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Belltown Safety Forum Recap — The Judiciary Side

The last group of people to speak were representatives from the Seattle Superior Court.

Hon. Sharon Armstrong and Hon. Bruce W. Hilyer sat in on our meeting and then shared with us the court’s role in this effort.

Judge Armstrong explained that the court’s role was to apply the constitution and existing legislation to cases that come before them. They act as impartial ‘referees’, to borrow from her sports analogy.

She also described the process of determining probable cause and setting bail for each defendant. She went on to describe lots and lots of information about the court procedures and I suppose I checked out a little bit at this point.

Sorry. Check out your notes from senior year government class to learn more.

What was really cool was her invitation to the community to go watch cases at the Courthouse at 3rd and James on floor 12. There we can get involved and learn more about what they do.

It was kind of around this time that we started learning what Stay Out of Drug Area (SODA) orders were. Apparently, those arrested, prosecuted, and convicted can be ordered to stay out of our neighborhood. Granted, there are exceptions if the individual lives or works in an area restricted by the SODA order. However, this seems like a useful tool. You know those dealers that get arrested and then just show back up a week or two later. We can consider encouraging our prosecutors to recommend imposing SODA orders at arraignment or at sentencing. So somebody figure out how to yak it up with the prosecutor’s office. 

Judge Hilyer made a pitch for securing resources for the Seattle court system. In his words, a lack of resources to match trials to the cases processed by the prosecutor’s office severely limits what the entire system can do. The courts are facing budget cuts and are on the cusp of losing the ability to do something about non-violent crimes–which, in my opinion, are still important things to care about and maintain.

On July 26th, there is some legislation–I say ‘some’ because there weren’t many details here–that would raise sales tax to help fund the criminal justice system in our courts.

How much is a judge and a court case capable of putting problems away worth? Well, I don’t really know, but I suppose this is something to consider. If you’re concerned about this, you should think about figuring out who the appropriate representatives are and expressing your concerns.

I can’t say for certain, but I don’t think we here at Belltown People have really ever mutually agreed to endorse or take any kind of political stance. Just so everybody’s sure, we just want to communicate information as we hear it, and stick in a sliver or two of opinion where it seems appropriate.

If you have some good thoughts or opinions to share, leave them in the comments so your neighbors can hear them.