INFORMATION ON THE ADULT CRIMINAL PROCESS IN SUPERIOR COURT
The Court has worked closely with the Prosecuting Attorney and the Office of Public Defense and crafted new methods to process criminal cases through the Superior Court. It involves some cooperation between the opposing parties and the setting by the Court of realistic trial dates based upon the actual preparation time needed for each case. With the onset of COVID-19, many of the Court's operations have been effected, and caseloads have increased. Many of our hearings are done via Zoom Remote Video technology at this time.
Details and links to local forms are listed below or on the left column. Forms are generally available in Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF formats.
ZOOM calendars can be found at https://www.cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us/zoom
FIRST COURT APPEARANCE
At the first court appearance, the Judge will decide if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, the court will address pretrial release. The Court may release the defendant on their promise to appear for future court hearings (personal recognizance), or may impose bail and or conditions of release. In some cases the Court will impose conditions of release on a defendant, and may also enter no contact orders as well as orders affecting firearms rights.
The Court will assign an attorney if the defendant financially qualifies, and set an arraignment date, usually a week or so later. All first appearances are at the Jail Courtroom, with in-custody defendants appearing via a jail Zoom link, and out-of-custody defendants appearing via the public Zoom Link. Hearing links are on our Zoom hearings page.
Members of the public or media may observe all hearings via the Court’s Streaming Page.
Attorneys are assigned, either from the Office of Public Defense, or from among several independent contracting lawyers. Defendants are free to hire their own attorney as well.
At arraignment, the Court will set an Omnibus Hearing date (often called a pretrial), a Trial Readiness Date, and a Trial date. This will be done on the local Omnibus Trial Scheduling Order. Out-of-custody defendants will appear via Zoom Video Links which can be found on the Court Zoom Calendar Page.
Participants can use a computer (with a camera and microphone), Tablet, or Cell phone to appear. The Court is implementing free wireless at our Hall of Justice Campus, the Jail campus, and the Juvenile Court Campus so participants can appear without the need for cellular minutes. There is an option to call in by phone if no other option is available.
In order to comply with the Omnibus Scheduling Order, each side must file an Omnibus Certificate of Compliance report within the timelines of the order. This is not a mandatory form from the Court, but a sample form is provided in our forms link on this page.
Omnibus hearings are set out inCrR 4.5. The Omnibus Trial Scheduling Order entered at arraignment automatically strikes the omnibus hearing unless one of the parties requests the hearing be heard. The Omnibus Scheduling Order requires all parties to file Omnibus Certificates of Compliance (Sample Form in our criminal forms section).
If a party wishes to have a live hearing, the requesting party must notify the Clerk, Court and opposing counsel at least five (5) court days prior to the set omnibus hearing. The notice must include any issues the court is to address.
All cases set for trial will have a trial readiness hearing Tuesday the week prior, at 8:30 am. Check our posted schedule for current date/time of these hearings. Under our current COVID protocols these reviews are done via Zoom. See CCLCR 4.11.
At the readiness hearing, all defendants and their attorneys scheduled for trial the following week need to appear, via Zoom, to determine if their case will be heard the following week. If not, other dates will be set, and a new scheduling order will be entered by the Court.
Criminal motions, not included above, must be filed with a docket notice and served on all parties. SeeCCLCR 3.9. Motions must be confirmed with Court Administration and the Clerk no later than five (5) court days prior to the scheduled hearing or the motion will be stricken for resetting.
AGREED CONTINUANCE ORDERS - ORDER SETTING CASE SCHEDULE
After consultation with OPD and the Prosecutor’s Office, the bench will review agreed orders of continuance presented ex parte as a way to continue any criminal hearing including jury trials. This process contemplates that the parties will pick a date when the hearing will work and set that date themselves. This includes trials. HOWEVER, this order shall not be used to move a trial date between the readiness hearing and the trial date without prior approval from the trial judge.
Please familiarize yourself with the form and CCLAR 12(3). For continuances of a trial date, you will need to include when the case was filed and how many continuances have been granted.
If the parties need to continue a hearing, use the order to avoid a court appearance by: 1) filling out the order, 2) getting both parties to sign off and 3) presenting the order to the court within the framework of CCLAR 12(3) the local ex parte process. Ex parte fees will not be imposed in criminal matters. This must be done by Friday at 1 pm the week prior to the hearing you are trying to move.
Hearings that are not trials and trial continuances within speedy trail do not require client signatures. Continuance of trials outside of speedy trial will require client signatures or reflect the client’s approval. If the new trial date selected by the parties is outside of the speedy trial rule, the client signature will be needed on an agreed written order that sets the trial to a date certain, or under the emergency order you will need indicate on the order that you have the client’s approval to proceed in this manner. See CrR 3.3 (e) (2) and (f)(1). A speedy trial waiver will also work.
In most cases the parties will select your new trial date within these simple parameters: set your trial for a Tuesday in the second, third, fourth or fifth week of the month. Set the readiness hearing on the Tuesday the week before trial. EXCEPT, any new hearing or trial date shall be approved by firstname.lastname@example.org before adding the date to the proposed order if:
- Your case requires an interpreter or;
- Your trial will last more than four (4) days.
You can also reach Court Administration at 360-577-3085
If the court denies an agreed order of continuance via the ex parte process, this is done without prejudice and will not prevent a party from noting the matter for hearing and making the request in court.
As these are agreed orders, it is the responsibility of the parties to check Odyssey to obtain conformed copies or to verify that the order has been granted.
NOTE: Many of these processes will become permanent changes and are not a reaction to emergency orders. For now, emergency orders do allow entering orders without a client signature if you note you have the client’s approval to sign a document and you make that clear on the document.