Members present: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, co-chair, Judge Vickie Churchill, Judge Sara Derr, Judge Stephen Holman, Justice Barbara Madsen, Ms. Janet McLane, Judge Robert McSeveney, 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, co-chair.
Washington State Bar Association Report
Mr. Ward advised that the Bar Board of Governors had met last week in Snohomish County. Mr. Ward reported the following:
Justice Madsen asked about a report on the legalization of drugs by the King County Bar Association. Mr. Ward responded that the thrust is to move more toward treatment of drug problems in society instead of penalizing drug offenders. The report has not been presented to the BOG.
Practice of Law Board/Courthouse Facilitator Expansion Committee
Judge Bastine reported the committee’s first meeting was held in April 2004, with the rest of the meetings being conducted via conference call.
Judge Bastine advised that courthouse facilitators can be found in most counties with 29 of 31 judiciary districts employing courthouse facilitators.
Judge Bastine reported the committee first determined that the work of the courthouse facilitator in many jurisdictions has expanded beyond family law. He stated that the committee tried to determine if discrete areas outside of family law would warrant assistance by a courthouse facilitator. He went on to say that it is the committee’s recommendation that the work of the courthouse facilitator be expanded. He said the committee determined the facilitators could provide additional assistance in the area of residential landlord-tenant unlawful detainer actions, lower court and administrative appeals and guardianship and probate.
Judge Bastine advised that a survey had been distributed to stakeholders including judges, clerks, court commissioners and court administrators. Judge Bastine briefly reviewed the survey and the results which demonstrated that people return repeatedly and require significant assistance with unlawful detainer actions.
Judge Bastine indicated some counties have taken steps to provide some type of assistance. For example, the Thurston County Clerk’s Office has developed an unlawful detainer information packet for pro se litigants.
Judge Bastine noted that it would be important to provide appropriate training for courthouse facilitators in expanded subject matter areas at the front end and not have to play catch-up after the fact. He continued that the crisis in legal funding is the impetus for expanding the courthouse facilitator program to assist people who are self-represented.
Judge Bastine reported that the Practice of Law Board is looking at how courthouse facilitators fit into the definition of practice of law. They are also looking at how to possibly redefine the practice of law to protect the facilitators.
Ms. Gould stated that the clerks expressed their concern over some of the controversial issues.
Mr. Ward inquired if this information had been formally vetted through other committees. Judge Bastine responded that the report has been submitted to the Access to Justice Board and Practice of Law Board. Both of those Boards asked that the report be presented to BJA for action. Judge Bastine further advised that both the clerks’ and court administrators’ associations had an opportunity for some discussion.
Mr. Ward said the Bar Board of Governors’ would defer to the BJA for setting the appropriate next step. He said the regular process should be followed to present the report to the BOG.
The Board briefly discussed the services that could be provided by the courthouse facilitators.
Justice Madsen suggested that defining the responsibilities of the courthouse facilitators, i.e., assistance with selecting the appropriate forms, obtaining correct instructions, depositing money with the court to preserve rights, etc., might be helpful before the presentation to the Board of Governors.
Judge Bastine responded defining responsibilities is most appropriate, but the committee has limited funding and no staff assistance available. Judge Bastine said the committee is willing to commit to further action, but would need assistance from the AOC or the Bar Association.
Ms. Gould stated that if the committee is to pursue the expansion of the duties of the courthouse facilitator, the committee should be expanded to include people involved in the existing courthouse facilitator programs.
Ms. McLane suggested that Ms. Gould, Judge Bastine and herself discuss the committee’s needs and present a proposal at the February Board meeting.
Judge Riehl moved and it was seconded to thank the Practice of Law Board/Courthouse Facilitator Expansion Committee for their work and accept their report. This item is to be tabled until the February meeting to allow the AOC to determine the next step.
Judge Bastine asked that direction from the Board be provided at the February meeting.
Chief Justice Alexander recognized the upcoming retirement of Judge Bastine on January 10, 2005. Chief Justice Alexander thanked Judge Bastine for his service to the judiciary.
Long-range Planning Committee
Mr. Hall reminded the members that they had been provided the long-range plan at the November meeting. He said that the committee anticipates the removal of tasks as they are completed and the addition of new tasks as they are identified. Mr. Hall stated the report is before the BJA for adoption.
Mr. Hall advised that progress was being made on expanding the committee to include representatives from the Judicial Information System Committee and the Board for Court Education as approved by the Board at the November board meeting.
Mr. Hall stated that the legislative dinners proved to be a good venue to share our message with legislators. He said the dinners provided an opportunity for questions and concerns the judiciary is likely to face during the legislative session. Brief discussion regarding the legislative dinners followed.
Mr. Hall advised that future planned activities include meeting with editorial boards and Judge Costello and Judge Eileen Kato meeting with legislators on the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees.
BJA Court Funding Report
Task Force Report
Ms. McLane advised that the Court Funding Task Force Final Report was published this week. A Seattle Times reporter wrote an article about the report’s release that was published earlier this week. Ms. McLane advised that speaker packets are available for those judges that may be contacting local legislators or anticipate questions regarding the report.
Ms. McLane directed attention to the executive summary which is now ready for publication. The executive summary is based on BJA actions taken in response to the Task Force recommendations and provides background information and outlines the first incremental legislative steps.
Mr. Hall reported the Implementation Committee met yesterday and completed the final editing of the three draft sections comprising the court operations legislation. The three drafts will now be collapsed into one bill.
Mr. Hall directed attention to the intent section. He advised that the intent section was approved yesterday by the Implementation Committee. Brief discussion followed regarding the intent section.
Mr. Hall next directed attention to the non-supplanting sentence. He reminded the members that at the last BJA meeting, the Board adopted the sentence as proposed by Judge Sperline. Mr. Hall distributed a draft of the edits proposed by the Implementation Committee for action by the Board.
Mr. Hall stated the recommended edits include replacing “trial court” with “municipal court” or “superior and district court” as appropriate to the section. This change was based on a concern that because the trial court improvement account is established in Title 3 RCW it might be viewed as applying only to district courts. The Committee also recommended striking the language “expansion of, or additions to” which were seen to be possible red flags.
The Board briefly discussed deleting the language “as they existed in 2005.”
It was moved by Judge Churchill and seconded by Judge Sperline to adopt the edits from the Implementation Committee as presented inserting a period after the word “services” and deleting the language “as they existed in 2005.” The motion carried.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
Ms. McLane reported that the Implementation Committee has reviewed the 11 recommendations that were approved by BJA. Ms. McLane distributed a handout outlining the Implementation Committee’s recommendations (copy attached).
Chief Justice Alexander advised that the DMCJA favored recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 6. Ms. McLane added that the Implementation Committee agreed to delay the requirement that all judges be elected until the 2006 legislative session.
Recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 6
1. Clarify the statutory court options and encourage regionalization of courts of limited jurisdiction. All courts of limited jurisdiction court models should be contained in Title 3 RCW.
2. Update current provisions in Title 3 authorizing municipalities and counties to provide joint court services by interlocal agreement.
3. Create a new section in Title 3 authorizing cities to contract with other cities to form regional municipal courts with elected judges.
6. Amend Title 3 to emphasize a collaborative regional approach to the provision of district and municipal court services by expanding the role and membership of the districting committee.
The Board briefly discussed whether it was better to run the judges election bill in a separate year.
Ms. McLane reported that the Implementation Committee had agreed that recommendation 10 to increase the civil jurisdiction in district courts to $75,000 should be a stand-alone bill.
Mr. Hall explained that recommendation 8 authorizing municipal courts to hear anti-harassment protection petitions will be the responsibility of the DMCJA.
Recommendations 8 and 10
8. Authorize municipal courts to hear anti-harassment protection petitions.
10. Increase the civil jurisdiction amount in dispute that can be filed in district court to $75,000.
It was moved by Judge McSeveney that recommendations 8 and 10 be adopted by the BJA as presented. The motion was seconded by Judge Holman and it passed with one vote in opposition.
Ms. McLane reported that the Implementation Committee agreed that recommendations 4 and 5 regarding the election of judges and court commissioner authority should be held until the 2006 session.
Recommendations 4 and 5
4. Elect judges at all levels of court to promote accountability and the independence of the judiciary.
5. Limit district and municipal court commissioner authority to differentiate their responsibilities from those of elected judges.
It was moved by Judge Sperline and seconded by Judge Derr to hold recommendations 4 and 5 until the 2006 legislative session as presented. The motion passed.
Ms. McLane explained that the Implementation Committee thought it best if recommendations 7, 9, and 11 were addressed through the administrative rules rather than statutes. DMCJA will assist with the drafting of the rules.
Recommendations 7, 9, and 11
7. Require each court of limited jurisdiction to provide court services to the public on a regularly scheduled basis at established hours posted with the Administrative Office of the Courts.
9. Require courts of limited jurisdiction to timely hear domestic violence protection orders or have clear, concise procedures to refer victims to courts where the service is available.
11. Require district courts to implement dedicated civil calendars and case scheduling.
It was moved by Judge Churchill and seconded by Judge Holman that recommendations 7, 9 and 11 be adopted by the BJA as presented.
Justice Madsen reminded the Board that there have been compliance problems in the past and suggested the recommendation be added to Title 3.
Judge Sperline indicated that he supports not only taking these items and addressing in court rules, but noted during the drafting of the bill for recommendations 1, 2, 3, and 6 that there may be salutary steps that are needed.
Judge Derr said she agreed with Judge Sperline based on the fact that recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 6 deal with the establishment of courts.
Report from the Courts
Judge Trickey reported that the SCJA effort to improve the retirement benefits will not go forward this session.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
Judge McSeveney indicated there was nothing to report from the DMCJA.
Access to Justice
Judge Tripp thanked the Supreme Court for including the ATJ funding request in the Court’s budget.
Judge Tripp advised that the ATJ Board has several vacancies to be filled by qualified attorney candidates, which could be judges. Interested candidates should send an e-mail expressing their interest to Jan Michels, Executive Director of the Bar Association.
Judge Tripp reported the ATJ Board is working on amendments to CR 23, the class action rule, which would allow any residuals to go to the Legal Foundation.
Chief Justice Alexander advised that the State of the Judiciary address will take place Tuesday, January 18 at noon in Olympia. The January BJA meeting has been rescheduled for January 18 to allow members to be present for the State of the Judiciary address. The meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. in the Temple of Justice, Olympia.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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