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Originally published May 3, 2010 at 8:18 PM | Page modified May 3, 2010 at 10:02 PM

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Seattle Municipal Court out 1 judge

The Seattle City Council cut one of eight judges from Municipal Court Monday, a budget trim.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle City Council cut one of eight judges from Municipal Court on Monday, one of dozens of budget cuts the council will have to make this year.

The $400,000 savings — which includes cutting a judge, bailiff and clerk — represents a small portion of next year's projected $56 million budget shortfall. Mayor Mike McGinn expects to make about $15 million in midyear budget cuts in June. Then he and the council will have to tackle next year's shortfall.

"I'm afraid it is the first of many very difficult decisions," said council budget chairwoman Jean Godden. "It is not about the court; it is about the budget."

The council voted 7-0 to eliminate the judge's position. Councilmembers Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess were absent.

Municipal Court Presiding Judge Edsonya Charles said the cut may not save money because people may have to stay longer in jail — at a cost to taxpayers of about $120 a night.

"My major concern is about effects on the justice to the people who access Seattle Municipal Court," she said. "The court's going to have to figure out how to reorganize itself."

Charles says eliminating a judge means pretrial defendants in custody may stay in jail an average of six days longer.

She said the court may have to eliminate its Saturday schedule, so about 40 people arrested on a typical weekend would have to spend two extra nights in jail.

The council disputes Charles' analysis. The city auditor studied the workload in Municipal Court last year. However, when auditors sent their report to the court for input, the judges wouldn't comment because they contend the city doesn't have jurisdiction over the court's operations.

The judge being eliminated, Ron Mamiya, has been on the court since 1981 and does not plan to run for re-election this year, Charles said.

In November 2008, Mamiya and the city settled with an employee with whom he had an affair. The woman sued after she said Mamiya insisted on kissing and fondling her after their relationship had ended.

The city and Mamiya each paid half of the $135,000 settlement.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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