March 2013 Bar Bulletin
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March 2013 Bar Bulletin

Chief Justice Highlights Challenges, Accomplishments


Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen gave her annual State of the Judiciary Address on January 23 before a joint session of the Legislature. Her comments are excerpted here.

As many of you know, this is the 100th anniversary of the Temple of Justice. The temple, which is home to the Supreme Court, was the first building on the capitol campus. If you look at the campus from Budd Inlet, you will see that the temple appears to blend into the capitol building-and together the temple and the capitol are covered by one capitol dome. In designing the capitol group in this way, the architects were attempting to reflect the reality that the three branches together make a single government.

As with the legislature and the governor, the judiciary has its role to play. I want to assure all of you that the courts are committed to working with you on matters of common interest and concern within the limits of our branch's authority.

Unlike the legislature and the governor, our courts generally operate under the radar screen. More than two million individual civil and criminal cases are filed every year in our trial courts. Thousands are decided in our appellate courts each year. We have one constitutional duty. That is to fairly, effectively, and timely adjudicate the civil and criminal disputes that come before us.

We know that the law is complex. Cases are complex. And disagreements are predictable. Cases like McCleary, that address school funding, and the pending case of League of Education Voters, which involves a challenge to restrictions on the power of the legislature to tax, will always provoke controversy. That comes with the constitutional responsibility placed on courts. But, it's how we work together to meet the very complex and difficult challenges that will determine the future for the public that we all serve.

I recently learned that the Chinese symbol for crises is a combination of two concepts - opportunity and danger. The opportunity is to redefine how we deliver services to the public. The danger is in failing to adapt.

The extensive budget cuts of the past four years have required the courts to become creative and to be innovators - and we're committed to continue looking for new, efficient processes to help us fulfill our responsibility to deliver justice.

Regional Courts

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