The Pierce County Council next week will consider reinstating the Superior Court seat held by Judge Michael Hecht. The move would end a months-long dispute over who has the authority to create and eliminate Superior Court judgeships in the county.
The council touched off that debate in November when it voted unanimously to eliminate Hecht’s seat just a day after he announced his resignation. The judge had been convicted of felony harassment and paying a man for sex.
Council members cited the need for budget flexibility as they struggled to balance the county’s 2010 spending plan. Though Superior Court positions are authorized and partially subsidized by the state Legislature, council members claimed state law gave them the authority to eliminate the post.
The move prompted a flurry of criticism from the prosecuting attorney’s office, the local bar association and County Executive Pat McCarthy. Last month the state Attorney General’s Office concluded the council had exceeded its authority.
In light of that decision, the council is poised to restore Hecht’s seat.
On Monday the council’s rules committee will consider an ordinance repealing the November decision to eliminate Hecht’s seat. That would give Pierce County 22 Superior Court judges.
No date has been set for final council action on the ordinance.
For now the ordinance does not specify when the seat would be reinstated. Council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, said he wants to consult with presiding Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff before specifying a date.
Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to appoint a replacement for Hecht later this year.