Court filings for 2013 are down from previous year
May 13, 2014
By Peter Clark
Domestic violence cases marked the greatest increase in Issaquah’s decreased number of court cases in 2013.
In his annual presentation to the City Council, Judge Scott Stewart laid out what cases came before the local court in his state of the court address April 7.
“Domestic violence cases are up slightly,” Stewart said at the meeting. “And we’re seeing a number of different computer crimes charges.”
The court, which handles misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and traffic infractions, addressed 540 misdemeanor filings in 2013, down from 696 the previous year.
The largest change in numbers occurred in the filing of traffic infractions to the court. There were 9,769 filings in 2012, which came from traffic, parking and photo enforcement. In 2013, Stewart said there were 7,345.
Police Chief Scott Behrbaum said the drop was caused by personnel challenges rather than a change in departmental focus.
“In 2012, we had two traffic officers and in 2013, we only had one,” he said. “It was a combination of that and in 2013, we had a string of injuries, retirements and a deployment. It was a culmination of these things.”
Stewart said that although criminal filings were down, the district still faced a number of problems.
“We do have a significant percentage of young folks that appear in our courts who are 21 and under that clearly have heroin problems,” he said. “It’s an issue that over the last couple years has developed. We’ve been talking with the probation department, trying to coming up with something that helps us monitor them and moves them away from the drug culture.”
He said one of his 2014 goals will be to create a calendar to allow for close monitoring of young people charged in court.
Another focus for the year will be to assess how those serviced by the court feel about the experience. Stewart said a survey was conducted with mostly positive results.
“The conclusion was that the majority of the persons feel that the Issaquah Municipal Court is a fair and well-run court,” he said. “Folks tend to think they get pushed around by the system, to the extent that you make everyone feel like they’ve been listened to, even if you rule against them, tends to make for a better outcome all around.”
He said the department continues looking into expanding social media services and other ways to improve contact with the district.
As for the changes in filings, Behrbaum said the increase in domestic violence charges and decrease in others were all a part of law enforcement patterns.
“You’re always going to have cycles of different kinds of crime,” he said, citing how state law, personnel and resources can affect how those different kinds of crime come to court. “This hasn’t been a change in philosophies, it’s a myriad of changes that impact filings.”