Board for Judicial Administration
Members Present: Judge Robert McSeveney, Co-chair; Judge Marlin Appelwick;
Guests Present: Justice Bobbe Bridge, Ms. Pam Daniels, and Mr. George Pickett
Staff Present: Mr. Doug Haake, Mr. Jeff Hall, Mr. Dirk Marler, Ms. Regina McDougall, Mr. Ramsey Radwan, Mr. Chris Ruhl, Ms. Janet Skreen and Ms. Beth Flynn
Welcome and Introductions
The meeting was called to order by Judge Robert McSeveney.
Mr. Chris Ruhl, the new Court Services Manager at the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), was introduced. He comes to AOC from the Minnesota Judicial Branch, State Court Administrator’s Office where he was the Court Services Manager.
UFC Principles Workgroup Proposal
Judge Cooper related that at the February meeting, the BJA voted to create an ad-hoc workgroup to work on the Unified Family Court (UFC) issue at the request of the Superior Court Judges’ Association (SCJA). The SCJA requested the workgroup as part of a commitment made to Representative Ruth Kagi that the judiciary would develop methods to implement unified family court principles in lieu of the passage of HB 1780.
The workgroup, as established at the February meeting, consists of nine superior court judges comprising a cross-section of judges from the SCJA Family and Juvenile Law Committee from both Eastern and Western Washington and from large and small courts who are all familiar with the issue. Judge Cooper stated his belief that it is important that the judiciary develop solutions in support of implementing the UFC best practices rather than the Legislature imposing requirements that are not suited to courts of differing sizes and practices.
Justice Bobbe Bridge stated that Chief Justice Gerry Alexander asked her to come to the BJA meeting to provide some background on an existing workgroup under the Commission on Children in Foster Care that is addressing similar issues.
Justice Bridge explained that in 1999 the Legislature created the Unified Family Court Pilot Project and the pilot project began in 2000. The UFC Workgroup was established in 1999 as a subcommittee of the Domestic Relations Committee of Courts 2000. Justice Bridge chaired the workgroup.
In May 2001 the BJA Domestic Relations Committee UFC Workgroup was reconvened by Justice Bridge. Membership of the workgroup included judges from all court levels. Representatives from the pilot courts subsequently joined the workgroup.
The workgroup’s first deliverable was a summary of UFC structures of both in-state and national models. The workgroup also provided oversight of the UFC pilots, directing the completion of a research project and subsequent report and drafted a model rule along with administrative recommendations.
In 2002, the UFC workgroup presented a progress report to the BJA. The BJA referred the report to the SCJA for its recommendation. In 2004, the SCJA determined it was their desire to have the Best Practices as guidelines. Judge Paula Casey, who was the chair of the SCJA Family and Juvenile Law Committee (FJLC), and Justice Bridge presented the Best Practices to the BJA. The Board adopted the principles as presented.
The Commission on Children in Foster Care, established in 2005, developed a work plan that called for the establishment of a workgroup on Unified Family Courts. One of the workgroup’s tasks was to determine why more Unified Family Courts had not been established. To that end, a survey was developed to catalogue: 1) current practices; 2) agreement with the principles embodied in the best practices; and 3) impediments to implementation. Issuance of the survey was delayed based on the activities surrounding UFC legislation this session. With the legislative session nearing an end, the Commission has begun working on reestablishing the former UFC workgroup to work on this issue.
The Commission will be sponsoring a team, led by Judge Paula Casey, to attend a UFC conference in early May of this year.
Justice Bridge believes this is a multidisciplinary question and involving lawyers, judges, and court staff that cut across all disciplines touching UFC issues is necessary. The Commission will be sponsoring a team to go to a UFC conference later in the year.
Full discussion ensued.
Judge James Riehl moved and Justice Barbara Madsen seconded to reconsider the motion adopted in February to establish a BJA UFC workgroup and allow the Superior Court Judges’ Association to create their own UFC Committee. Motion failed.
Justice Madsen moved and Judge Richard Fitterer seconded that the BJA UFC workgroup work in conjunction with the Commission on Children in Foster Care’s UFC workgroup and hold joint meetings. Motion failed.
Judge Larry McKeeman moved and Judge Dennis Sweeney seconded that five people representing the following groups be added to the BJA UFC workgroup: Clerks, DMCJA, WSBA and Court of Appeals and that those people be approved by the BJA Executive Committee. Motion passed.
Mr. Jeff Hall will seek workgroup membership approval from the BJA Executive Committee and will report back to the BJA regarding the UFC workgroup membership.
Judicial Retirement Account Investment Report
Mr. Ramsey Radwan from the AOC stated that the BJA voted to approve the plan for the Judicial Retirement Account (JRA) in November. Mr. George Pickett, from the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS), presented information about the plan assets.
Mr. Pickett noted the $3 million increase in plan asset growth and stated that membership is very stable. About $1.3 million of the increase is from contributions and the balance is from investments.
Distributions, however, are much less predictable. For 2006, $177,571 was distributed which was a below-average year for the JRA.
The relative popularity of funds in the JRA closely parallels investment funds of the Deferred Compensation Program.
Proposed BJA Bylaw Amendment
Judge Deborah Fleck briefly reviewed the language for the Bylaws amendment circulated subsequent to the discussion at the February Board meeting. The language clarifies that the member chair position shall alternate between a superior court judge and a district or municipal court judge, who must be a voting member of the Board.
SB 5353 – Election of Municipal Court Judges. The bill failed to make the cutoff on Wednesday of this week and is dead.
HB 1590 – Contracting for Court Services. The city’s contracting bill was voted out of the House and is now in the Senate. Procedurally the bill is alive but politically it is not. A commitment has been secured to stop the bill from moving forward in the Senate.
HB 2177 – Definition of Weapons. The bill failed to make it out of Rules and is dead.
SB 5918 – Judicial Retirement Account (Disbursement Pursuant to Decree). The bill is moving and has made the cutoff.
HB 1713/SB 5391 – Photo Enforcement of Toll Violations. The House bill is dead, but the Senate bill had a hearing yesterday and it should move through the House quickly.
HB 1001 – Auto Theft. This bill now includes a $10 increase to traffic infraction and Mr. Hall is working in the Senate to have this removed.
HB 1130/SB 5320 – Office of Public Guardianship. The House bill is dead but the Senate bill was voted out of the Senate and is expected to continue moving forward in the House.
HB 1530/SB 5601 – Primary Voter’s Pamphlets. Both bills failed to move out of the house of origin. Mr. Hall talked to the Secretary of State’s Office and they may still see an appropriation for the primary voter’s pamphlets for the 2008 primary.
SB 5406 – Whistle Blower Protections. The bill failed to move out of the Senate and is dead.
HB 2176 – Interpreter Services. The bill is still moving forward and we continue to focus on funding in support of the bill.
SB 5343 – Property Crime Thresholds. The bill is dead.
SB 5902 – Sunday Liquor Sales. Under the bill, revenue generated from the additional Sunday sales would fund interpreter services. The Executive Committee has taken “no position” on the bill on behalf of the Board.
WSBA’s Committee on Public Defense Report
Ms. Jan Michels presented an update on the work of the Committee on Public Defense and distributed Making Good on Gideon’s Promise: Report on the Recommendations of the WSBA Committee on Public Defense, March 2, 2007. The Committee was tasked with developing concrete public defense recommendations and broke into six subcommittees to do the work of the Committee.
Death Penalty Subcommittee: The primary recommendation of the Death Penalty Subcommittee is to recommend that the Legislature fund a study on the procedures and qualifications of death penalty attorneys and to recommend some standards for prosecution and defense of death penalty cases.
Education Subcommittee: The focus of the Education Subcommittee is on continuing education for the judiciary, defense and prosecution.
Juvenile Defense/Representation Subcommittee: The two primary recommendations of the Juvenile Defense/Representation Subcommittee were to create a new Juvenile Law section of the WSBA and draft a more definitive juvenile waiver of counsel rule.
Mental Illness and Sex Offender Civil Commitments Subcommittee: The subcommittee recommended continued effort to further develop the issues and recommend solutions with respect to civil and mental health commitments.
Non-Legislative Fixes for Enforcement of Standards Subcommittee: This subcommittee recommends that courts of limited jurisdiction maintain the appearance of fairness and afford defendants the right to counsel by requiring that a lawyer be present to assist defendants at arraignment.
Standards Subcommittee: The Public Defense standards are a very definitive piece of work. Public Defense standards were last endorsed by the WSBA in the 1980s. The subcommittee developed updated non-caseload standards. Standard 14 establishes practices and qualifications for the assignment of public defense attorneys and presented the most challenges. Caseload standards will be developed in late 2007.
System Efficiencies and Legislative Changes Subcommittee: This subcommittee urges the implementation of a proven two-track system for contempt of court proceedings in child support matters and endorses the use of diversion where possible.
The work of the Committee produced a fairly definitive analysis of what is needed for public defense and a roadmap for the future. Overall, the Committee recommended:
The WSBA will be asking the BJA to review the caseload standards in the future.
Washington State Bar Association
Ms. Michels mentioned that Mr. Stan Bastian is currently attending the Bar leadership training in Chicago.
Ms. Paula Littlewood was chosen as Ms. Michels’ successor. Ms. Michels’ last day at the WSBA office is April 30.
March 29 is an open house at the new WSBA quarters. They put aside a small amount of funding for art and were able to acquire a Jacob Lawrence piece depicting immigrants’ right to vote.
ABA President Karen Mathis will be leading a Women and the Law session and Second Season of Service session on April 4 and 5. There will be ABA news spots and editorials while she is here.
Access to Justice Board
Mr. M. Wayne Blair stated that the Access to Justice (ATJ) Board met at the Temple of Justice last Thursday with the Supreme Court. The Board discussed its activities of the past year. Mr. Blair is hopeful that at the May BJA meeting, he and others will make a more formal presentation to the BJA of the State Plan to promote and enhance ATJ throughout the state, adopted by the Access to Justice Board after a three-year process. The ATJ Board is now going through the long-term process to implement the plan.
Reports from the Courts
Supreme Court: Justice Madsen shared that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be in Vancouver in September. The Gender and Justice Commission is working with other groups to try to have Justice Ginsburg visit Seattle.
Court of Appeals: This is Judge Stephen Brown’s last meeting and Judge Ronald Cox will take his place next month.
If necessary, the COA will pass a rule regarding the travel issue and the COA is still interested in the transcription issues.
Judge Appelwick shared that the King County Bar Association created an Appellate Lawyers section. Yesterday, they hosted a reception and invited the court and its staff to attend and spend some time socializing.
Judge Christine Quinn-Brintnall stated that due to the judicial workload and need, Division II will be requesting two new judges to reduce a growing backlog of cases.
General Administration is looking to sell the Rhodes Center to another government entity. Judge Quinn-Brintnall’s understanding is that Pierce County is the only viable purchaser. The Court has been told they will continue to be a tenant, but if the Rhodes Center is sold, the lease will be re-negotiated. If it goes on the open market to a private buyer, then the Court would renegotiate the lease and the purchase would be subject to the renegotiation.
Judge Dennis Sweeney mentioned that Judge Kenneth Kato resigned and the Bar will meet soon to interview applicants. The earliest they are looking at appointing a new judge will be in June. Judge Kato is picking up cases through April and May and will pick up some June cases if necessary.
Superior Court: Judge Cooper stated the SCJA is still in the midst of the legislative session. Most everything the SCJA has proposed died except the Island/San Juan County judicial position bill and the retirement bill.
Judge Fleck reported that earlier in the week, they managed to get the House retirement bill into the Senate and are trying to get a hearing as soon as possible in the Ways and Means Committee. Some SCJA members have meetings scheduled on Monday with key senators.
The retirement bill allows judges the ability to buy back 70% of past judicial service using the contribution rates-based method of paying 5% of salary plus interest for any given year. Judges would be able to buy the rest of their service back using the more expensive AEV method in the statute passed last year. There has been a tremendous amount of work trying to engineer this through. So far there has been a good response and Judge Fleck stated virtually every member on the Ways and Means Committee has been contacted by SCJA members.
Courts of Limited Jurisdiction: Judge Richard Fitterer reported that the Salary Commission Report and recommendations were well received by the DMCJA members.
A guest editorial by Judge Philip Van de Veer discussing an ongoing threat to public safety because of some counties’ inability or unwillingness to arrest on out of county, and even some in county, warrants was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and some of the states’ smaller papers.
The Nominating Committee proposed, and the Board approved, a slate of candidates for the June elections.
It was noted that Judge Kip Stilz received a WSBA local hero award.
The DMCJA has formed a small committee to review the recommendations in the WSBA Public Defense Report.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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