Councilmember Godden left office on January 1, 2016.
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Tougher decisions ahead

On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to drop one judge and one department from the Seattle Municipal Court. It was not an easy decision; but, in these difficult economic times, it was a first step towards filling a projected $50 million shortfall.

The reason council took the action at this time, rather than waiting until this fall’s budget deliberations  was because the June filing deadline for the municipal judicial positions is fast approaching. All Seattle municipal judges are elected at the same time. So it was necessary to make the decision on the reduction now or wait for four more years.

The council action was not well received by the court, which lobbied fiercely against the cut. Councilmembers met with judges to hear their concerns and received calls and letters from many in the legal community. The court additionally hired a lawyer – apparently at city expense – to challenge details of the reduction, which eliminates Position No. 3. The position presently is occupied by Judge Ron Mamiya who doesn’t plan to run for reelection this year.

The legal technicalities of renumbering positions may be open to debate. But apparently it did not trouble the mayor, who added his signature to the ordinance on Tuesday.

To take a judge means that the remaining seven judges, one commissioner and four magistrates – 13 judicial officers in all – will shoulder a heavier workload. That is regrettable, but doing more with less is something that we will be facing throughout the city in coming months.

In taking this step, councilmembers expressed willingness to work with court in ways that can help and to consider, when and if the economy improves, reinstating the position. In the meantime, it is no comfort to realize that this is probably just the first of many tougher decisions ahead.