OLYMPIA — A legislative push to increase the number of District Court judges in Snohomish County crossed the finish line Thursday.
Presiding District Court Judge Jennifer Rancourt looked on as Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5003 creating an additional judgeship, bringing the county’s total to 9.
“It will have a significant impact on our ability to provide services to our community,” said Rancourt, whose daughter Jordan stood at the governor’s side at the bill signing.
It will be the first expansion of the bench in a quarter century, a period in which the county population grew by roughly 200,000. More people means more cases. And a pandemic-driven backlog has further stressed judicial resources.
The county’s District Court currently handles more filings annually than every other District Court in the state, except King County, Rancourt has said.
“Just last year we saw that protection order filings were up, and with a 30% increase in criminal filings the courts are beyond busy — they are slammed,” said Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, the bill’s prime sponsor. “This legislation ensures our court system is effectively serving the people of Snohomish County in a manner which is timely and accessible.”
District Court is made up of four divisions: Cascade, Everett, Evergreen and South. They handle infractions, along with criminal traffic and criminal non-traffic violations, small claims, civil actions, name changes, anti-harassment orders and domestic violence protection orders.
Snohomish County also offers other services, such as a mental health court, requiring the attention and involvement of judicial officers.
Rancourt is the lone judge in Cascade. There are three judges in the South division and two each in the Everett and Evergreen divisions. There’s also one commissioner who splits time between the Cascade and Everett divisions.
Rancourt said she plans for the commissioner to work full-time in Everett and the new judge to serve in Cascade.
The County Council must approve the personnel moves. Council members also will make the judicial appointment. Whoever is chosen could begin as soon as July 1. They will earn an annual salary of $206,988 plus benefits. Adding the judge will not cost the state, as counties are required to pick up the full tab.
County Council members Sam Low, who is also a state representative, and Jared Mead, the council chair, attended the bill signing. So too did Stephanie Wright, senior policy advisor to County Executive Dave Somers and a former County Council member.
The bill passed by margins of 49-0 in the Senate and 96-1 in the House.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;
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