Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Pierce County Prosecutor

Nov.
12th

The County Council killed that court seat far too hastily

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The Pierce County Council’s determination to get rid of a Superior Court seat is looking less wise by the day.

Last week, after Judge Michael Hecht resigned from the court’s Department 9, the council quickly voted to dismantle the entire department. It was an emergency ordinance, adopted unanimously without hearing or opportunity for outside questioning.

A less hasty process would have turned up a serious problem: The action may be flat illegal. Presiding Judge Bryan Chushcoff has raised this possibility, as has the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association President David Snell and Doug Vanscoy, the chief civil deputy of the county prosecutor’s office.

The chief legal concern is that Department 9 was created by the Legislature, and the county government – a creature of the state government – may well have no authority to undo that legislative act. This is a Civics 201 kind of question that would occur to any good attorney specializing in local government. An issue so serious shouldn’t be arising after the fact; the County Council should have first bothered to explore the implications of what it was doing.
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Nov.
7th

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

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

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