Defendants in San Juan County superior and district court cases are incarcerated in the Island County jail. This is a distance of approximately 30 miles, and there are no roads between Coupeville (the location of the jail) and Friday Harbor (the location of the courthouse). Defendants are transported by Island County Sheriff deputies on private charter flights. The Trial Court Coordination Council undertook a project to install equipment that would enable court hearings to be conducted using video conferencing between the Island County jail and the San Juan County courthouse. Unfortunately, technical difficulties and unforeseen expense caused this project to be cancelled.
Dual Disorder Court:
The long-term goal is the creation of a united substance abuse and mental illness court. Also termed a “dual-disorder” court, it would allow for better control and service to the 30% of substance abusers who are also identified as having mental health issues and the 70% of mental health court users identified as having substance abuse problems. The project that was undertaken furthered the efforts of the specialty court coordination workgroup by providing wireless laptops to each of the three specialty courts to enable access to databases cross-jurisdictionally and streamline information exchange among King County Superior Court, Seattle Municipal Court, and King County District Court.
Three major courts are located within three blocks of one another in downtown Seattle: Seattle Municipal Court, King County Western District (Seattle) Court, and King County Superior Court (along with the Department of Judicial Administration, also known as the King County Superior Court Clerk). The King County Trial Court Coordination Council has undertaken an initiative to review and improve customer services provided by these three King County area courts. The Council believes that the courts’ customers will have better experiences when there is standardized, consistent, useful, easy-to-understand information at all points of initial customer contact. Standard information will give the courts a consistent capacity to redirect customers to the correct court.
The King County Trial Court Coordination Council has also been actively pursuing projects in the following areas:
The Trial Court Coordination Council examined methods to improve the process of reconciling conflicting orders. This was the first step in an inter-jurisdictional domestic violence protection order project. The goal is to allow court users who live anywhere in the county to go to any court facility and obtain a protection order.
The Kitsap trial courts are now undertaking a project to provide the means to scan domestic violence full orders issued by all levels of courts in Kitsap County onto an existing web site, thereby allowing parties to review the orders in their entirety 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Kitsap County District Court web site will provide a secured location accessible by password to law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, the courts, and victim’s advocacy agencies. The Kitsap County District Court will coordinate the collection, scanning and maintenance of the information and the web access.
The Kitsap Trial Court Coordination Council expects that this project will provide:
Installation of airport-like monitors direct the public to the location of court hearings whether Superior, District No. 1, or Tacoma Municipal in a large court facility. The monitors help to eliminate confusion and time for the public and save staff time spent redirecting people to the correct location.
The Okanogan County Trial Court Coordination Council is undertaking a remodeling project as a solution to the insecure transport of in-custody defendants through the Okanogan County courthouse. The present arrangement poses a security and safety risk. The former Okanogan County Sheriff’s records office will be remodeled into an in-custody courtroom, providing a location immediately adjacent to the Okanogan County Jail. This will allow Okanogan County Corrections staff to transport defendants into a secure courtroom directly from the jail.
A secondary purpose of the courtroom is to conduct hearings over the Internet. This will be accomplished by using WebCams that will enable judges, defendants, and court personnel to interact from remote locations. The Okanogan County Jail has contracts for housing inmates with several jurisdictions located in Western Washington. A pilot project will conduct intermediary type hearings between the inmates in the Okanogan County Jail and the judge located in the jurisdiction where the case is pending.
Over the past several years, a new administration has been established with the authority and countywide support to consolidate the administrative and operational structure of the superior and district courts. Under this model, there is one court administrator and functions and tasks previously duplicated in various court units have been grouped together with standardized policies and procedures. Yakima is planning to expand the model to include municipal courts, the juvenile court, and district and municipal court probation services.
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