Longview City Council plans workshop to review the municipal court's track record | Washington
Longview City Council plans workshop to review the municipal court's track record | Washington

Source: Google News

Longview City Councilmember Mike Wallin and City Manager Kurt Sacha discuss the need for a criminal justice and courts workshop during the Dec. 8 council meeting. (KLTV, Contributed)

The Longview City Council will be taking a harder look at its relationship with the court system next year.

A somewhat pro forma vote at Thursday night’s council meeting to appoint the county’s district court judges to the Longview Municipal Court sparked a series of questions about whether the city is satisfied with the current function of the courts.

On a separate agenda item, the council voted unanimously to extend its public defense contract by 60 days, instead of the two years originally requested by the indigent defense team, and hold off on increasing the contract’s cost.¬†The agreement will be reevaluated after a January workshop about criminal justice, the functions of the court system and what role the city plays in the process.

The council did approve the judge appointments as well with a 6-1 vote. Councilmember Mike Wallin, who started the discussion about potential issues with the court arrangement, was the vote against.¬†Wallin and other council members raised issues they’d heard from the community about the ineffective results they feel are coming from the current legal system.

“I don’t know what we’re charging and I don’t know what we’re defending but what we’re talking about here is budget items,” Wallin said. “The concern the taxpayers have is it is a revolving door and it feels like less than a slap on the wrist.”

The judge appointment is largely a technicality required by city statutes and the set-up of the municipal court. Because all three district court judges were elected or re-elected to their seats in November, the council vote affirms that those judges would be the ones to hear legal cases stemming from Longview starting in January 2023.

“It would be a parade of horribles if… our appointment of the municipal court judges expired and we had not appointed them, because we would be without a municipal court judge to prosecute our cases,” city attorney James McNamara said.

The workshop, which the council tentatively set for Jan. 19, will likely include information from the prosecutor’s office, public defenders and other participants in the municipal court to review how decisions about bail amounts, jail time and court dates are made.

Years earlier, the Longview City Council had briefly looked into establishing its own separate municipal court system before dropping that approach. The idea was batted around during the council meeting Thursday night but would not be the focus of January’s workshop.

“Ideally, if we’re so inclined, then this launches a longer conversation among us and our community about these criminal justice questions,” councilmember Hillary Strobel said.

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