Since 1975 Whatcom County has had three superior court judges. However, since 1975 the county population increased from 90,000 to almost 200,000. With this increase in population has come an increase in the number of both civil and criminal legal cases brought before in Whatcom County Superior Court. In fact, the number of cases filed has increased more than fivefold.
As a result, it takes longer to resolve cases. Any civil or criminal lawyer in Whatcom County will complain about the caseload backlog in the superior court, particularly lawyers who practice civil law. Because criminal cases have priority in being scheduled for trial, civil trials get pushed, or “bumped,” farther and farther out. This means it takes longer to resolve disputes involving breaches of contract, businesses trying to collect money, people injured by the actions of others, and other non-criminal lawsuits. Thankfully, this backlog will soon be alleviated.
On April 17th, the Washington State House of Representatives passed a bill adding a fourth Whatcom County Superior Court judge. The state senate approved it earlier in the legislative session. The bill is now on Governor Jay Inslee’s desk to sign. If the governor signs the bill, the fourth judge will start work in 2015, after needed renovations to the county courthouse are completed.
Even with approval of a fourth judge, Whatcom County will still have the fewest superior court judges per capita in the state. However, the addition of a fourth judge will help cases move through the system faster. Resolving legal disputes quickly and efficiently is a key component of justice. By approving a fourth judge, the state legislature has helped Whatcom County take a big step forward in improving the legal system here.
Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.
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