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Will bar association sue County Council over Pierce County court seat?

Post by David Wickert on Jan. 5, 2010 at 11:58 am |
January 5, 2010 11:58 am

The incoming president of the Tacoma/Pierce County Bar Association isn’t quite ready to sue the County Council over its recent decision to eliminate the Superior Court seat vacated by Judge Michael Hecht.

In a meeting with the News Tribune editorial board yesterday, Scott Candoo – who will become president of the association next month – said a lawsuit might be needed to clarify whether the council has the authority to cut the court seat.

But a lawsuit is “a card I’m not recommending we play right now,” he said.

The council voted in November to eliminated the seat a day after Hecht announced his resignation. It later affirmed the decision, and has asked Gov. Chris Gregoire to refrain from filling the post.

The bar association, the prosecuting attorney’s office and others contend the council exceeded when it eliminated the court seat. The association has threatened to sue the council.

But Candoo said the association must consider other factors – like public perception – before filing a lawsuit.

“We don’t want to win the legal argument but lose the public relations battle,” he said.

Candoo wants to establish the bar association as an independent voice on court issues. He said he believes the court needs the seat the council eliminated. But he also understands the council’s desire to ensure the court spends taxpayer dollars efficiently.

He wants to establish a bar association committee to examine the court system and recommend changes that will improve efficiency and reduce case delays.

Like Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, Candoo also would like to see the council and judges dial down the confrontational language they’ve sometimes used.

At a November council meeting, Judge James Orlando said he hadn’t “seen such a blatantly illegal act in my 25 years in practice.” Councilman Tim Farrell, D-Tacoma, responded that some judges “are better at their golf game than they are at being a judge.”

Candoo called that kind of talk “pathetic” and said it encourages both sides to dig in their heels.

“I was just appalled at the level of discourse going on between the council and judges,” he said. “It was about at the level of name-calling.”

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