Washington State Judges Sue to Enforce Paper-Copy Rule

PASCO, Wash. (CN) – Six state court judges from Franklin and Benton counties in Washington state sued to force the Franklin County court clerk to keep paper files of cases, despite switching to a paperless system late last year.

Franklin County and several other counties in Washington state adopted the Odyssey system in 2015.

The judges issued a court rule requiring the court clerk to maintain paper copies of all records. The court rule called for all case files to be kept in paper format, although the judges’ lawyer, Dean Kamerrer said it’s only a subset of files the judges actually need.

But Franklin County clerk Michael Killian said this past December his court would be going paperless, prompting the judges’ writ of mandamus filed March 21. Although the Franklin County Superior Court cases are currently available online, it can take up to four days before documents like complaints are publicly available, according to Courthouse News staff research.

Kammerrer said the judges’ rule is necessary because computer access isn’t always available to them.

“The judges are not against electronic files, but there are some hearings that due to the courtroom or off-site location, a computer or electronic access is not available. This is usually for cases like domestic relations or mental health,” Kammerrer said. “The court rule asked for all files because court rules don’t allow the judges to ask for only a subset of information or allow them to parse in regards to records.”

Killian has failed to comply with the judges’ rule, according to the judges’ writ, which asks for him to be held in contempt if he continues to do ignore their order.

The clerk hasn’t formally responded to the lawsuit and was not immediately available for comment. He is represented by Heather C. Yakely of Evans, Craven and Lackie in Spokane.

The judges listed as plaintiffs in the case are Judges Joe Burrowes, Alex Ekstrom, Cameron Mitchell, Carrie Runge, Jacqueline Shea-Brown, Bruce Spanner and Sam Swanberg.


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