Sunday, May 13, 2007

Seems the Geez outed some judges

Seems the Geez outed some judges


Stinky things been doin' in Snohomish County Courts.

Records kept in the Administrator of Courts, not in Clerks office.
Records deemed to be "administrative" and kept only 6 months, instead of six years
Records charged for as "real" court records, even though they claimed them to be administrative. They should have been charged for at "public records" rates, of a buck or two, not $25 each.
Records anointed as "not to be used as court records", yet the same court accepted them as court records.
Money for payment of copies (CD's) not receipted with numbered receipts--violation of state audit rules, and only cash taken
Handwritten petty cash fund checks written for "picnics", "camp fees", and "Nike athletic shoes", none of which is a legitimate expenditure of your hard earned tax dollars.
A commissioner's wife is the Court's public disclosure officer, and custodian of the CDs. No appearance of conflict of interest there, nosireebob.

Their response:

Ok, you caught us, we will move them back to the Clerks office and keep for six years.
No, we are not going to turn ourselves in for destroying court records without permission, and prematurely, tough.
We changed them back to be "real" court records.
We went neener-neener, and turned off the recording devices in the Commissioner's Courts, just for spite. No public policy reason, or no reason at all, or rationale, was given for letting the expensive recording equipment gather dust, instead of recording the public's business.
We have no concern about the appearance of conflict of interest in having the commissioner's wife be the public records office, and keeper of the CDs.
Important to note that they DO record Juvenile and Mental Health proceedings in front of Commissioners, but NOT family court.

Save for traffic tickets, the majority of Joe and Sally Sixpack's doings in the court are in family court. Yet your elected politicians will not engage with the great unwashed masses (me) in dialogue about their court administration, but instead send me to their patronage appointee who is the Court Administrator. He is accomplished at shoulder shrugging, and throwing his predecessor under the bus, but fairly worthless as to answering questions otherwise.

Do we not expect our friggin' JUDGES to follow the law? And to be accountable for their actions, and protect the public interest, by recording their courtrooms like thirty-seven out of the thirty-nine counties do?

I guess that is too much to ask.

Full letter to the editor published in the Everett Herald today, reproduced below.

The Geezer

Proceedings are no longer recorded

Jim Haley's excellent article on the issues in South County courts is only a part of the problem with Snohomish County courts. (Wednesday, "Court workers make discontent public.")

The same attitude is found at the Superior Courts, too. The Washington Civil Rights Council noticed that Commissioners Courts records were not being kept by the county clerk and were being destroyed after six months instead of six years, as required by law.

Several years ago, over Judge Wynne's signature, the court recordings were removed from the custody of the clerk to the court administrator's office, and deemed by fiat "administrative records" instead of the court records that they rightfully are.

When the Civil Rights Council brought this to their attention, the judges rightfully turned them over to the county clerk and pledged to keep them for the mandated six years.

The last few years of records were destroyed, contrary to state law, but the court is not concerned with this, according to a conversation we had with court administrator Bob Terwilliger.

In what appears to be retaliation, Judge Wynne turned off the recording machinery in the Commissioners Courts last month, leaving the good people of Snohomish County severely restricted in their ability to appeal the decisions made in Commissioners Courts. Upon inquiring of the judge why he did this, he did not have the courtesy to admit to receiving our communication.

Their hubris and lack of respect for folks who put these politicians in office, and their desire to keep their rulings in the dark and unavailable to the citizens, is repugnant and indefensible.

When added to their failure to issue numbered receipts when taking cash, as required by law, and their payment of public funds for disallowed uses such as picnics and athletic shoes, we also have serious doubt as to how these courts are run.

The Geezer

Director, Public Policy

Washington Civil Rights Council



El Gato said...

Good letter. Glad it got publshed!

Anonymous said...

Got no Google account.

Good letter! Hope you are not in too much trouble.

El Gato

John M said...

Read your comment on Glen Sack's blog about the roundup, and while that prosecutor needs to be applauded, that is straight up sick. I wonder how many other counties out there do that. To put this in perspective, do you think any government official would have the balls to run an immigration sting on Cinco de Mayo? How about a "drug raid" to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr's birthday. There are 364 other days in the year that you can run this garbage out, you don't need to put this out when we are celebrating all that is good about dad.

John M.
The NCP Revue:

Dragonfly51 said...

I have been looking for the follow-up blog re the fact that you got the recordings turned on again.

Chad Minnick said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog. Interesting stuff here. I'll have to spend the next week poring over your archives and catch up.

Chad Minnick