Members present: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, co-chair; Judge Deborah Fleck, co-chair; Judge Vickie Churchill; Judge Leonard Costello; Judge Sara Derr; Judge Stephen Holman; Judge Elaine Houghton; Judge Eileen Kato; Judge Kenneth Kato; Judge Faye Kennedy; Judge Gerald Knight; Justice Barbara Madsen; Ms. Janet McLane; Judge Robert McSeveney; Judge Alicia Nakata; Judge Christine Quinn-Brintnall; Judge James Riehl; Judge Evan Sperline; Judge Michael Trickey; and Mr. Ron Ward
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander.
Chief Justice Alexander provided a brief recap of the Washington Association of County Officials (WACO) and Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) meeting he attended with Ms. McLane in Spokane on October 6, 2004.
Court Funding Task Force
Judge Fleck highlighted the three important issues discussed at the Court Funding Task Force meeting: revised tax proposal, CLJ Work Group report and the fee increase.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (CLJ) Work Group Report
Judge Schindler reminded the Board the charge to the CLJ Work Group was:
Study structural and court funding issues in courts of limited jurisdiction, district and municipal courts that result from multiple delivery systems in the same geographic area and recommend efficient and effective methods of delivering judicial services and whether changes such as consolidation of district and municipal courts should be made to the current system.
Judge Schindler reviewed the Principles for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction pointing out that Principle IV-“The primary mission of courts of limited jurisdiction is to expeditiously, efficiently, and fairly resolve cases and serve the residents of the community, not to generate revenue” was one of the points of disagreement. Another area of disagreement was the election of judges. Judge Schindler noted that Washington has a strong historical preference for electing judges. She added that the only level of court where not all judges are elected is at the municipal court. The Task Force agreed that whether part-time or full-time all judges should be elected.
Judge Eileen Kato advised that the District and Municipal Court Judges’ Association voted to support the election principle, but only after considerable discussion and some members dissenting.
Judge Schindler reported another area of study by the Work Group was whether there is a lack of statutory clarity for establishing the contracting of one municipal court with another. The Work Group agreed the provisions for contracting should be contained in Title 3.
Judge Schindler stated the Principles and Concepts should provide the analytical framework for this legislative session. The proposals for the courts of limited jurisdiction have been based on the Principles and Concepts.
Mr. Ward stated he is an advocate for the independence of the judiciary. He said the principles and concepts reflect the majority consensus of the broad-based Work Group. He went on to say that it is not healthy to have 80+ judges who are an exception to the system.
Judge Costello questioned why Principle V was included because it is obvious that courts should follow the court rules and statutes. Judge Schindler responded that not all courts of limited jurisdiction are in compliance with court rules and statutes.
Judge Riehl reminded the Board that they had agreed with the Long-range Planning Committee’s recommendation, of several years ago, that all judges should be elected. Judge Riehl said he is in favor of the Principles and Implementation Concepts and supports adoption.
Judge Eileen Kato said the DMCJA discussed all of the options and the Board voted for the option that all judges should be elected.
Judge Sperline said he supports the principles, but doesn’t necessarily endorse the election of judges at all court levels.
Judge Quinn-Brintnall indicated that although she supports the election of judges at all levels, she has a concern about disenfranchising voters in smaller communities through the regionalization of courts of limited jurisdiction.
Judge Eileen Kato advised that there was a discussion regarding the regionalization because it could lead to “big box justice.”
It was moved by Judge Riehl and seconded by Judge Derr to adopt the Principles for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction and the Implementation Concepts found on pages 4 and 5 of the Court Funding Task Force Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Delivery of Services Work Group Final Report dated October 12, 2004. Motion passed unanimously.
Judge Schindler reported the Work Group recommends, for the long-term, state funded regional courts having jurisdiction over all applicable state laws, and county and city ordinances. Judge Schindler referred to the Association of Cities’ “Municipal Courts in the State of Washington” chart (appendix C) that shows the number of hours per week that the judges are in court. That information along with the current financial situation of the cities reinforced the need for state funded regional courts.
Judge Schindler next reviewed the short-term recommendations. Judge Schindler said that although the details have not been outlined, she is seeking approval of the short-term recommendations.
The members discussed bullet six, specifically that the interlocal agreement must set up the mechanism for determining cost-sharing for court services.
Justice Madsen asked about municipal courts hearing anti-harassment orders.
Judge Riehl responded that access to justice outweighs the concern of conflicting orders, but it is important to coordinate to ensure conflicting orders don’t occur.
Judge Holman added that there are not as many conflicting orders in anti-harassment cases as in domestic violence cases.
Judge Schindler advised that one of the tasks assigned by the Task Force was to study the expansion of subject matter jurisdiction. She indicated that the Association of Cities is concerned about cost-shifting. Judge Schindler said that Kitsap County is the model that BJA should keep in mind when thinking about the operation of regional courts.
Judge Riehl said he supported regionalization, but pointed out that the bullet points don’t cover sites or facilities. In order to provide access to justice, Judge Riehl felt the elected judges should travel to the various locations throughout the county.
Judge Schindler reminded the members that increasing access to justice is an underlying theme to the recommendations.
Next the Board briefly discussed bullets 4 and 5 dealing with district court commissioners. Judge Schindler said the Work Group was trying to eliminate the practice of having court commissioners with the same posture as judges. They are recommending a distinction of duties similar to that of superior court commissioners.
Judge McSeveney advised that full-time elected municipal court judges are compensated at 35 hours a week. Some municipalities will have the judges who work 34 hours, then have a court commissioner and argue that commissioner time is not considered judicial time.
Judge Sperline questioned the increase in jurisdiction to $75,000. He said he did not oppose or support, but questioned the salutary purpose.
Judge Eileen Kato said the Work Group met with representatives of the civil plaintiffs and defense bar during which time they explained dedicated civil calendars. The representatives were advised that cases can be processed quickly through the district courts. The process is more streamlined due to limited discovery. Judge Eileen Kato advised that there had been some discussion about increasing the jurisdiction to $150,000, but it was agreed that raising the limit could increase filings to the point the district courts might not be able to handle.
Discussion regarding increased jurisdiction and dedicated civil calendars continued.
It was moved by Judge Sperline to approve the short-term implementation steps as set forth on page 12 of the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Delivery of Services Work Group Final Report dated October 12, 2004 with the last two bullets rolled together as follows:
Discussion followed regarding whether dedicated calendaring will work with smaller courts that don’t have as many civil cases.
Judge Sperline withdrew his original motion, with Judge Riehl agreeing to the withdrawal. Judge Sperline moved for the adoption of the short-term recommendations outlined on page 12. The motion was seconded by Judge Riehl. The motion carried.
Chief Justice Alexander thanked Judge Schindler and Mr. Ward for their hard work and dedication.
Proposed Tax Package
Judge Fleck reported that the Task Force had approved a new tax to be included in the proposed tax package.
The Task Force recommends the following “tax package” (i.e., options and alternatives) as a sound and principled approach to funding the Task Force recommendations:
Chief Justice Alexander reminded the members that they had voted earlier to defer the Court Funding Task Force recommendation on taxes. Mr. Hall indicated the Board should continue to defer the taxes recommendation.
Mr. Hall addressed the recommendation requiring the annual reporting of fee adjustment by AOC to the Supreme Court and BJA. This recommendation was revised by the Task Force to include AOC’s consultation with the County Clerks and DMCMA. Chief Justice Alexander indicated his support of the revision.
The Task Force recommends the Board for Judicial Administration seek legislation requiring the Administrative Office of the Courts, in consultation with the County Clerk’s Association and the District and Municipal Court Management Association, to report annually to the Supreme Court and Board for Judicial Administration recommending any adjustments to fees.
Court Funding Implementation Committee
Mr. Hall briefly reviewed the jury fees/mileage proposal which originally was proposed at $10 for the first day of service and $45 for each subsequent day. Mr. Hall advised that the original proposal would result in increased costs to King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane Counties. Mr. Hall said a better proposal was $10 for the first day of service and $30 for subsequent days. Those figures along with other scenarios will be calculated.
Next, Mr. Hall reviewed the district/municipal judges’ salary proposal. He pointed out that the proposal is for elected municipal court judges, including part-time elected judges, to be paid 95% of the salary of a district court judge. Mr. Hall explained that 5% salary differential between each court level is the current practice of the Salary Commission.
Mr. Hall next discussed the proposed court improvement account. The Board briefly discussed enforcement of non-supplanting provisions.
Mr. Hall advised that the draft legislation, including the miscellaneous fees added by the Clerks, will be considered at the Implementation Committee meeting on November 8. The draft language will be shared with the Board at their November 19 meeting.
Mr. Hall advised that the indigent defense proposal is the top priority for counties this legislative session. Mr. Hall briefly reviewed OPD’s budget request which includes: $14.6 million for parental representation in dependencies; $400,000 for attorney training; $520,000 for local government resources and $340,000 for resource attorney positions. He added that next biennium the cost will be about $30 million.
Next, Mr. Hall briefly reviewed the proposed criminal indigent defense bill concepts. Mr. Hall advised that the bill drafted for the criminal defense portion will be provided to the Implementation Committee at the November 8 meeting.
Mr. Hall advised that the Equal Justice Coalition is holding their open houses on October 27th. Ms. Michels said that the list of open houses is available on the WSBA website.
Mr. Hall briefly reviewed the Civil Equal Justice proposals that include the creation of an office of civil legal aid to be located within the judicial branch; funding proposal with a $7 million ceiling for the biennium; expansion of CLEAR to include King County; and to increase the number of attorneys.
Chief Justice Alexander stated that the Equal Justice Coalition is not asking the judiciary to take the lead, but to be supportive of their efforts.
Mr. Hall explained the purpose of the legislative dinners. The dinners will be held in five cities: Seattle on November 15; Olympia on December 2; Spokane on December 9; Yakima on December 13; and Vancouver on December 14.
Staff was asked to identify the number of judges needed at each dinner. Judges Leonard Costello, Eileen Kato and Elaine Houghton will designate judicial attendees.
Trial Court Coordination Councils
Judge Holman provided a status report on the three counties that were awarded grant money.
1. Telephone scripts exchanged.
2. Web sites reviewed.
3. Brochures, handouts collected.
4. Customer survey designed and administered in all courts/offices with over 7,000 responses collected.
5. Staff from each court have participated in job shadowing with counterparts.
6. Internal press release was created to encourage communication and in-house comments and suggestions.
7. Program analyst position created, recruitment completed, and employee will start October 1, 2004.
1. Hardware and software will be delivered early October 2004 when training will occur. Bremerton Municipal Court has been cabled to allow prosecutors and public defenders direct access from the counsel table. All other courts have previously been cabled to allow access from the bench and the clerks’ stations.
2. Two staff persons will each spend .5 of each day entering and maintaining the domestic violence orders in the initial stages of the project.
3. Kitsap County District Court staff are auditing all domestic violence orders currently in effect within the Kitsap County courts to reduce the number of orders to be scanned and maintained.
4. Due to the lack of dedicated information technology staff, website development has been delayed until January 2005. In the interim, District Court will provide all agencies and courts with necessary information via fax and e-mail during regular business hours.
1. The county has contracted with Beaman Architecture, Ltd. to develop blueprints for the in-custody courtroom to be located adjacent to the jail. Bids will go out in October.
2. A vendor has presented information on wireless duress alarm systems for possible use in the new courtroom at the judge’s bench and the clerk’s desk.
3. Options for webcam equipment needs for distance hearings will be reviewed with vendors in October.
ABA Recommendation Regarding Budget Submission
Judge Fleck briefly reviewed the ABA recommendation regarding budget submission. She noted that in King County the court is treated as a department of local government, unlike the legislative branch which simply submits its budget directly to the county executive.
Ms. McLane relayed her conversation with Victor Moore, staff to House Appropriations. Mr. Moore indicated that it might be difficult to find legislative interest to move the proposed legislation forward this session. Ms. McLane added that it is important to look at statutes governing charter counties, which may require revisions to the draft bill.
Judge Trickey stated that he would like some additional time to consider the proposed bill. The Board agreed to carry over to the November 19 agenda.
Chief Justice Alexander asked that information relating to charter counties be provided prior to the November meeting.
Justice Madsen asked that the two trial court Associations review the proposal prior to the November meeting.
Presiding Judges Conference
Ms. McLane reported that 27 teams have registered for the conference at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson. Judge Kevin Burke will be the primary faculty with the focus of the program on leadership and budgeting and financial matters of the courts.
Ms. McLane advised that Fred Owen is in the process of contacting those judges whose names were on the list provided by the judiciary. Thus far, Judge Elaine Houghton, Judge Eileen Kato and Judge Dave Edwards have been interviewed by Mr. Owen.
Ms. McLane further advised that the orientation meeting of the Salary Commission will be held on November 18th. In January or February the judiciary will be invited to make their formal presentation to the Commission.
Judge Houghton reported that Mr. Owen lacked the basic information about the court system. Mr. Owen questioned the five percent differential and showed interest in supervision of employees, technology and policy making responsibilities. Judge Houghton provided copies of the judges' biographies and draft opinions to Mr. Owen.
Judge Eileen Kato said Mr. Owen also talked about the five percent differential, asked about the work of the district court judges, and about supervisory responsibilities. He asked about the background necessary to become a judge. He asked about the breadth of work performed by district court judges.
Judge Eileen Kato advised that Judge Edwards was only able to provide about ½ hour of time to Mr. Owen because of the busy court calendar. Judge Edwards felt Mr. Owen wanted to learn more about the court system. Judge Edwards was left with a favorable impression of Mr. Owen. Mr. Owen will continue his interview with Judge Edwards at a later date.
The Board agreed it’s important to express the broad impact the courts have on the lives of Washington’s citizens. It is also important to advise Mr. Owen of the additional burden keeping up with technology has on the judges.
Reports from the Courts
Court of Appeals
Judge Houghton reported that letters have gone out requesting membership on the ad hoc committee studying the reporting of appellate court decisions to the WSP.
Judge Houghton continued that Judge Grosse had been re-elected and Judge Mary Kay Becker is a finalist in the Supreme Court race. Judges Sweeney, Bridgewater and Kennedy ran unopposed.
Judge Costello reported that Fall Conference feedback was positive. Judges felt it was a quality presentation.
Judge Costello said that the SCJA is finalizing plans for the 2005 Spring Conference to be held at Skamania Lodge.
Mr. Hall and Ms. McLane made a Court Funding presentation to the Kitsap County bench which was very well received. The Kitsap bench felt it was a thoughtful proposal and very doable.
The SCJA is participating in the legislative work group on Blakely issues. The SCJA has good representation on the work group.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
Judge Eileen Kato reported the DMCJA Board has concerns about the Conduct Commission’s proposed rules. They also expressed concerns over the Ethics Advisory Committee’s opinion regarding Boy Scouts. The Board feels the Ethics Advisory Committee is taking on an advocacy role in changes to the Canons.
Judge Eileen Kato advised that the DMCJA legislative agenda includes allowing a municipal court judge to serve on the Conduct Commission and clean-up of the district court election bill. Judge Paja is chair of the DMCJA legislative committee and will participate with the BJA’s legislative committee.
The Board briefly discussed the confusion about the speedy trial rule, in particular how the 30-day and five-day interact and whether that creates an additional five days when a judge is replaced. Judge Spearman and Rick Neidhardt are working together to prepare a draft rule to fix the problem.
Washington State Bar Association
Mr. Ward reported the first meeting of the Board of Governors will be held in Richland, October 20-22. New members of the BOG include S. Brooke Taylor, president-elect from Clallam County; Marcine Anderson, governor at large position; James E. Baker of Seattle; Lonnie G. Davis of Seattle; Stanley A. Bastian of Wenatchee; and Eron M. Berg of Mount Vernon.
Mr. Ward advised that the Bar is starting their court rule cycle which will include appellate rules and RALJ rules.
Mr. Ward reported that Indian Law will be included on the bar exam, possibly the summer of 2007.
The WSBA Leadership Institute will begin the spring of 2005 with up to 10 fellows for the inaugural class. Additional information is available on the WSBA website.
The next meeting will be held on Friday, November 19 in the 55th floor conference room.
The members were advised of the need to reschedule the January meeting. That meeting will be set once the date of the State of the Judiciary address is established.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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