Update: The council unanimously – and without comment – reinstated the Superior Court seat this afternoon.
The Pierce County Council this afternoon is scheduled to formally reinstate the Superior Court it eliminated last November.
The council voted unanimously to eliminate the seat formerly held by Judge Michael Hecht. The move came just a day after Hecht announced his resignation. He previously was convicted of felony harassment and paying a man for sex.
The council cited the need for budget flexibility as it tried to balance the 2010 budget. It claimed state law gave it the discretion to determine the number of Superior Court seats in the county. The state pays half the salary and all of the health care benefits of Superior Court judges.
The council’s move drew a flurry of criticism from the prosecuting attorney’s office, the local bar association and County Executive Pat McCarthy. The state Attorney General’s Office in February issued an opinion that the council did not have the authority to eliminate the judge’s seat, which was created by the Legislature.
The council’s rules committee already has approved restoring the seat. Today’s vote by the full council would seem to put an end to the episode, at least for now.
Now it’s up to Gov. Chris Gregoire to appoint a replacement for Hecht. Viet Shelton, a spokesman for the governor, said she is “still proceeding with the selection process.” He did not give a timetable for the selection.