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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor
NEWS ADVISORY

SUBJECT: Seattle Municipal Court and the City Attorney’s office launch the first Community Court in Washington State

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
2/28/2005  12:00:00 PM
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Gary Ireland  (206) 684-8710
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602


Seattle Municipal Court and the City Attorney’s office launch the first Community Court in Washington State
Offering restorative justice and a comprehensive approach to reducing quality of life crimes

SEATTLE – – Seattle’s Municipal Court Presiding Judge Fred Bonner and City Attorney Tom Carr today announced the implementation of the first Community Court in Washington State and now the 27th in the nation. The pilot project blends criminal justice with social service agencies in a comprehensive response to quality-of-life crimes that emphasizes community service and behavioral treatment programs over incarceration for low-level offenses. Such crimes include drinking in public, urinating in public, disorderly conduct, shop-lifting, aggressive pan-handling, vandalism, loitering, trespassing, and prostitution.

The model for this project was adopted from Manhattan’s Midtown Community Court which first opened in 1993. This court concept has proven very successful in reducing crime and recidivism in other major cities around the country. In addition to ensuring that justice is visible, offenders are held accountable for their illegal conduct while restoring the communities in which they committed their crimes. Selection criteria are based on repeat offenders of the crimes referenced above. Expedited hearings are scheduled and in most cases, defendants will be seen in the Community Court within 48 hours of arraignment, some as soon as 24 hours. Another unique aspect of Seattle’s Community Court model is that during sentencing, on-site social workers on the second floor of the Municipal Court building will provide direct connections to needed services in order to address the underlying causes of the criminal behavior.

“I am excited that Seattle finally has a better way to address issues surrounding members of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, some of whom commit these low-level crimes just to survive,” said City Attorney, Tom Carr.

Presiding Judge Fred Bonner defines Community Court as “a non-traditional approach to addressing traditional problems.” This is the first time the Court, the Prosecutors and the Defense Attorneys collaborated to knit together a sometimes-fractured criminal justice system. Various agencies in the criminal justice system worked in close concert for several months to bring this project planning to fruition.

Treatment programs, either mandated by the Court or entered into voluntarily by the offender include drug and alcohol treatment, healthcare, life-skills, education and job training programs. In some cases defendants will reconnect to services and case management under existing public benefits. Initially, most community service assignments will be with sidewalk cleaning, alley maintenance, trash pick up, pressure washing, or graffiti removal.

City Attorney Tom Carr stated: “Community Court will accomplish several goals: ensure a more responsive justice approach for victims and the larger community; encourage a problem-solving versus a strictly punitive approach; establish a certain, swift and sure legal process and; bridge the gap between communities and courts.”

A Community Court Advisory Council was established to provide input and help develop a sentencing grid for the pilot program. Members included: Downtown Seattle Association; Metropolitan Improvement District; Department of Corrections; Homeless Advocates; Columbia Legal Services; King County Community Corrections; Department of Social and Health Services; Seattle Police Department; King County Drug Court; Associated Council for the Accused; Seattle Mental Health; and many more. Seattle’s Community Court will be open for business on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting March 2005. Judge Bonner will preside over these cases, while Tom Carr and Robert Hood from the City Attorney’s office will prosecute them, and Dave Chapman, the Managing Director for the Associated Council for the Accused, which is the lead defense attorney organization for the city will defend them.

Dave Chapman, Managing Director of ACA stated: “The Community Court will provide a meaningful opportunity for our clients to resolve their cases and contribute to society. It is intended to be a swift and certain resolution without many months of monitoring. The community and our clients will both benefit.”

For more information on the Manhattan’s Midtown Community Court and other community court projects, please visit the Center for Court Innovation’s web sites at: www.courtinnovation.org and www.communityjustice.org

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Seattle City Attorney

Seattle Municipal Court

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