs for these cases should be state funded.
Judge Harris said it is really not a trial court function, but there is a responsibility to ensure minimum standards are maintained. The state is establishing standards which all counties and cities are expected to adhere to and there should be equal justice across the state and not dependent on the ability of the county to fund a particular service.
Juvenile GAL and Dependency Services Judge Harris pointed out that appointment of guardians ad litem have been limited to dependency. The court also appoints GALs in dissolution cases when a child may be at risk; it is required by statute to do so. The state is not bringing the action, but it is requiring the appointment. Dissolution cases are a local matter, but the child-at-risk could be considered a state matter.
State Patrol Filings and Workload Mr. Hall commented that rather than trying to collect a filing fee from the State Patrol, this should be viewed as a reason to provide state funding for district courts. There is a strong argument that district courts should be considered the same as superior courts in terms of the argument for state funding for judges and staff. This will be expanded to discuss state agency filings.
Discussion Regarding the Trial Court Function Analysis
Ms. Stone elaborated on the Funding Alternatives sub-group's meeting. The sub-group's charge was to define “What is an Appropriate Balance.” They started out by trying to remain philosophically driven and not fiscally minded; but ended up considering the fiscal practicalities. This group included Judge Godfrey, Barb Miner, Gail Stone, Jeff Hall, and Ronald Hjorth. The following summarizes their recommendations.
Ms. Michels summed up with her understanding that the Funding Alternatives sub-group defined district and superior courts as "state courts" top to bottom but left some discreet functions local.
Principles of Trial Court Funding
Attached is a copy of the principles provided by Ms. Michels (Attachment 1). These are the principles that this group is working with.
Ms. Paradis commented on item I., juvenile courts should have a benchmark of 2001 (latest complete information); the group was in agreement.
Judge Costello asked about item P. (facilities), Ms. Michels replied that the Work Group Co-Chairs thought this was such a large area (burden) that it shouldn’t be tackled in this task force. We should all be aware of this, but practically speaking it’s not likely to be funded by the state.
Ms. Michels continued, this is a ‘living document’ that will be revised as our work continues.
Mr. Miles asked about item B (court functions), the last sentence. Does this sentence assume uniformity of all services across jurisdictions? What impact will that statement have on courts that currently operate differently? Ms. Michels replied that this is an area that is still to be discussed.
Ms. Michels asked about D., should this be enriched? Yes, something about the train running on an infrastructure that is crumbling.
Mr. Hall presented a model that describes the current and estimated needed number and cost of personnel supporting the trial courts. This model is still in a very rough, draft form and Mr. Hall is seeking feedback from the work group. The information is based on 2002 data.
Mr. Johns suggested the group make the recommendation that all judges have an ‘in chambers’ staff (i.e. law clerks). Ms. Michels said she would note that for further discussion. As the complexity of cases increases, the absence of law clerks is a factor that needs to be addressed.
Mr. Hall noted that the positions included under administration staff is anyone in court administration, excluding court reporters, judicial assistants/bailiffs or law clerks. Ms. Michels suggested calling them ‘central staff’ or ‘central administration staff.’ This would cover budgeting, personnel, LAN, family court services, secretaries, payroll clerks, etc.
When discussing staffing, Judge Harris said that it would be a good idea to factor in multiple counties that are in one judicial district; adding additional staff per judge.
After the presentation; Ms. Michels asked the work group to discuss the model presented. Overall the group approved of the concept.
Ms. Hollis commented that she would like to see 2000 data run against the 2002 data to see what variances might show up.
Mr. Hall commented that the model assumes in the staffing ratios the staffing needs for specialty courts/programs.
Regarding specialty courts, Ms. Michels would like this work group to develop a model that would encompass what we want to say about specialty courts. We are agreeing that:
Ms. Michels summed up the presentation with the following statements:
Mr. Hall asked what the distribution of this model should be. Can it go to the Funding Alternatives meeting on July 31? It was agreed that it could be presented at this meeting. With the caveat that the document and the information in the document should not be disseminated beyond these two work groups until the data is more solid and refined.
FUTURE MEETING DATES
The work group agreed there should be a meeting before the scheduled September 26 meeting. A poll will be done regarding the next meeting date. That meeting has been added below.
The next two meetings are scheduled for:
Principles of Trial Court Funding
The C$TF needs to rely on the WSBA Panel on Defense to develop mechanisms for the structure of criminal and juvenile defense/representation; still under consideration is whether defense is seen within the trial court ring for funding purposes. Current costs will be quantified.
The PDWG is still discussing methods of quantifying and projecting needs for: judicial decision support, proliferation for statewide availability of successful special programs, juvenile detention, and therapeutic-justice programs.
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