May 2013 Bar Bulletin
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From the Desk of the Presiding Judge

Tackling Challenges at the Court Level

By Judge Richard McDermott


This month's theme is Challenge. I thought about what I could write to be consistent with that theme and came up with about a dozen ideas. These are interesting times in which we live and the court and we judges encounter many challenges in trying to do our jobs and run the 14th-largest court system in the country. I narrowed it down to two challenges: one very positive, one not so much.

The first challenge is building a new courthouse. Last August, as I have written about several times in the past, King County taxpayers voted to tax themselves in order to allow the county to build a new Children and Family Justice Center. In spite of a continuing recession, that was fabulous news and we have been hard at work since that time. It is amazing to me to learn what is involved in constructing a public building.

The Facilities and Maintenance Division of the county has been assigned the task of coordinating this project. They have been working very diligently to do just that. We established an Oversight Committee that meets every Wednesday morning. We always have a full agenda and discuss a number of issues. Sometimes we have outside presenters. Sometimes we handle it internally. All issues are thoroughly vetted.

At the end of the presentations, many times we need to vote to determine which course of action to follow. The Court has three votes (me, Judge Michael Trickey and our CAO, Paul Sherfey). The Prosecuting Attorney's Office is represented by its chief of staff. The Office of Public Defense is represented as are the King County Council, the Director of Finance for the County, and the Deputy King County Executive. The vote is tabulated and reported to King County Executive Dow Constantine, who by law has the final say on all major construction projects.

The Court has its own committee and meets every Friday morning at 7:30. All major decisions affecting the Court are discussed and thoroughly vetted by this committee. Sometimes we are not able to finish our agenda as many of the judges on this committee have hearings beginning at 8:30 or 8:45. So, when necessary, we have Saturday "retreats" to go into more depth and analyze all the material presented. This committee then makes recommendations to Judge Trickey, Paul Sherfey and me, and we vote accordingly.

We just recently finished preliminary work on the size, location and functionality of courtrooms and judges' chambers. This included floor location, security considerations, parking accommodations, ADA accommodations, ingress and egress issues, and proximity to services being provided for our youth and their families. In order to collect all available information to make this facility the best one possible, several of the members of the oversight committee traveled to California and Oregon to tour recently completed courthouses. The more information we have the better will be the result.

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