This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
As the Legislature demonstrates on a regular basis, you can’t make deep funding cuts in public services while holding everyone harmless. That goes for state government, and it goes for the Pierce County Superior Court.
But there’s a difference: When state lawmakers write a budget, all citizens with a stake in the outcome can get a hearing in Olympia – if not personally, through lobbyists or advocacy groups. When the Pierce County court recently trimmed more than $400,000 out of its budget – in part by eliminating five weeks of jury trials – nobody got a hearing.
Let’s be clear: The superior court bench is under no obligation to bring any non-judges into its decision-making loop. It is an independent branch of government, and no outsiders – whether the county executive, the Pierce County Council or citizens at large – should be micromanaging its decisions on the administration of justice. The court’s policies certainly shouldn’t be distorted by pressure groups and lobbyists.
But the fact that the court can keep everyone else out of the process doesn’t mean it ought to. The Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association and the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office in particular have an enormous stake in how well the gears of justice mesh.
They complain that the bench sprang the week-long jury blackouts on them as a fait accompli, with no chance for input. That was a mistake: The bar and the prosecutor’s office are full of smart people who presumably might have offered some good ideas had they been quietly consulted.
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