Trouble in paradise
Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison publicized a letter sent to Seattle’s Municipal Court and King County’s Department of Public Defense on April 27 saying that negotiations around blocking certain people charged with crimes from an alternative court process had “come to an impasse.”
In her letter, Davison said that she had been in discussion with Judge Damon Shadid about excluding people who fall under her “High Utilizer” initiative from Community Court, an alternative model that creates a path for people charged with low-level misdemeanors to have their charges dismissed.
The High Utilizer initiative was meant to crack down on people who were repeatedly charged with crimes. Specifically, it targeted 118 people who had at least 12 referrals to the City Attorney’s Office (CAO) from the Seattle Police Department in the past five years, including one case in the past eight months. Those charges included theft, trespassing, assault or weapons violations, according to a CAO release.
Davison argued that those people should be excluded from Community Court because the model “fails to address their activity or deter them from reoffending.”
“Simply stated, this version of Community Court (with its ‘release-first model,’ voluntary referrals to services, and limited accountability mechanisms) is the wrong place for those committing repeat, high-impact criminal activity,” Davison wrote in her letter.
The Seattle Municipal Court pushed back in a press release, saying that it was “still evaluating this proposal.”
“Community Court was relaunched in 2020 after extensive collaboration between the court and representatives from prosecution and defense,” the court wrote. “It was founded to address the root causes behind low-level criminal activity while reducing the harm of pretrial incarceration.”
The response continues to say that the Community Court was designed with recommendations from the Washington State Pretrial Reform Task Force and Vera Institute of Justice “front and center.”
Community courts have proliferated in the area in the past few years. Redmond and Burien both established such courts. The model was based on the version created by the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York, which opened in 2000. It showed a 10 percent reduction in recidivism over two years when compared with traditional courts.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a suit against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy claiming that he and the postal service violated federal environmental law by authorizing new, gas-powered postal automobiles.
Ferguson argued that the federal government could have gone with electric vehicles to cut down on carbon emissions.
“The Postal Service also ignored key environmental impacts like the effect of continued poor air quality in already-polluted communities,” according to the announcement.
Read more of the May 4-10, 2022 issue.