Board for Judicial Administration
Members present: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, co-chair, Judge Deborah Fleck, member-chair, Judge William Baker, Judge Stephen Brown, Judge Vicki Churchill, Judge Leonard Costello, Judge Sara Derr, Judge Stephen Dwyer, Judge Stephen Holman, Justice Barbara Madsen, Judge Robert McSeveney, Mary McQueen, Judge Kathleen O’Connor, Judge James M. Riehl, and Judge Evan Sperline
Guests present: Jim Bamberger, Judge Mary Kay Becker, Wayne Blair, Dale Carlisle, Joan Fairbanks, Justice Charles W. Johnson, Judge Ann Schindler, Paul Sherfey and Judge Gregory Tripp
Staff present: Gil Austin, Jude Cryderman, Doug Haake, Jeff Hall, Janet McLane and Yvonne Pettus
Call to Order
Chief Justice Alexander called the meeting to order.
The minutes of the September 21, 2003 meeting were approved with the correction to Judge Corinna Harn’s name on page 3.
2004 Meeting Schedule
The proposed 2004 meeting schedule was approved as published.
CrRLJ 2.1(c)—Complaint—Citation and Notice
Judge Dwyer briefly described the proposed deletion of the citizen complaint from CrRLJ 2.1(c).
It was moved by Judge Dwyer and seconded by Judge Holman that BJA endorse the proposed rule change for forwarding to the Supreme Court.
Judge Sperline questioned the ability to avoid abuse by prosecutor. Justice Johnson provided an example of abuse. He advised that the rule has been before the Court in the past, but not received approval.
Mr. Hall advised the citizen complaint had previously been addressed in statute, but the statute was then preempted by court rule and the statute was eventually repealed.
The Board briefly discussed the proposed rule.
Call for the question: motion carried, with one abstention.
Trial Court Coordination Council (TCCC)
Judge Holman reminded the members that last biennium $75,000 was available for TCCC projects. That money was awarded to Island, Yakima and King Counties. He advised that another $75,000 is available this biennium, which will be awarded in April. Judge Holman indicated that the subcommittee members are ready to begin their work.
It was moved by Judge Holman to approve the Trial Court Coordination Council Subcommittee members of Judge Holman, Judge Fitterer, Judge Nevin, and Judge Ramsdell, and one other superior court judge to be appointed. The motion was seconded by Judge Baker. Motion carried.
Civil Legal Needs Study
Justice Johnson introduced Judge Mary Kay Becker, Jim Bamberger and Joan Fairbanks. Justice Johnson reminded the members that the Task Force was created by the Supreme Court to study civil legal needs of low income people in Washington State.
Judge Becker said the study is the result of over a year of hard work, research and writing. She advised that civil legal services for the poor has been around over 40 years, but public support has eroded since the 1970s. Hopefully the roller coaster funding of the past years is about to change. She indicated that the Legislature sometimes questions the need for civil legal services for low income people and the extent of the problem. Judge Becker said the results of this study will support the need for civil legal services and provide data on the extent of the problem. Judge Becker reported that the researcher interviewed approximately 1,400 members of low income households. Those households were asked what types of civil legal problems they had, how they handled those problems, how acute were the problems, and how many such problems had they encountered. In addition a random phone survey was conducted under the auspices of Washington State University. Similar questions were asked in the random survey. The Civil Legal Needs Study reports the combined results of all of the surveys.
Judge Becker stated that over 1 million households are at or below poverty level in Washington that is those with an income of $23,000 or less for a family of four. One serious civil legal need is experienced in 75-85% of those households. The highest rate of legal needs falls within the personal safety category such as domestic violence, housing and family law. Other civil legal problems include consumer products, problems experienced by a particular population, and discrimination. Judge Becker said the study endeavored not to make an advocacy document, but rather to report the facts. She said the Task Force has reviewed the study and found the results very troubling. They have committed to continue to work on the problems.
Judge Becker next spoke to the relationship of the study to whether legal services should be part of the core mission of the judiciary. She reminded the members that Washington has laws against consumer fraud, discrimination, etc., but what good are they if access to protection is not available. Billions of dollars are provided to the criminal justice side with only a fraction of that amount necessary to make improvements to the civil side.
Justice Johnson said the entire judiciary needs to be committed to our rule of law which is providing equal justice to all. He went on to say that the study confirms what we have always known, but until this time have been unable to support with data. He thanked the members for their past support.
Chief Justice Alexander stated that the Supreme Court did underwrite a portion of study, but also significant funds were contributed by the Washington State Bar Association. The Chief Justice advised that Justice Johnson and Judge Becker reported to en banc at the last meeting. He said that en banc had voted to receive the study. Press releases were sent by the Supreme Court and the Washington State Bar Association. Chief Justice Alexander advised that the Court had extended the Task Force through 2004.
Judge Sperline said the report confirms what we already know, but another part of that experience is that people who do not have access to the civil justice system do have a variety of other tools available to them.
Mr. Bamberger pointed out that finding number ten revealed that nine out of ten people felt there was no alternative but to live with the consequences of their problem. He added a very small number of people indicated they went to a courthouse seeking resolution to their problem.
Judge Tripp thanked Justice Johnson and Judge Becker on behalf of the Access to Justice Board. He also thanked the BJA and the WSBA for their support.
Mr. Carlisle echoed Judge Tripp’s thank yous. Mr. Carlisle said the report will provide an important tool in the effort to obtain additional funding.
Chief Justice Alexander indicated the Supreme Court anticipates receiving recommendations from the Task Force soon. They are also expecting recommendations for the proposed legislation. Chief Justice Alexander said we must be unified in whatever we do. He said members must also be given adequate to time to review the proposals.
Mr. Bamberger said the Task Force is currently working on the recommendations. Further, an agreed approach to the filing fee increase will be taken.
Justice Johnson said informal conversation has taken place regarding the proposed filing fee increase for the 2004 legislative session.
Ms. McQueen said the clerks have indicated they are not proposing a filing fee bill. She said there is some confusion in just trying to figure out what is going on.
Mr. Bamberger responded the burden is on the Task Force and the clerks to come with recommendation in timely manner.
Judge Fleck requested that all groups work closely with AOC to make sure all associations and BJA meetings are covered.
Judge Baker thinks the recommendations should go to the Court, the associations and BJA simultaneously.
Judge O’Connor said the proposal should be finalized and on the table within days.
Court Funding Task Force
Mr. Wayne Blair reported the Task Force has met five times since it was created a year ago. He indicated the issues are far more complicated than anyone thought. He said the Task Force is still trying to determine the current spending level in trial courts. He advised that the Task Force began voting on matters at their last meeting.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (CLJ) Work Group
Judge Schindler provided a brief report on the work of the CLJ work group that she chairs with Ron Ward. She indicated the CLJ Principles were approved at the last Task Force meeting. She requested BJA consider approval of the Principles during the November meeting.
Judge Schindler reviewed Concept 1, advising that it was approved, but not unanimously at the last Task Force meeting.
Concept 1-To promote public accountability and independence, all judges in courts of limited jurisdiction should be elected, including part-time judges.
Judge Schindler said that Concept 2 was also approved at the last meeting.
Concept 2-Title 3 should provide different court options for local governments to provide court services to their community.
Concept 3 was approved without the bullets.
Concept 3-Provisions should be made for expanded subject matter jurisdiction in municipal courts.
Judge Schindler said the work group will spend time meeting with and hearing from the judicial associations, cities and other interested parties.
Concepts 4, 5 and 6 were unanimously approved.
Concept 4-A court of limited jurisdiction should be accessible to residents of the community it serves. Each court of limited jurisdiction should provide services on a regularly scheduled basis at established hours that are posted for the public.
Concept 5-Costs for court services provided by another government should be calculated based on the amount of revenue used.
Concept 6-All statutory provisions relating to the structure, governance and operation of the courts of limited jurisdiction should be contained in Title 3.
Judge Schindler said the next step is to have the associations review the principles and concepts. She said the work group needs to be prepared with legislative changes for the 2004 session. Judge Schindler stated that Mr. Ron Ward would attend the November 14 BJA meeting to ask for approval of the Principles and Concepts.
The Board briefly discussed the pros and cons of having all judges, including part-time municipal court judges elected.
Judge Schindler next reported on the Options for Court Structure part of their report. She said the first four options are current statutes. Option “E” proposes a joint municipal court allowing two or more cities to operate a court. Judge Schindler advised that the Options will be reviewed by the Task Force during its November meeting.
Mr. Blair directed the members’ attention to the Context of Trial Court Functions for Funding Discussion and the Concepts for the Calculation of the Trial Court Funding Gap, both of which were approved by the Task Force.
Mr. Blair said the Task Force sees their central mission as funding trial court functions. Adequate funding for criminal indigent defense and civil legal services does not fit into the trial court functions.
Mr. Hall said one of the biggest challenges was trying to get budget reports from 39 counties to fit the same mold. One obstacle was that criminal indigent defense costs are intertwined with other courts costs. As a result, the Task Force made a recommendation to approach the state auditor asking to revise the system to separate out indigent defense costs.
Funding Alternatives Work Group
Mr. Blair briefly reviewed the user fee proposal. He said the proposal was created by Kirk Johns, one of the work group chairs. He advised during the last work group meeting there was significant debate on the proper role of user fees. That debate included the possibility of new user fees for counter claims, cross claims, and third party claims. Mr. Blair said the work group is continuing to explore possible funding alternatives for the courts. At their next meeting the work group will review the results of the ballots cast during its last meeting.
Implementation Strategies Work Group
Judge Fleck reported that Judge Corrina Harn had successfully negotiated a contract for municipal court services with King County. The next step requires each individual council to pass and approve the contracts.
Judge Fleck advised that the work group will meet on October 24 to begin the framework for next legislative session. Judge Fleck thanked Wayne Blair for contributing his time and efforts to the Court Funding Task Force.
Judge Baker advised that the Committee had not met.
Court of Appeals
Judge Brown said there was nothing new to report. The Courts continue to be very busy.
Judge O’Connor advised that the Senate Judiciary Committee invited the Association to comment and send representatives to their December 5 work session on the Sentencing Reform Act. The Association sees this as a positive step forward.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
Judge Dwyer reported the time for trial rules have been in effect for six weeks and some problems are being experienced. He anticipates these issues will be worked out over time. One problem is issuance of warrants and checking with the DOC data base. He said the rule was written with an eye toward superior courts, but the vast majority of city prosecutors who are contract attorneys do not and cannot have access to the DOC data base.
Access to Justice
Judge Tripp thanked the BJA for their support of civil legal needs study. He advised that the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association conference is being held in Seattle. Any one wishing additional information can contact Joan Fairbanks at the WSBA.
Washington State Bar Association
Mr. Carlisle said there was no report, as the Board of Governors is meeting at the same time as BJA.
The next meeting is November 14, Holiday Inn at SeaTac.
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