This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
The resignation of Judge Michael Hecht Monday didn’t just rid Pierce County Superior Court of a malodorous scandal. It quickly exposed serious fault lines in county government.
A day after Hecht vacated Department 9 – his seat on the bench – the County Council surprised nearly everyone by voting unanimously to eliminate the seat. County Executive Pat McCarthy hadn’t been in the loop; she didn’t hear about the action until after it had happened.
Fault No. 1: Mutual resentment between the county’s executive and legislative branches. McCarthy is a Democrat and the council is Republican-dominated, but this doesn’t seem to be an entirely partisan thing: The council Democrats were part of that unanimous vote.
Some council members have long complained that McCarthy doesn’t work well with them, doesn’t communicate well, etc. Their elimination of Department 9 was clearly driven by deep worries about the county’s dire financial straits. But the way they did it looks a lot like a snub of McCarthy.
Fault No. 2: A split between county Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and both the council and the Superior Court bench. Lindquist has been hesitant to criticize the council, but he made it clear Tuesday that he was unhappy about the loss of Department 9. He’s been working with the bench – successfully, but with some frustrations – to reduce the backlog of criminal cases. The loss of a judge would make that task harder, although Lindquist is optimistic about reaching a cooperative solution.
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