Time-for-Trial Final Report
The Time-for-Trial Task Force, created by the Supreme Court on March 11, 2002, was charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the rules governing time-for-trial of criminal cases and making such recommendation for change, if any, it believed warranted. The issues raised by this charge are not new to Washington. The first provisions governing time for trial were adopted before statehood by the Territorial Legislature. Those provisions were revised by the Legislature in 1909 and remained in effect until 1973 when they were superceded by court rules adopted by the Supreme Court as part of the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Amended eight separate times by the Supreme Court since their initial adoption, the time-for-trial rules have proven to be a source of continuing controversy.
The issues involved in insuring that all criminal cases are brought to trial in a timely fashion have not changed in all those years. As the Task Force explored those issues it was guided by the experience of the past and that of other states but its recommendations are original, reflecting a new balancing of the competing interests involved.
The Task Force was broadly representative, composed of 19 members, including judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys as well as legislators and victim-advocates. It approached its assigned responsibilities with great diligence and commitment to the public interest. Working collaboratively, members offered a variety of proposals which were debated and revised in light of the insights of other members with differing perspectives. Over time, as we considered various solutions to the many issues presented, a consensus on most issues developed. Special recognition must be given to the two members of the Task Force, Seth Fine, representing the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and Charles Williams, representing the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who while advocating the perspectives of their organizations, worked to find common ground on a series of difficult issues. They proved the value of the adversary system, where dedicated advocacy serves to illuminate and bring resolution to very difficult issues. The Task Force is in their debt. Our work was greatly advanced by the superb assistance of Rick Neidhardt and Colleen Clark of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
We were able to reach agreement on most, but not all the issues. In our report we have sought to explain the reasoning which led us to make our recommendations and, where we did not reach consensus, to fully explain the considerations which led to differing positions. We believe our recommendations, and the reasons which led to them will, if adopted, further our common goal; to issue fair and timely trials for all criminal cases in Washington.
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