First woman to serve on Everett Municipal Court

EVERETT — When Laura Van Slyck took the oath Wednesday as the city’s newest judge, she became the first woman ever to hold the job.

Van Slyck also is the first new judge since Everett Municipal Court’s inception in 1987. One of the city’s two original judges, David Mitchell, is set to retire at the end of the month. The other, Judge Timothy Odell, continues to serve.

“I intend to remind myself every day that I am a public servant,” Van Slyck said during the swearing-in ceremony at the city’s Municipal Court building.

Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair, a personal friend, administered the oath before a packed courtroom. Van Slyck’s husband, Paul, was there, as were her college-age son and daughter. Friends, former colleagues and other local judges filled out the courtroom seats, and then some.

Until donning the judge’s robes, Van Slyck had been Everett’s lead prosecutor. Before joining the city in 1991, she worked as a public defender. Her first job in Everett was with the city attorney’s office.

In that role, she quickly earned the respect of Police Chief Kathy Atwood, who was a patrol officer at the time. Atwood’s appreciation for the attorney grew when Van Slyck, more recently, spent a few years as a police legal adviser and discovered ways to make the department more efficient.

“What has impressed me the most about her is her thoroughness and thoughtfulness,” Atwood said.

“Her level of fairness and even-handedness is unmatched.”

Van Slyck ran unopposed in the Nov. 5 election.

Odell, the remaining judge, also drew no opponent this year. He said he has no intention of running for another four-year term in 2017, so he views this as a transition period.

“I’m going to miss Dave, but I’m going to look forward to the opportunity to work with Laura as well,” he said.

Odell began working with Mitchell when Everett formed its own municipal court, rather than paying for the services of Snohomish County District Court.

A major impetus was saving the city money by having more control on handling cases and not paying district court’s fees, Odell said.

Originally, Everett judges worked part time and were appointed, rather than elected. They deal with infractions from parking tickets to gross misdemeanors.

The first year, Odell estimated they handled 5,000 or so cases. Twenty-seven years later, the city reports an annual case load of about 30,000.

To keep pace, municipal court staff has grown from three to 17. About a year ago, staff moved into a brand-new court building at Wetmore and Pacific avenues.

“We have this beautiful new facility and he’s had a big hand in all of that,” Odell said of Mitchell.

Mitchell this year developed a pilot program to help defendants living with mental illness find treatment and services as an alternative to jail time. The court offers special hearings once a month.

“The Community Justice Alternative program is a voluntary, court-sanctioned program designed to connect defendants with treatment options and other community resources to help them live a crime-free lifestyle,” Odell said in a city press release.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness recognized Mitchell for the work earlier this month.

Near-term goals for the court include looking at ways to reduce jail time for defendants, Odell said. That could involve alternative sentencing programs.

Van Slyck, he said, is well suited to making that happen.

“She’s a sharp gal,” he said. “Her organization skills far outweigh mine, which makes it a good match.”

Van Slyck also has served as a pro tem judge for the cities of Edmonds and Marysville.

She is scheduled to preside over her first Everett court sessions starting Jan. 2.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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