Safer courts, reliable access to lawyers and the need for more language interpreters were among the top court priorities outlined by Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen during the State of the Judiciary Address before a joint session of the legislature on Wednesday.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone who is predicting that you’re going to have an easy session this year. I think you’re all going to be spending many long days and late nights in Olympia,” Madsen told lawmakers assembled in the Senate Chamber.
One the court system’s top challenges will be security in the wake of various bomb threats at courthouses around the state and a recent shooting and stabbing in Grays Harbor County.
“No one should be afraid to walk into a courthouse. Simply hoping nothing bad happens is no longer good enough,” she said.
Madsen also asked the legislature to fund a pilot program that would implement video remote language interpreting services. The need for interrupters is exploding around the state, she said.
“Just imagine walking into a high stakes situation and not understanding a word of what’s going on.”
Madsen also told lawmakers the court system is struggling to serve the state’s low-income population, especially in rural areas.
“We have learned that in areas of our state the promise of access to effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by our constitution and our legislature has not been met,” she said.