Injustice from a "crazy quilt" system
Justice in Washington too often is delayed as local courts buckle under demand and too little state support. But the state Senate is on...
Justice in Washington too often is delayed as local courts buckle under demand and too little state support.
But the state Senate is on the right track to help Washington climb out of last place among all states for court funding. Senators Tuesday rejected the House's effort to back away from contributing to local courts, forcing the issue into conference committee. In December, a state judiciary task force report found Washington was about $200 million short of ensuring equal justice to all citizens. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander characterizes the state's legal system as a "crazy quilt" of resources and standards that vary from county to county. Many counties are facing budget crises of their own.
The Senate agreed the state should pay half of district court and municipal court judge salaries — as it does for superior courts. The counties would use half of their savings to help improve their court systems; the rest would go into the counties' general funds.
But Senate Bill 5454 is not merely a handout. It also raises money — an important distinction in the face of a budget shortfall. As the task force recommended, the bill would raise court fees to generate $12.7 million for the state and $19.8 million for local government.
The House was unmoved by the plight of the courts and the counties that pay for most of them. The bill's original intent to fund solutions where they're needed was gutted with amendments. Overwhelmingly, House members decided not to help with judge salaries, but they decided to raise the court fees.
Ignoring the task force's recommendation that counties directly receive money to make improvements, the House wants to pit county against county for grants from a statewide fund. That's an equation sure to exacerbate the inequities in the court system.
House members should reconsider their shortsighted position. The Senate is right on this one.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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