There might be a problem with the Pierce County Council’s decision to do away with former Judge Michael Hecht’s old seat on the bench: The Washington Constitution.
Doug Vanscoy, the chief civil deputy of the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, took a look this week at the legalities of the council’s action and came up with some interesting conclusions. I summarize:
• The seat in question, Department 9, was created by the Legislature – not the county – in 1969.
• The constitution gives the Legislature sole discretion over the creation of judgeships.
• In 1985, the Legislature began to share with counties the option of creating judgeships (up to an authorized number).
• This option kicked in with the authorization of Departments 14 and 15. Department 9 was created in the Legislature-only era.
Vanscoy’s conclusion: “… in my opinion the portion of this ordinance that abolishes Department 9 is beyond the authority of the Council.”
Vanscoy says the ordinance might be legally shaky on other grounds, but the argument above might suffice to torpedo the council’s action.