Judge Marshall Ferguson’s Investiture Remarks

Welcome.  It is so wonderful and overwhelming to see everyone from the different parts of my life here in this room together.  I feel like George Bailey at the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, when all of his family, friends, and colleagues from disparate parts of his life come together and fill his house with love and joy.  You should not interpret this as a coded request for a large basket of money.  Uncle Billy did not lose the Court’s bank deposit; we’re doing fine.

I want to first offer a few words of thanks.  Thank you all so much for being here.  This is a very special occasion and it means a lot to me to see you all here.

Thank you to my family, some of whom have traveled across the country to be here.

To my sister Kathryn: thank you for robing up and judging out with me.  After all these years, it’s nice that we’ll finally be able to have conversations about fashion.

Thanks to my extended family from Lopez Island, for braving ferries, I-5, and downtown traffic to be here.  We’ve shared so many big moments in life and I’m glad to have you here at this one.

Thank you to my friends, and to my colleagues – new and old – from the bench, from the bar, and from my old law firm of Williams Kastner.  It’s Friday, you’ve all got families and jobs, and I really appreciate you being here.

Thank you to my new bailiff, Kiese Wilburn, who has been generous and patient introducing me to my new universe.

To Judge Linda Coburn, for whom I was a judge pro tem up in Edmonds Municipal Court.  Thank you for the opportunities, for everything you taught me, and for nudging me when I needed a nudge.

Thank you Rob for your kind words, but also for your 11 years of mentorship, for giving up time with your family to teach me, for giving me chance when you easily could’ve given up on me, and for providing me opportunities not just to succeed, but to fail and learn from failing.  As much as I used to resent you hounding me over split infinitives, I owe you so much and I thank you.

And, a special thank you to my parents, Paul and Susan, for a lifetime of love and guidance, and for the sacrifices that you’ve made as parents for me and for my nine other siblings.

And most importantly, thank you to my wife Sarah and my daughters, Hannah and Julia.  You are my sunshine, my sweetness, my joy.  Thank you for being you; you each touch my heart in special ways.  Thank you for your love and for putting up with my recent attempts to adjudicate household disputes.

And there are many more of you whom I’d like to thank individually over drinks and food after this, so I really hope you’ll join me at the reception.

I’ve heard it said many times: Seattle is a small town.  In many ways, it is.  Certainly in the professional sense, the Seattle legal community still feels like a small town.  You might not know everyone, but you know a lot of the names or faces.  You run into colleagues on the sidewalk.  The other day, I was thinking of a law school classmate while riding the bus, and I saw him walking down the street about a minutes later.  Seattle is still small enough that those sorts of things aren’t unheard of.  Seattle is small enough that judges here still can have an impact in the ways that a judge in a smaller community can.  I know a little bit about small communities.  I’m lucky to be able to say that I went to high school on Lopez Island, WA.  My parents still have a place there and my family still has close friends there.  Twenty years ago in 1998, I was a Rule 9 attorney-intern in Friday Harbor with the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office.  I handled the weekly District Court criminal docket there before a terrific judge.

I remember many things about this judge and the impact that he had on the community’s sense of justice and fairness.  Most everyone believed that, no matter what your background, no matter how much money you made or didn’t make, you’d get a fair shake from this judge.  I remember coming back from court one day and asking my father about this judge.  My father first spent about 45 seconds disparaging this judge’s political party: “They’re a bunch of filthy, lying, no-good…rutza-frutza.”  Then he stopped, and said, “But you know Marsh, he runs a good District Court.  I’ll give him that.  He’s prepared, he’s thorough, he listens, and above all he’s fair.”  That was extremely high praise from my father.  This judge passed away in 2009, but I’ll never forget what he provided to our small community up in San Juan County: confidence in the justice system.  And a kind of peace of mind: if my kid gets arrested, the judge will treat him/her fairly and with dignity.  If I have a legal dispute with my neighbor and I lose, I’ll accept the result because the judge was well prepared and gave me a reasonable opportunity to be heard.  That judge’s name was John Linde.  Judge John Linde swore me in as a lawyer in 1999.  He was a superb role model for me as a judicial officer.  Now, in 2018, I have the honor of working alongside his sister, Judge Barbara Linde, who is a judge in this court.

I’ve seen from her example, and from the example of the other judges here, that a King County Superior Court Judge can have the same impact in this county as Judge John Linde had in San Juan County.  A judge here can impart that confidence in the justice system, on both a community level and an individual level.  In the mere three months that I’ve been doing this job, I’ve seen the weight melt off of someone’s shoulders when they’ve had their day in court.  When they’ve been heard.  The big day they’ve been waiting for weeks or months has finally arrived, and the judge has ruled.  Maybe they’ve won.  Or they’ve lost.  They’ve obtained justice.  Or perhaps they’ve been sentenced and they’re taking a first step down a path toward accountability or maybe even redemption.  That weight, that burden, can only be lifted when that person knows that they’ve had a real chance to speak their piece, make their case, and when they know that they’ve been treated fairly and with dignity.  That confidence in the courts and in judges is just as vital to a large community as it is to a small town.  Certainly, we’ve seen in other parts of this nation, the corrosive effects upon a community when a court system is misused as simply a revenue-generator or as an engine for mass incarceration.

Having a sound, fair court system takes an incredible amount of work by a lot of dedicated people, from judges and lawyers, to bailiffs, clerks, administrators, and other courthouse staff.  I’m proud and privileged to be a part of that, and am grateful that my legal acumen, such as it is, might be of service to the people of this city, this county, our great State of Washington, and our nation from whom I’ve received so much.

I’d like to end by again saying thank you.  I means so much to see all of you here and I’m so grateful.  Thank you again for coming and please join me at the reception.

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.