District Court Docketing
District Court docketing can be complex and difficult to navigate. Some cases are docketed according to the defendant's last name. Others are scheduled according to the charge.
This web page does not cover the separate City of Spokane Municipal Courts, involving cases prosecuted by the City Prosecutor. Also, this does not treat traffic infraction and other non-criminal citations.
First Appearances for most in-custody clients are at 1:30 p.m. each afternoon. (Except Mondays, when they are at 2:00 p.m.) This is a video docket with clients and defense attorneys and clerks in the jail District Court video room upstairs in the jail. (The video room is reachable via the same elevator used to visit inmates in the jail "annex," near the Police Records window in the Public Safety Building.) There is no public access to this "courtroom." The judge and prosecutor and any members of the public will be in courtroom #2, on the second floor of the Public Safety Building.
Out-of-custody DUI (Driving under the Influence) first appearances are different. These hearings are held at 3:00 each afternoon in District Courtroom #2 (on Mondays, use courtroom #1).
Note that a First Appearance is a very short hearing, with a limited purpose; to advise of rights and set bond. It is not an arraignment, which is a separate hearing for the purpose of entering a "guilty" or "not guilty" plea. But often courts will accept a plea at "First Appearance," instead of requiring a defendant to return to court for a second hearing.
It is impossible to predict which judge or court commissioner will hear First Appearances.
Arraignments in District Court can be waived by an attorney completing, serving and filing the court's green-colored triplicate "Notice of Appearance" form.
The two exceptions are DUI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DV (Domestic Violence) cases. The defendants in such cases are require to appear for arraignment in person. All DV matters are presently heard in Judge Patty Walker's court.
After the arraignment is held (or waived) the case is assigned to a specific judge for all further pre-trial and trial proceedings. What judge is assigned depends upon the type of case it is, and the first letter of the defendant's last name.
It can be difficult to determine what courtroom a specific client is required to appear in. The most reliable direction comes from a paper list of all cases scheduled for hearing that day, alphabetical by client name, which is posted in the hallway outside the District Court rooms on the second floor of the Public Safety Building.
Clients in custody will be transported to the proper courtroom for their Pre-Trial Conference.
Pre-Trial conferences are intended for the court to monitor discovery and scheduling. In practice it is often when defense attorneys and prosecutors conduct most of their plea bargaining. Many judges begin the docket late or take substantial recess so these discussions may occur. If a plea agreement is reached, the plea* and sentencing can occur at that pre-trial conference.
It is not uncommon for successive Pre-Trial Conferences to be held.
*NOTE: before entering a guilty plea in court, the defense counsel completes and the defendant signs a Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty. This document can be several pages long. These triplicate forms are available in the courtroom, and also on the Washington Courts website at http://www.courts.wa.gov/. In addition, a guilty plea to certain specific offenses may require the defendant to acknowledge special additional pages, warning of penalties specific to that charge.
Trials are usually scheduled only after the parties have attempted a settlement via at least one pre-trial conference setting. Different judges have different days of the week set aside for trials. Frequently judges also set a "readiness date" a few days before the trial date, at which the attorney and defendant must appear. If a plea agreement is reached, a plea and sentencing is possible at the "readiness" hearing.
Barring a plea agreement, several cases could be scheduled for trial on a given date. At the readiness hearing, counsel will be expected to specify how many days remaining on the speedy trial clock, so that the cases can be prioritized. Some cases may be "on call" and sent to trial on short notice, after other cases settle.
A map of the county campus, including the Public Safety Building can be viewed at http://www.spokanecounty.org/content.aspx?c=1312