Governor signs Rep. Dave Hayes’ bill adding third judge to Skagit County District Court

Skagit County has been given authorization by the state to increase the number of judges on its District Court bench from two to three, following Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature on a bill Monday in Olympia.

Rep. Dave Hayes testifying in committeeRep. Dave Hayes, who prime-sponsored House Bill 1061, says an additional judge is needed to help relieve a backlog of cases and ensure trials are held in a timely manner.

“The population of Skagit County has grown significantly over the years. But the growth of the bench in the District Court has not,” said Hayes, R-Camano Island.

During a public hearing in January, Skagit County District Court Judge David Svarin testified, saying caseloads have increased tremendously in the past 16 years.

“When I started in 1999, the caseload for District Court was 19,000. Currently, the caseload for District Court is running about 30,000, and commensurately, it has gone up for the municipal courts that are part of the system,” Svarin told the House Judiciary Committee. “In the municipalities, we’re bumping up against the speedy trial requirement every time we schedule trials.”

Hayes noted the backlog is beginning to impede the local justice system.

“The law specifies certain time limits for when a case must be heard and brought to trial. If a lengthy court docket creates a backlog, there’s a possibility some cases might go beyond those time limits and would have to be dismissed. That denies justice, especially to victims,” said Hayes. “So this legislation gives Skagit County the authority to add another judge to its District Court to keep up with the caseload and ensure justice is served.”

The bill takes effect 90 days after the end of the third special session. Hayes added that the Skagit County Commission would have to approve the position and agree that the county pay the expenses of the additional judge without reimbursement from the state.

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