1. When were you first elected to King County District Court and when did you become Chief Presiding Judge?
I began serving as a Pro Tem Judge for the King County District Court in 1991. I was elected to the District Court in 1998 for the term beginning in January 1999. I have been elected by my judicial colleagues as the Chief Presiding Judge four times, most recently in 2012 for a two-year term beginning in 2013.
2. What legal matters is District Court responsible for?
King County District Court is the largest court of limited jurisdiction in the State of Washington and handles approximately 225,000 new cases each year. As a court of limited jurisdiction, the District Court is responsible for Civil Litigation matters up to $75,000, Small Claims matters up to $5000, Nuisance Violations, False Alarm hearings, Vehicle Tow and Impound hearings, Anti-harassment Orders, Domestic Violence Protection Orders, Stalking Protection Orders, Name Changes, Infractions (traffic, non-traffic and parking), Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor criminal cases, Felony Expedited cases, Felony Preliminary hearings, Search Warrants, Garnishments and other Supplemental Proceedings, Lien Foreclosure and Forfeiture hearings, and Death Inquests.
King County District Court provides municipal court services to 13 cities in King County. It has court facilities throughout the County including Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond, Shoreline, Seattle, Burien, Kent, Auburn and Vashon Island.
3. What do you like most about your job?
I really appreciate the opportunity to work together with District Court’s group of dedicated professionals in providing fair and efficient justice for all of King County. As the Presiding Judge, it is a wonderful opportunity to work with leaders throughout the County and State to improve the criminal justice system.
4. How will the recently-remodeled MRJC help us serve County residents better?
With the opening of the five District Court courtrooms and the District Court clerk’s office, King County has enhanced the vision and mission of providing a full-service “Regional” Justice Center for South King County. This highly functional and efficient facility brings sufficient courtrooms to handle the District Court workload in South King County for the first time in more than 10 years. Now four of our five courtrooms have attached jury deliberation rooms and our fifth courtroom is designed as a multi-purpose room which can also be used for meetings. This also allows shared jury pools between District and Superior Courts, allowing us to schedule jury trials weekly, rather than once a month. Additionally the clerk’s office at this facility used to be in the basement behind the elevator, down a long, narrow and dark hallway and behind a closed and windowless door. Now the public can easily find our clerk’s office on the first floor near the entrance. We have, for the first time, private attorney client conference rooms outside the courtrooms. Also with the redesign the public defender screening office is located next to our new courtrooms enabling those who need public defender services to easily access help. Customers have already commented on the improved building design, more convenient access to public transit and the overall flow of the Courthouse.
5. What are you most looking forward to in 2014?
I am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with front line staff, management, judicial officers, Superior Court, the Executive, the King County Council, our Contract Cities and other intergovernmental agencies to find new and more efficient ways to improve the operations and services provided by the District Court. I am particularly excited about District Court’s goals to provide better access to justice and more efficient use of resources through technology, including e-filing and a new case management system.