House approves Dye bill to allow temporary judges until permanent single-judge vacancies are filled

The state House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday by Rep. Mary Dye that would allow a temporary judicial officer to be designated to step into the courtroom of a single-court judge if the presiding judge becomes unavailable, incapacitated, ill, or dies.

“There are more than 112 single judge courts in Washington state. If a vacancy arises, it could take weeks or months to fill that position, delaying court cases. Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Dye, R-Pomeroy. “This bill ensures that gap is filled so cases can be heard in a timely manner and to reduce the possibility of a backlog on the court's docket.”

House Bill 1825 would clarify that a presiding judge pro tempore may be predesignated by the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court to step into the courtroom of a single judge court if the presiding judge becomes unavailable, incapacitated, ill, or dies.

The bill stems from a controversial 2019 case in which an Asotin County Superior Court judge was charged with several crimes related to sexual misconduct in the workplace. The judge denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down as trial dates were bumped ahead numerous times. He was placed on administrative leave, but then eventually replaced during an election in November 2020.

“There was a long time of uncertainty in that court and there was no other person to do that work. To fill the silence in the law, I worked with the Administrative Office of the Courts and with experienced judges to draft this legislation,” noted Dye. “This bill ensures that justice can be served in a timely manner.”

Lawmakers in the House approved the bill, 95-1. The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov