Walk in the Shoes: The Jury Room

This is the second in the Walk in the Shoes series with Chief Administrator, Paul Sherfey, Presiding Judge, Laura Inveen and Communications Manager, Jamie Holter.

Judge Inveen, Paul Sherfey and I visited the Jury Room Monday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 am as jurors started to trickle in. Over the next hour, Jury Room Court Operations members Daisy Rios and Santiago Villanueva will check in more than 200 people using a barcoded postcard which doubles as a juror badge.

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This jury pool will hear three civil trials, three criminal trials (in-custody criminal trials have priority as do trials with interpreters) and one District Court trial. Other trials are bench trials and juries are not involved.

Today’s process actually started three months ago when Supervisor Greg Wheeler used the Jury Management System program, several excel spreadsheets, and 15 years’ experience to send 697 summonses and eventually get this jury pool of 209 in place.

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Prospective jurors’ names come from voter registration, and/or Washington State as a state ID or a drivers’ license.

To be an eligible juror, you must be:

  • Eighteen years of age or older
  • A citizen of the United States
  • A resident of King County
  • Able to communicate in English of via American Sign Language

The “Jury Management System” generates random lists of jurors – like Powerball. It’s completely random. It’s a numbers game. Greg says that’s the most common question he gets. He can’t add or subtract names because he can’t see them until the process is over.

“If you are called five times and a co-worker is called once, that’s the nature of a random selection process.” Greg Wheeler, Jury Room Supervisor

Calibrating the pull, though, is art and science.

When a jury summons is sent, people respond “yes” 20 percent of the time – that means they agree to come in the first date they are given. Prospective jurors can also defer to a specific future date. All candidates are allowed to defer twice, up to a year each time.  This second group – when called on that future date – responds affirmatively 50 percent of the time. Greg balances those two sets of numbers to get this jury room filled. Jurors get an email reminding them of jury service a couple weeks in advance.

At 8:15 am, it’s movie time! A 15-minute video from the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts explains the court process – the people, the terms, what will happen and the juror’s role in the case.

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When that’s done, a second, eight-minute video introduced by King County Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen and District Court Judge Ketu Shah about bias plays. It’s a very good, straightforward video that explains how we all have bias, we must acknowledge it and work to decide cases based on facts – not gender, not skin color, and not socio-economic status. The prospective jurors are very attentive during this video.

When the videos are done, Greg thanks jurors for showing up today, explains how the day will flow: jurors get called (he apologizes in advance for butchering names), they go to a courtroom, they either get a case or are dismissed from that courtroom to return to the jury room to await the next call. He’s funny and self-deprecating. You can tell he does this all the time.

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Jurors spend the next several hours going in and out of the jury room and using free Wi-Fi in the quiet room to get caught up on work while they wait. If jurors get to 4:30 and aren’t selected, they go home. One day, one shot at a trial.

“This one-day-one-trial approach is only a few months old and considered a best practice approach to jury management. Jurors appreciate that we value their time.” Greg Wheeler

Greg says 100 percent of empaneled jurors he has spoken with enjoy the experience. They feel good about doing their civic duty and usually learn something about the justice system. He reminds us that jury service is the ONLY obligation you have as a citizen. 

By 3 pm, all but eight jurors have been called at least once – mostly thanks to a 65-juror request from Judge North. Greg puts “8” on his spreadsheet – the number of jurors who didn’t get called today – compares it to Oct. 22, 2017 to see how close he got. Then he moves on to purging names from the basket of “No Longer at This Address” postcards that just came in.

This entire process is repeated Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Occasionally, when an especially long trial is scheduled (three to six months), special, larger jury pools are called in on Thursdays or Fridays. The larger pools anticipate more jurors asking for hardship exclusions.

Superior Court is looking at more efficiencies including an updated Jury Management System that could include text messaging.

Thanks, Greg, for inviting us to the Jury Room. If you would like us to walk in your shoes, please let Jamie know at jamie.holter@kingcounty.gov.

 

The “Courts and Community” Team

If you don’t use the legal system, it can be a mystery.  It’s an even bigger mystery to communities of color or community members who don’t speak English.

In 2017, King County Superior Court established the Courts and Community team – judicial officers who commit time and energy to connecting with the community where they are.

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The Courts and Community team recognize outstanding high school students who “Rise Above the Challenge”.

The charter is rather formal: This committee promotes public understanding of the justice system through public presentations, teaching, and community events; strives to eliminate barriers to justice that may result from differences in culture, economic status, language, and physical or mental disabilities; and ensures that the court’s commitment to a diverse workforce is reflected in its policies.

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What does that look like? It looks like Thursday, Oct. 19, 2018 at El Centro de la Raza on 16th Street next to the Beacon Hill Link Light Rail stop at 6 pm as nine judges hosted the LatinX Heritage Month celebration for the community.

“Rising Above the Challenge” was the theme and guest speaker Jeremy Taiwo, a Seattle-born,

Afro-Latino 2016 Olympic Decathlete had a story to tell. His dream of competing in the 2012 Olympics suffered injury setbacks but, as 2016 drew closer, he could feel destiny.

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In his last qualifying race, he had to beat his closest competitor by 13 seconds in the mile – a seemingly impossible task when you are talking Olympic athletes. But he did it. He credits his community and family who believed in him and supported him. He says we are only limited by our own minds. So set no limits!

That was the introduction to our two student award winners: Gonzalo Cruz and Cielo Martinez. They, too, set no limits.

Gonzalo is a committed student and activist who plans to attend UW Bothell to study mechanical engineering. Gonzalo has been homeless since beginning high school, but still completed his school’s rigorous IB program. He completed UW’s STEM Upward Bound program, and was the captain of Chief Sealth’s wrestling team. As a member of Chief Sealth’s Protecto Saber, Gonzalo regularly participated in discussions about community issues, which led him to participate in immigration- and gun reform-related activism. He says perseverance and humility are two key qualities that have made him who he is.

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In 2014, Cielo came to the United States from Guatemala City with her mother and brother and entered high school knowing no English. Cielo devoted herself to being the best student and community member she could be. She was elected president of her school’s student government and served as a student representative for the Board of El Centro de la Raza. Cielo is currently attending Seattle Central College. She believes this generation can change in the world and her dream is to help the community by building a voice that creates greater change.

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As guests and judges broke break together and talked, they watched performances by “Balorico Dance”. Later everyone joined in for dance lessons! It was an opportunity to connect to each other in a spirited atmosphere where everyone enjoyed themselves.

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Judge Michael Diaz, Judge Laura Inveen, Judge Jim Rogers, Judge Janet Helson (behind           Judge Veronica Galvan – in front) 

The Courts and Community team is excited to more events in the community in 2019. If you would like to learn more, connect with us on facebook or send us an email and we will keep you updated when and where we will be next.

 

Courthouse Security: August Update

Presiding Judge Laura Inveen and Assistant Presiding Judge Jim Rogers, the Prosecuting Attorneys Office,  the Sheriff’s Department, Metro Police, and King County Facilities management Division appeared before the King County Councilmembers Pete Von Reichbauer and Dave Upthegrove Tuesday, Aug. 28 for an update on Seattle Courthouse Safety. This group has been meeting regularly since June 2017 to address safety and cleanliness issues.County council

Judge Inveen thanked Council for the attention and money to manage the issue. She outlined the progress citing the three-times-a-week pressure washing, Seattle City Hall Park activation, the regular staffing of the 4th Avenue entrance and the commitment to collaboration and involvement by multiple organizations to keep up the momentum.

But she also described three incidents in the past three weeks, including the open use of injected drugs and defecation in the vestibule, as evidence that safety and cleanliness is still not where it needs to be.

“Three steps forward and two steps back,” said Judge Inveen.

Judge Rogers discussed a new court-wide reporting system that should be active soon. It is a single number to call and a single form to fill out – by jurors, court visitors and court staff – to track incidents in the Courthouse vicinity. Judge Rogers also discussed the need for more screeners and machines at the MRJC saying that long lines lead to court delays. Additionally, occasionally witnesses are forced to stand in line with defendants for an extended period of time.

Judge Rogers also asked the Council to consider Court Security requests as a separate budget item. “When these security requests are part of a department budget, that department has other important priorities and security gets pushed to the bottom. I’m just asking that they be brought forward for debate separate from the other budget requests.”

Councilmembers appreciated the update, praised the collaboration and progress and agreed to continue focusing on the issue.

Walk in the Shoes: Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Program

As the new King County Superior Court Communications Manager, I am looking for ways to share more about what our employees do in service to the community. King County Executive Dow Constantine’s ‘Walk in the Shoes’ does it so well, we decided to copy it!  Here is what I observed as we headed to the Casey Family Foundation to visit with Superior Court’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Program and their ConnectUP staffing session

CSEC is one small part of the larger King County CSEC Task Force.  The team tackles tough cases with passion, determination, and relentless push for collaboration to tap into as many resources as possible. As a result, the program has earned national recognition and has a growing list of actively engaged partners from first responders to county non-profits to survivor-centered agencies.

The mission of the King County CSEC Task Force is to “ensure the safety and support of commercially sexually exploited children and to prevent further exploitation through

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training and delivering collaborative services.”

Presiding Judge Laura Inveen, Paul Sherfey and I spent Monday morning walking in the shoes of the CSEC Program team.

King County CSEC Program Manager Kelly Mangiaracina and CSEC Liaison Norene Roberts start by making one thing clear: there is no such thing as a child prostitute. Youth engaged in prostitution are not responsible for their exploitation.  Period.

Judge Barbara Mack, who trains national organizations about this issue, provides context: Of charged commercial sexual abuse of minor (CSAM) cases in King County, there is drastic disproportionality.

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While only 7% of King County population is African-American, 52% of the CSE girls are black; 80% of their buyers are white, 60% of the buyers have a college degree or higher, and are considered “well-off”, 13% work in tech, 13% in government/military, and 26% are split between manufacturing and construction. Locally, we have a disproportionally well-educated white male class purchasing King County’s youth of color.

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We quickly get down to the heart of today’s ConnectUP staffing. ConnectUP is a partnership between Superior Court, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Casey Family Programs, YMCA, and YouthCare. Other organizations are invited on a case-by-case basis. This partnership was formed specifically to address CSEC cases involving state dependent foster youth. ConnectUP looks beyond the borders of government to leverage the best non-profits, the most generous foundations, the most innovative programs and the proven outcomes to get children the therapeutic and housing support they need.

At the table today are Whitney Whittemore and Ashley McCall of Nexus Youth and Family Services. Ashley McCall is a community advocate and responds to referrals from youth who want help, and the teachers, caseworkers, community members, and others trained to spot a child who is at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.

Ashley provides an update on “A.B.”: 14 years old, referred by a teacher, mom has a history of using “sex as an economic strategy”, A.B. is currently in foster care and is “dating” a 24 year old man. When she distances herself from him, the “boyfriend” finds her and she runs away from her placement. Norene and Kelly discuss technology – coach her to disable tracking apps – and other financial options. Whitney lists job programs that legally employ girls as young as 14. Leslie Briner, one of the foremost national expert on CSEC protocols is on the phone and offers insight into the girl, her needs, and her family’s needs. Sara Miller of the Casey Family Foundation, also at the table, offers support for mom in the form of family supportive services. The session ends with a list of pressing needs and action steps. The case will be restaffed in two weeks.

The ConnectUP staffing is just a small example of the intensive partnership, collaboration, and commitment these CSEC cases require. Since April 2014, the Bridge Collaborative has received more than 775 referrals for youth who have either been commercially sexually exploited or who are at serious risk of exploitation. The Bridge Collaborative is a partnership among YouthCare, Friends of Youth, Nexus Youth and Families, Kent Youth and Families, and the Organization for Prostitution Survivors. These 5 organizations provide the much needed community advocates who specialize in working with CSE youth. Success is hard to define because the issues facing CSEC are so complex. Sometimes, success is knowing where the youth are for 30 consecutive days. Sometimes, success is fewer runs from foster care. Consistency and stability are key. Youth stay involved when they know someone cares.

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(left to right: Whitney Whittemore, Sara Miller, Judge Inveen, Paul Sherfey, Noreen Roberts, Kelly Mangiaracina, Ashley McCall, Judge Mack)

The CSEC program also provides a comprehensive training program for teachers, law enforcement, community members, and social workers and has already trained thousands of people. The curriculum includes 4 topic areas: educating men to be allies to end commercial sexual exploitation of children, recognizing that CSE includes boys too, how to use motivational interviewing with CSE youth, and how to connect to those youth to additional therapeutic services.

Kelly tells us that we need more foster families (they have three in the licensing process), respite foster families, and more shelter beds. She would absolutely love to have a CSEC respite program similar to FIRS. The single most important question they ask each child is pretty basic: Do you have a place to go tonight where you will not be harmed. That was simply startling.

Kelly tells us that we need more foster families (they have three in the licensing process), respite foster families, and more shelter beds. She would absolutely love to have a CSEC respite program similar to King County’s Family Intervention and Restorative Services program which provides a safe place to take a break for families and kids in crisis. The single most important question they ask each child is pretty basic: Do you have a place to go tonight where you will not be harmed. That was simply startling.

We left with a new appreciation for collaboration and the commitment of this small team: Kelly, Norene, Whitney, Ashley, Leslie, Sara, and Judge Mack.

If you’d like us to walk in your shoes, let me know Jamie.holter@kingcounty.gov.