Most King County Bar Association CLE programs are organized around very specific areas of practice: family law, probate, arbitration, aviation, employment & labor law, etc. While those targeted sessions are well received, they are understandably attended by lawyers and judges who focus primarily in those areas. What's missing from that approach is the ability of attorneys and judges to check-in about the legal system more broadly, to talk with judges about the issues facing our courts, get to know practitioners in many different areas of law, and to engage in policy discussions about law-related topics of significance to the bar and bench.
Our annual Bench-Bar Conference, Tuesday, November 11 from 8:30am-2:00pm, is designed to fill that gap.
The program this year will be hosted by the University of Washington School of Law. We meet on Veterans Day for one main reason: the courts are closed for the holiday, so judges can attend without impacting the court's docket. And key to this program's success is having as many judges in attendance as possible. We traditionally see over twenty judges attend this program each year. Most of these judges are not on panels but sitting in the audience with lawyers -- what a great opportunity to chat with a judge outside the formal courtroom environment!
Beyond the draw of so many judges in attendance, the program sessions themselves have something for everyone. For example, in two back-to-back sessions, we will hear from the Chief Justice of the Washington Supreme Court, Barbara Madsen, and the Attorney General of Washington, Bob Ferguson. They will update us on major initiatives underway in their offices, and more importantly take audience questions about any issue of interest to you. That could make for an interesting phone call later with a client, right? "I was at a program with the chief justice the other day about a problem just like yours...."
We also will hear the presiding judges from all of our trial courts and the Washington Court of Appeals as they share updates on the latest rule changes and technology issues that impact the bar. That will be followed by an in depth "litigators' roundtable" that will feature a plaintiff and defense trial lawyer, along with two judges, giving practice tips about how to best serve your clients whether in the motions or trial stages of proceedings -- plus judges will learn how their colleagues approach trial management issues. Even if as an attorney you don't find yourself regularly in court, it should prove helpful to have some up-to-date understanding of the best way to present your case.
The day concludes with two law-related public policy sessions that I hope you will find of great interest. In one of these sessions, we will be talking with King County Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett, County Budget Director Dwight Dively, and Representative Ross Hunter, chair of the state legislature's finance committee. This panel will explore how the legal community can work together to promote stable funding for our courts -- something all attorneys and judges share responsibility for as officers of the court.
For our final session of the day, we've invited Seattle University Constitutional Law Professor David Skover, former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge, and retiring state senator Adam Kline to review the current controversies facing all branches of state government after the Court's decision in McCleary v. State of Washington. Through the presentation and a robust discussion session with the audience, the Washington legal community might be able to offer helpful input to the legislators and justices who ultimately must settle these issues.
To learn more details about the program and pay the very affordable $139 registration fee (complimentary for judges), visit www.kcba.org/benchbar.
--Andrew Prazuch is KCBA's executive director. He can be reached by email (email@example.com) or phone (206-267-7061).