New Dedicated Civil Trial Week to begin July 8, 2014

delayedDear Bar Members and Stakeholders,

Over the past year or so, the Cowlitz County Superior Court Judges have been analyzing caseload trends.  In our pursuit of relieving as much court congestion as possible and to promote the best standards of “access to justice for all”, the Superior Court Judges are pleased to announce that effective July 8, 2014 the superior court will dedicate all available trial days for civil matters, including domestic relations, one week per month. On average, this will mean the availability of approximately 8 additional trial days between two judges during the first full week of each month. 

In an effort to maximize this opportunity, we want to make sure that we use the trial days as effectively as possible.  To that end, Superior Court will implement a couple of strategies. 

They are as follows:
  1. We will be trailing or stacking some cases up to make sure we have multiple cases good to go to assure we are using the trial days. Specifically, we will move any and all cases that didn’t go to trial the week before (got bumped-week of July 1) to the civil week of July 8th.  Additionally, we will take all civil cases that are scheduled the week of July 15th and move them up one week to the week of July 8th.  We will do this each month as needed.  This again is to assure that we have cases that can be tried during the civil week.  We are assuming some will settle but we need cases that can be heard during the civil week to be heard otherwise we are wasting the limited trial/judicial time that is available.
  2. One other key component of this new civil week will be the requirement that each party attend the readiness review meeting held the Thursday before the civil week at 8:30 AM.  For the first month, this meeting will be held on July 3rd.  This meeting is generally in courtroom #3.  It will be critical to have all parties with cases attend this meeting.  If you do not attend your trial will be stricken. Our goal is to make the civil week a permanent part of our schedule, but this will depending on the active pending criminal caseload.  The Prosecutor’s Office, OPD and all key parts of the criminal system have worked hard over the past year or so to resolve cases and manage the workload and now we are able to give the civil week a try.  

Concurrent to the implementation of the civil week, our civil case-flow management workgroup has reconvened and is in the process of reviewing the case-flow changes we approved and presented to the BAR at the end of 2012. 

Your BAR representatives on this committee are David Nelson, Frank Randolph and Joseph Daggy.  Our intention as a committee is to look towards implementing these changes effective the first of the year.  We will provide you information long before the January 1, 2015 date and we will work with you to address concerns and implementation issues.  

As we have stated many times before, our goal is to become as effective and as efficient as we can, but please understand that adding a civil week and making these case flow changes is only part of the solution.  At the end of the day, it comes down to needed additional resources such as courtrooms, judicial officers, clerks etc.  We appreciate your partnership and support as we move towards making these changes. 

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns. 

Sincerely, 

Chadwick M. Connors
Court Administrator
ConnorsC@co.cowlitz.wa.us

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