Updated: Apr 11, 2019
I received a lot of comments on my previous post, “Should the Bothell Municipal Court Stay Open?” In that post, I expressed concern because the City Council has been considering the option of terminating the Bothell Municipal Court, which would require contracting court services with outside jurisdictions.
This is an important discussion, and I’m glad to see so many residents taking an interest in our local government. Many questions were raised, so I decided to take my time to research the facts.
For clarification, I reached out to Judge Rebecca Robertson, a Federal Way Judge and former resident of Bothell. She wrote a detailed response to my questions and has given me permission to share the following information with you.
10 Issues and Factors to Consider
In analyzing whether to 1) retain Bothell Municipal Court or 2) terminate Bothell Municipal Court and contract court services with outside jurisdictions, the following should be taken into consideration.
1. Bothell Municipal Court has been part of the Bothell community for 24 years and is considered a model court in the State of Washington.
2. Your city’s highly regarded Youth Court has also been a model for other youth courts throughout the state. Youth Court may not be retained if the Bothell Municipal Court was terminated.
3. You have an outstanding judge. Judge Michelle Gehlsen was lawfully appointed by the City Manager and confirmed by the City Council for a term of office that does not end until December 31, 2021. Judge Gehlsen has received numerous awards, including the Snohomish County Judge of the Year Award in 2012, the Vanguard Award from Washington Women Lawyers 2015, and the Flame of Democracy Award from the Council on Public Legal Education in 2018. In addition, she has taught new judges at the Washington State Judicial College since 2014.
4. In 2021, the Bothell citizens will likely be allowed to elect their judge for the first time if the court remains open. However, Bothell citizens may not be eligible to participate in the judicial elections of another jurisdiction. If the Court was terminated and outsourced to King County, all Snohomish County Bothell residents would be disenfranchised from voting for their judge. The same is true of King County voters if the City contracted with Snohomish County for court services. If court services were outsourced to Kirkland, all voters in Bothell would be disenfranchised.
5. If Bothell’s court is terminated, residents would most likely need to travel to Kirkland, Redmond, or Lynnwood to have their cases heard or to appear for jury duty. Because all traffic cases are heard at Bothell Municipal Court, if the court were terminated, all people who got a traffic ticket in Bothell would have to travel to another jurisdiction to mitigate or contest their ticket. Because all criminal misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases (from Theft to Domestic Violence Assault and DUI) are handled at Bothell Municipal Court, all victims, witnesses, accused persons, and jurors would have to go to a court outside of Bothell. This would increase time spent accessing justice and would increase transportation costs for citizens.
6. Bothell Police Officers would likely not be able to remain on the street in Bothell while waiting to appear in court as they can now. They would instead need to report to another city to wait in court until their cases were called. This is likely to have an impact on police services and the overtime budget.
7. Bothell would lose control of the budget for court operations. Bothell would need to pay what that outside entity bills them and therefore would have no direct control over the budget of the other court.
8. If Bothell Municipal Court is terminated, the City will have significantly less flexibility in tailoring court services to best meet the unique needs of the people of Bothell. For example, different jurisdictions have different needs. Some jurisdictions have significant issues with homelessness and methamphetamine addiction. Others have high levels of heroin abuse. The treatment modalities for these two addictions are extremely different. Having a local court who can nimbly respond to local problems will make a difference in addressing the public safety needs of the community. Local courts can more easily partner with others in the criminal justice system to respond to community problems, instead of letting an outside entity attempt to address them.
9. Bothell Municipal Court serves every person residing in the City of Bothell. Every person who is the victim of a crime in Bothell. Every person who witnesses a crime in Bothell. Every person who commits a crime in Bothell. Additionally, the Court addresses public safety needs that impact every citizen of Bothell, whether they use the court or not.
10. A County District court, or another City, will not be solely focused on the needs of Bothell, as they provide judicial services for many different jurisdictions.
Each of these 10 factors is important to consider individually, and collectively they give an indication of the scope and potential impact this decision will have. I appreciate Judge Robertson for taking the time to provide such a detailed response.
I always strive to provide factual information so that we can make informed decisions with consensus among our residents and community. I welcome your comments.