Everett courts bursting at seams

By Steve Powell

Herald Writer

EVERETT — The legal eagles at the city have noticed something.

The workload of the Everett Municipal Court judges is soaring.

To them, it’s pretty easy to judge that the decision makers need more time to do their jobs.

For example, in 1997 the city booked 25,869 days in the Snohomish County Jail for its inmates. In 2000, the city was billed for 41,729 days.

So the city’s legal department, led by City Attorney Mark Soine, is requesting that the city council add 10 hours to one of the judge’s schedules to make it a full-time position. The council’s first look at the plan will come at Wednesday’s 8:30 a.m. meeting at City Hall.

If the proposal is approved, Judge Tim O’Dell would make $105,972 a year. Soine said O’Dell has agreed to close his private law practice if the position goes full time.

The other Municipal Court judge, David Mitchell, would stay at 22 hours a week.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re both full time sometime in the future," Soine said.

The city attorney said there are many reasons for the increase in workload, but they mostly stem from the city getting tougher on crime. "We’d like to try even more cases," he said.

One area packing the books is domestic violence.

"Police are charging crimes better," Soine said.

Because of that, more charges also are being contested. In 2000, there were 38 jury trials in Everett Municipal Court. Soine remembers not long ago when there were only a few a year.

"They’re straining our resources," he said. "We’re holding more people accountable, and they’re starting to fight back."

In domestic violence cases, the perpetrator can be held on $10,000 bail.

"You can be in on a felony and not be held that accountable," Soine said.

Judges also make sure the criminals comply with their treatment orders.

"It’s easy not to comply without supervision," Soine said.

Another area of crime the city is cracking down on is prostitution. Customers of hookers now get 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. It used to be just a smaller fine.

And they have to go to "john" school on a Saturday to learn the impacts of their crime. They are ordered to stay out of areas frequented by prostitutes.

The judges monitor sentencing and probation issues.

An increase in the number of officers has also stepped up enforcement against criminals.

New revenue to pay for the additional salary and benefits of the judge would come from increased probation fees. Also, there would be a reduced need for pro-tem judges, saving money there, Soine said.

Both Mitchell, the Position 2 judge, and O’Dell were up for election this year, but no one filed to run against them. The salary is set by the Citizens Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

The two judges handle thousands of misdemeanor and major traffic cases each year. But Soine said Mayor Ed Hansen won’t go for both to be full-time yet.

"Mayor Hansen wants us to be firm on crime, but efficient, too," Soine said.

You can call Herald Writer Steve Powell at 425-339-3427

or send e-mail to powell@heraldnet.com.

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