Superior Court Docketing System
First Appearances are held each weekday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., for individuals arrested since the previous First Appearance docket. This is a video hearing, meaning not all of the parties are in the same location, but all are connected by a audio-video system.
Inmates are brought to a room on the third floor of the jail. (Attorneys access this" video court room" via the elevator near the Police Records window in the Public Safety Building- the same elevator that attorneys and the public use to visit inmates in the "jail annex" or infirmary.) There is no public access to this "courtroom."
First Appearances are handled by the Chief Criminal judge ("Criminal Presiding" judge). The judge remains in his or her regular courtroom. For 2012, the Chief Criminal Judge will be Hon. Annette Plese. Families and members of the public wishing to address the court during a first appearance should appear at the same time in Judge Plese's regular courtroom, #305 on the 3rd floor of the main courthouse. There will be a video screen connecting the regular courtroom to the inmate and the attorneys in the jail.
Bond or other conditions of release are argued and set at First Appearance. Often the Office of Pre-Trial Services has prepared an "OR Evaluation" before the hearing. Defense counsel wishing to argue release conditions for his/her client is best served by procuring a copy of the OR Evaluation and the Affidavit or Probable Cause (Statement of Facts) if such is available before the First Appearance. Some prosecutors graciously permit counsel to borrow their copies. Counsel with sufficient warning of this hearing should have friends, family and employers with information supporting release, to contact the Pre-Trial Services in time for that information to be included in the written OR Evaluation.
NOTE: In a few felony cases the Prosecuting Attorney will file the case in District Court, and those defendants will have their First Appearance at the 2:00 p.m. District Court docket. This is often the case with a "gang-related" cases. These cases will later be transferred to Superior Court.
Arraignments are conducted by the Chief Criminal Judge at scheduled times throughout the week. In-custody defendants are arraigned via the video procedure, and out of custody arraignments are in the courtroom of the Chief Criminal Judge. Arraignments are set approximately two weeks after First Appearance. (The court will typically not accept a guilty plea at arraignment.)
At arraignments the defendant receives a copy of the Information, and the court will set dates for a pre-trial Readiness hearing, and a trial. The defendant will be asked to sign and acknowledge receipt of a copy of the order setting the dates.
Also at arraignments, Omnibus Applications (mutual requests for discovery) are exchanged by the defense and prosecution. Specific discovery requests which are not agreed to are "reserved" for the motion docket.
Some judges will not entertain argument on release conditions (Bail) if the issue was not "reserved" at the First Appearance, or if circumstances have not changed since the First Appearance.
Trial Readiness Hearings
Trial Readiness hearings are held the Friday before the scheduled trial date. By the Readiness hearing, both parties are expected to have collaborated on a single "Criminal Trial Management Joint Report," and filed it with the court, and copied the Superior Court Administrator's Office "Criminal Case Coordinator," Heidi Clarke at 477-4403. This form can be downloaded from the Spokane County Superior Court web site. Look under "Criminal Forms," local.
Trials typically start on Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. Trials lasting beyond Thursday are normally recessed until the following Monday.
Trials are before judges other than the Presiding (Plea Judge) and the Chief Criminal (Criminal Presiding) judges. Counsel seldom knows what judge they are assigned to until the Friday afternoon before the scheduled Monday start. That is when the trials are "prioritized" by the Superior Court Administrator's Office, and assigned a judge. Counsel are then notified by telephone, or e-mail.
In Spokane County, jury selection commences on the first day of trial. Juries are not selected in a separate proceeding. Spokane County uses the "struck" system of selecting juries (sometimes called the "Phil Donahue" method) with voir dire conducted to the entire panel at once.
Motions are docketed for 9:00 a.m. each Thursday. Any of the Superior Court judges could be assigned the motion, depending whether the defendant is in custody, and how many motions are noted for a given Thursday. Motions are noted on a local form: CRIMINAL MOTION CALENDAR NOTE FOR HEARING-ISSUE OF LAW available in most Superior Court criminal courtrooms. It is a one-page form with an orange band across the bottom, which is appended to the brief in support of the motion.
Additional local rules for criminal motions are found at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.list&group=superior&set=supspo
NOTE: Even a motion that is timely noted and briefed will be stricken without notice unless it is "called ready" to the Judicial Assistant (bailiff) to the Chief Criminal (Criminal Presiding) by noon on the Tuesday before the Thursday hearing.
NOTE: Specially Assigned Cases, i.e., unusually complex, lengthy or problematic cases are sometimes "pre-assigned" to a specific judge. In such a case, the docketing scheme above will not necessarily apply, and the pre-trial and trial proceedings will be scheduled by the pre-assigned judge.