WSR 02-09-013

RULES OF COURT

STATE SUPREME COURT


[ April 3, 2002 ]

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF NEW GR 29 AND REPEAL OF AR 4 AND ARLJ 5 )

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ORDER

NO. 25700-A-732


The Board for Judicial Administration having recommended the adoption of New GR 29 and repeal of AR 4 and ARLJ 5, and the Court having determined that the proposed new rule and repeal will aid in the prompt and orderly administration of justice and further determined that an emergency exists which necessitates an early adoption;

Now, therefore, it is hereby

ORDERED:

(a) That the new rule as attached hereto is adopted and AR 4 and ARLJ 5 are repealed.

(b) That pursuant to the emergency provisions of GR 9(i), the new rule will be published expeditiously and become effective upon publication.

DATED at Olympia, Washington this 3rd day of April 2002.
Gerry L. Alexander, C.J.


Smith, J.


Ireland, J.


Johnson, J.


Bridge, J.


Madsen, J.


Chambers, J.


Sanders, J.


Owens, J.



General Rule 29

PRESIDING JUDGE IN SUPERIOR COURT DISTRICT AND LIMITED JURISDICTION COURT DISTRICT



(a) Election, Term, Vacancies, Removal and Selection Criteria - Multiple Judge Courts.

(1) Election. Each superior court district and each limited jurisdiction court district (including municipalities operating municipal courts) having more than one judge shall establish a procedure, by local court rule, for election, by the judges of the district, or a Presiding Judge, who shall supervise the judicial business of the district. In the same manner, the judges shall elect an Assistant Presiding Judge of the district who shall serve as Acting Presiding Judge during the absence or upon the request of the Presiding Judge and who shall perform such further duties as the Presiding Judge, the Executive Committee, if any, or the majority of the judges shall direct. If the judges of a district fail or refuse to elect a Presiding Judge, the Supreme Court shall appoint the Presiding Judge and Assistant Presiding Judge.

(2) Term. The Presiding Judge shall be elected for a term of not less than two years, subject to reelection. The term of the Presiding Judge shall commence on January 1 of the year in which the Presiding Judge's term begins.

(3) Vacancies. Interim vacancies of the office of Presiding Judge or Acting Presiding Judge shall be filled as provided in the local court rule in (a)(1).

(4) Removal. The Presiding Judge may be removed by a majority vote of the judges of the district unless otherwise provided by local court rule.

(5) Selection Criteria. Selection of a Presiding Judge should be based on the judge's 1) management and administrative ability, 2) interest in serving in the position, 3) experience and familiarity with a variety of trial court assignments, and 4) ability to motivate and educate other judicial officers and court personnel. A Presiding Judge must have at least four years of experience as a judge, unless this requirement is waived by a majority vote of the judges of the court.


Commentary

It is the view of the committee that the selection and duties of a presiding judge should be enumerated in a court rule rather than in a statute. It is also our view that one rule should apply to all levels of court and include single judge courts. Therefore, the rule should be a GR (General Rule). The proposed rule addresses the process of selection/removal of a presiding judge and an executive committee. It was the intent of the committee to provide some flexibility to local courts wherein they could establish, by local rule, a removal process. Additionally, by delineating the selection criteria for the presiding judge, the committee intends that a rotational system of selecting a presiding judge is not advisable.


(b) Selection and Term - Single Judge Courts. In court districts or municipalities having only one judge, that judge shall serve as the Presiding Judge for the judge's term of office.

(c) Notification of Chief Justice. The Presiding Judge so elected shall send notice of the election of the Presiding Judge and Assistant Presiding Judge to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court within 30 days of election.

(d) Caseload Adjustment. To the extent possible, the judicial caseload should be adjusted to provide the Presiding Judge with sufficient time and resources to devote to the management and administrative duties of the office.


Commentary

Whether caseload adjustments need to be made depends on the size and workload of the court. A recognition of the additional duties of the Presiding Judge by some workload adjustment should be made by larger courts. For example, the Presiding Judge could be assigned a smaller share of civil cases or a block of time every week could be set aside with no cases scheduled so the Presiding Judge could attend to administrative matters.


(e) General Responsibilities. The Presiding Judge is responsible for leading the management and administration of the court's business, recommending policies and procedures that improve the court's effectiveness, and allocating resources in a way that maximizes the court's ability to resolve disputes fairly and expeditiously.

(f) Duties and Authority. The judicial and administrative duties set forth in this rule cannot be delegated to persons in either the legislative or executive branches of government A Presiding Judge may delegate the performance of ministerial duties to court employees; however, it is still the Presiding Judge's responsibility to ensure they are performed in accordance with this rule. In addition to exercising general administrative supervision over the court, except those duties assigned to clerks of the superior court pursuant to law, the Presiding Judge shall:

(1) Supervise the business of the judicial district and judicial officers in such manner as to ensure the expeditious and efficient processing of all cases and equitable distribution of the workload among judicial officers;

(2) Assign judicial officers to hear cases pursuant to statute or rule. The court may establish general policies governing the assignment of judges.;

(3) Coordinate judicial officers' vacations, attendance at education programs, and similar matters;

(4) Develop and coordinate statistical and management information;

(5) Supervise the daily operation of the court including:

(a) All personnel assigned to perform court functions; and

(b) All personnel employed under the judicial branch of government including but not limited to working conditions, hiring, discipline, and termination decisions except wages, or benefits directly related to wages; and

(c) The court administrator, or equivalent employee, who shall report directly to the Presiding Judge.


Commentary

The trial courts must maintain control of the working conditions for their employees. For some courts this includes control over some wage-related benefits such as vacation time. While the executive branch maintains control of wage issues, the courts must assert their control in all other areas of employee relations.


With respect to the function of the court clerk, generally the courts of limited jurisdiction have direct responsibility for the administration of their clerk's office as well as the supervision of the court clerks who work in the courtroom. In the superior courts, the clerk's office may be under the direction of a separate elected official or someone appointed by the local judges or local legislative or executive authority. In those cases where the superior court is not responsible for the management of the clerk's office the presiding judge should communicate to the county clerk any concerns regarding the performance of statutory court duties by county clerk personnel.


A model job description, including qualification and experience criteria, for the court administrator position shall be established by the Board for Judicial Administration. A model job description that generally describes the knowledge, skills, and abilities of a court administrator would provide guidance to Presiding Judges in modifying current job duties/responsibilities or for courts initially hiring a court administrator or replacing a court administrator.

(6) Supervise the court's accounts and auditing the procurement and disbursement of appropriations and preparation of the judicial district's annual budget request;

(7) Appoint standing and special committees of judicial officers necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the judicial district;

(8) Promulgate local rules as a majority of the judges may approve or as the Supreme Court shall direct;

(9) Supervise the preparation and filing of reports required by statute and court rule;

(10) Act as the official spokesperson for the court in all matters with the executive or legislative branches of state and local government and the community unless the Presiding Judge shall designate another judge to serve in this capacity;


Commentary

This provision recognizes the Presiding Judge as the official spokesperson for the court. It is not the intent of this provision to preclude other judges from speaking to community groups or executive or legislative branches of state or local government.


(11) Preside at meetings of the judicial officers of the district;

(12) Determine the qualifications of and establish a training program for pro tem judges and pro tem court commissioners; and

(13) Perform other duties as may be assigned by statute or court rule.


Commentary

The proposed rule also addresses the duties and general responsibilities of the presiding judge. The language in subsection (d), (e), (f) and (g) was intended to be broad in order that the presiding judge may carry out his/her responsibilities. There has been some comment that individual courts should have the ability to change the "duties and general responsibilities" subsections by local rule. While our committee has not had an opportunity to discuss this fully, this approach has a number of difficulties:

It would create many "Presiding Judge Rules" all of which are different

It could subject some municipal and district court judges to pressure from their executive and/or legislative authority to relinquish authority over areas such as budget and personnel

It would impede the ability of the BJA through AOC to offer consistent training to incoming presiding judges

The Unified Family Court subgroup of the Domestic Relations Committee suggested the presiding judge is given specific authority to appoint judges to the family court for long periods of time. Again the committee has not addressed the proposal; however, subsections (e) and (f) do give the presiding judge broad powers to manage the judicial resources of the court, including the assignment of judges to various departments.


(g) Executive Committee. The judges of a court may elect an executive committee consisting of other judicial officers in the court to advise the Presiding Judge. By local rule, the judges may provide that any or all of the responsibilities of the Presiding Judge be shared with the Executive Committee and may establish additional functions and responsibilities of the Executive Committee.


Commentary

Subsection (g) provides an option for an executive committee if the presiding judge and/or other members of the bench want an executive committee.


(h) Oversight of judicial officers. It shall be the duty of the Presiding Judge to supervise judicial officers to the extent necessary to ensure the timely and efficient processing of cases. The Presiding Judge shall have the authority to address a judicial officer's failure to perform judicial duties and to propose remedial action. If remedial action is not successful, the Presiding Judge shall notify the Commission on Judicial Conduct of a judge's substantial failure to perform judicial duties, which includes habitual neglect of duty or persistent refusal to carry out assignments or directives made by the Presiding Judge, as authorized by this rule.

(i) Multiple Court Districts. In counties that have multiple court districts, the judges may, by majority vote of each court, elect to conduct the judicial business collectively under the provisions of this rule.

(j) Multiple Court Level Agreement. The judges of the superior, district, and municipal courts or any combination thereof in a superior court judicial district may, by majority vote of each court, elect to conduct the judicial business collectively under the provisions of this rule.

(k) Judicial Services Contracts. A judicial officer may contract with a municipal or county authority to serve as a judicial officer. The personal service contract shall not contain provisions which conflict with this rule, the Code of Judicial Conduct or statutory judicial authority, or which would create an impropriety or the appearance of impropriety concerning the judge's activities. The employment contract should acknowledge the court is a part of an independent branch of government and that the judicial officer or court employees are bound to act in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct and this rule.


Commentary

The Board for Judicial Administration should establish a model judicial services contract.


RULE 4

PRESIDING JUDGE, MORE THAN ONE JUDGE IN SUPERIOR COURT DISTRICT



(a) Appointment. By local rule, a superior court district having more than one judge may establish a procedure for the appointment of a judge who shall be known as the Presiding Judge. The judicial business of the district shall be supervised by the Presiding Judge who shall be elected by the judges of the district for a term of not less than 1 year subject to reelection. In the same manner, the judges shall elect another judge of the district to serve as Acting Presiding Judge during the absence or inability of the Presiding Judge to act. Interim vacancies of the office of Presiding Judge and Acting Presiding Judge shall be filled as in the original election described above.

(b) Notification of Chief Justice. The Presiding Judge so elected shall send notice of the election of the Presiding Judge and Acting Presiding Judge to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on or before March 15 of each year.

(c) Duties and Authority. The duties and authority of the Presiding Judge, in addition to exercising general administrative supervision over the court, shall include:

(1) Supervision of the business of the judicial district in such manner as to ensure the expeditious and efficient processing of all cases and equal distribution of the workload among the judges;

(2) Assignment of cases for trial and assignment of judges to departments and motion calendars;

(3) Preparation of a plan for judicial vacations, attendance at education programs, and similar matters;

(4) Responsibility for developing and coordinating statistical and management information;

(5) Exercise general supervision over all court personnel;

(6) Responsibility for accounts and auditing as well as procurement and disbursement and the preparation of the judicial district's annual budget;

(7) Appointment of the standing and special committees of the judges necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the judicial district;

(8) Promulgate local rules as a majority of the judges may approve or as the Supreme Court shall direct;

(9) Supervision of the preparation and filing of reports required by statute and court rule;

(10) Act as the sole spokesperson for the court in all matters with the county council, county executive, county commissioners and state legislature unless the Presiding Judge shall designate another judge to serve in this capacity;

(11) Other duties as may be assigned by statute or court rule.

(d) Amendment of Rule. By local court rule, a superior court district may amend this rule by a two-thirds vote of all elected and sitting judges in the district. Such a local rule may be promulgated no sooner than 2 years after the effective date of this rule.


RULE 5

PRESIDING JUDGE, MULTIPLE JUDGE COURT DISTRICT, MULTIPLE DISTRICT COUNTIES



(a) Appointment. In all court districts having more than one judge, the judicial business of the district shall be supervised by one of those judges to be known as the "Presiding Judge," who shall be elected by the judges of such district for a term not to exceed 1 year subject to reelection. In the same manner, the judges shall elect another judge of said district to serve as Acting Presiding Judge during the temporary absence or disability of the Presiding Judge. Interim vacancies in the office of Presiding Judge or Acting Presiding Judge shall be filled as in the original election above described. Notice of the election of the new presiding judge shall be sent to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court within 30 days. The Presiding Judge so elected shall send notice of the election of such Presiding Judge and Acting Presiding Judge to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on or before March 15 of each year. If the judges of a district shall fail or refuse to elect and certify to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court shall by appointment designate the Presiding Judge and Acting Presiding Judge. In court districts or municipalities having only one judge, that judge shall be known as the "Presiding Judge". The name of the Presiding Judge shall be sent to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on or before March 15 of each year.

(b) Duties and Authority. The duties and authority of the Presiding Judge, in addition to exercising general administrative supervision over the court shall include:

(1) Supervising the business of the court in such a manner as to assure the expeditious and efficient handling of all cases and equal distribution of the workload among the judges;

(2) Assigning the judges to departments, if the court is departmentalized;

(3) Presiding at meetings of the judges of the district;

(4) Developing and coordinating statistical and management information;

(5) Supervising of all court personnel relating to all matters except wages or benefits directly related to wages, and including hiring and termination decisions. The Presiding Judge shall have complete supervision and authority over working conditions of all court employees. The court administrator, or equivalent employee, is an employee of the court and shall report directly to the Presiding Judge;

(6) Assuming Responsibility for accounts and auditing, as well as procurement and disbursement of court funds. The Presiding Judge shall be responsible for the control and preparation of the court or judicial district's annual budget;

(7) In multiple judge jurisdictions, the Presiding Judge shall be guided in personnel and budgetary matters by the policies, if any, established by the judges on that bench;

(8) Promulgating local rules as a majority of the judges may approve or as the Supreme Court may direct;

(9) Supervising the preparation and filing of reports as required by statute and court rule;

(10) Acting as the sole spokesperson for the court in all matters dealing with the executive or legislative branches of government;

(11) Assuming other duties as may be assigned by statute or court rule.

(c) Multiple Court Districts. In counties having multiple court districts, the judges may, by majority vote, elect to conduct the judicial business collectively under the provisions of this rule.

Reviser's note: The typographical errors in the above material occurred in the copy filed by the State Supreme Court and appear in the Register pursuant to the requirements of RCW 34.08.040.

Washington State Code Reviser's Office