Inside Opinion

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Maybe the County Council CAN’T get rid of that court seat

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Nov. 7, 2009 at 9:10 am |
November 12, 2009 10:42 am

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.

His opinion.

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