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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 with 2 Comments »
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.

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. Beware of political opinion masquerading as legal advice. Ask the county legal advisor how he can ethically give legal advice to one department of the county against another department.

    Also, since treating one court differently than another would necessarily imply two (or more) classes of superior courts, does the random assignment to departments by computer suddenly have a hidden value added to the choice depending on what number is chosen?

    And which of these two classes of superior courts has the better value since they both cost the same? And has anybody asked the ‘crazy aunt in the attic” (Fourteenth Amendment) what she thinks about all this?

    Let this #9 fade away, just like the last #9 that was in the news.

  2. RonMorehouse says:

    Once again we see the council placing politics before justice. Where was the county attorney when this was suggested in closed session? What would have been intelligent would to have appointed a judge to step in and work and then call for a special election. This would have been less trouble and crime could have been reduced without another scandal. We could have cut administrators in the county and save the same amount of money and not lost any services as the people at the bottom are the ones doing the work anyway.
    Legally I must tell you this is my personal opinion and not that of any board that I sit on.

    Ron Morehouse
    Bethel School Board Elect
    Pierce County Fire and Rescue Commissioner

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