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May 4, 2010 at 3:17 PM

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Municipal Court hires lawyer to review City Council's budget cut

Posted by Emily Heffter

The Seattle Municipal Court has hired an attorney from Perkins Coie to review the City Council's decision Monday to eliminate one Municipal Court judge.

In a six-page letter to Mayor Mike McGinn, the attorney, Kevin Hamilton, urges McGinn to veto the law.

"While I can certainly understand the urgent budget issues facing the Council that motivated this proposed Ordinance, the Ordinance appears to violate state law, threatens to imperil the independence of the Municipal Court, and would open the door to future significant manipulation and retaliation against the Court," Hamilton wrote in the Monday letter.

He went on to detail the legal problems he sees with the law. At issue is the standard practice in the court of assigning each elected judge to a corresponding "department."

On Monday, the council voted to remove Department 10 and Position 3 of the court. The reason is that the judge in Position 3 does not plan to run for re-election. Departments 1, 2 and 3 are guaranteed in state law, so the council couldn't remove Position 3.

Hamilton argues in his letter that the council's action threatens the court's independence because the council could target a judge by removing his or her position.

Hamilton on Tuesday referred questions about his letter to Presiding Judge Edsonya Charles.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.