Spokane County Document Viewer for Case Activity and Hearing Dates

Today I stumbled over a new online resource for the Spokane County Courts.  Using the document viewer online, the docket listing the documents filed in the matter and upcoming/past court dates can be accessed by searching a party’s name or case number.  For example, here is the link to look up a Superior Court Case by name.

Through various committees and individual efforts, the Spokane County Bar is providing ongoing input to the local courts to encourage movement towards electronic filing and online document access.  One of the biggest challenges is protecting the case documents filed under seal (identifying information, medical records, etc.) . From the sudden appearance of this new method of local case searches, it appears the groundwork is in place for eventual online access.  Online access to the actual case documents in the future will be a huge resource not only for attorneys, but for self-represented litigants.


 

Clocktower

The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.  Edward R. Murrow

Family Law Temporary Motion Hearing in Spokane – What to Expect

Family law motion hearings are very stressful and emotional for the parties involved.  Often the motion hearing is the first time either party has ever been inside the courtroom as a litigant.  Also, it is quite common for these hearings to occur within the first 14-21 days of the case being started.

In Spokane the Court Commissioners preside over the temporary orders motion hearing.  All of the parties who have a case set for hearing on that particular day report to the Court at 8:30 a.m. at docket call.  I usually do not require my clients to accompany me to docket call, however, this is a personal preference that varies by attorney.  Parties who are not represented by attorneys are required to show up at docket call.

At docket all, a Court Commissioner calls each case and the parties report as to whether or not the case is ready for hearing that day.  Once the Commissioner has gone through the docket, the Court goes into recess.  Typically docket call takes about 15 minutes.

During the recess, the Commissioners meet with court staff to quickly go through the court files for the cases called ready that day.  There are usually two Commissioners assigned to hear the motions.  There are two time slots for hearings – 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Each Commissioner will set four hearings per time slot. Once the order of the cases are decided by the Commissioners and staff, a list is posted on the outside of the Courtroom with the assigned hearings and times.  On a light docket day, the list is usually up no later than 9:15 a.m.  On a heavy docket day, the list may not be posted until about 9:30 a.m.

During the actual hearing each party (through their attorney if they have one) is allotted ten (10) minutes to argue for or against the motion.  Normally, there is no “live” testimony.  The testimony of each party and their witnesses is submitted in advance in a written declaration.  By the time of the hearing, the Commissioner will have read the declarations and financial statements.  After hearing the arguments of both parties, the Commissioner will make a ruling.  After the ruling, the parties are expected to go out to the hallway and convert the Commissioner’s ruling into a written order.

Of course, there are some rare exceptions to the above process.  If a party is not represented by an attorney, the Court may choose to swear that party in and ask questions of that party.  Occasionally, a request is made in advance for live testimony which the Court may or may not allow.  (Such a request is rare.)  Also, the Commissioner can always forego making an immediate ruling if the Court needs additional information.

The Spokane County Superior Court website posted procedural guidelines pertaining to docket call which are available here.

This web site and these articles are not legal advice and are not intended as legal advice.  This web site and these articles are intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information.  This web site and these articles are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed.  The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you.  This web site and these articles do not create any attorney client relationship between you and Tamara C. Murray.  This web site and the articles contained on this web site are not solicitations.

Spokane Local Family Law Rule – Parenting Seminar

In Spokane County Superior Court, parents involved in litigation pertaining to their children (dissolution of marriage and paternity/parentage actions) are required to attend a parenting seminar.

The seminar costs about $20 and is offered by more than one agency with hours to accommodate working parents.  The length of the seminar is approximately three hours.

After attending the seminar, the agency will forward certification to the court file.  Before signing final orders, the Commissioners and Judges routinely check the court file to make sure both parties attended the seminar.

Please feel free to download the flier distributed by the Spokane County Family Law Coordinator which lists the provider agencies with contact information.

Sharing the Children Seminar

Spokane Superior Court Clerk Hours in 2010

The County of Spokane is struggling with budget cuts and the judicial and law enforcement departments are taking some big hits. I’m sure other departments are in the same predicament, but as someone who works with the judicial department, I’m keenly aware of the upcoming changes and reductions in services. One of the adjustments I’m going to have to make is not being able to take advantage of the quiet time in the Superior Court Clerk’s office over lunch. Effective January 1, 2010, the new office hours for the Superior Court Clerk are Monday through Friday:

8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
(Closed for Lunch)
1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

It is my understanding that seven (7) staff positions were eliminated in the Clerk’s office and they are asking for everyone’s patience as they try to perform the same functions with reduced staff and hours.

Spokane County Family Law Court Video

The Family Law Department of the Spokane Superior Court quietly added a great resource to its website.   A video was posted which explains the most commonly encountered steps in a dissolution of marriage.  The video is hosted on the Superior Court website here.  The video also plays non-stop in the first floor of the County Courthouse and is required viewing for anyone taking advantage of the Family Court Facilitator services.

I’ve viewed some of the chapters of the video and it’s a great resource for both my clients and for individuals filing their own dissolution action without attorneys.    Although the case depicted is fictional, the video is filmed in the actual courtrooms featuring the local judges and commissioners.

New Website Design

I’ve been intending to overhaul this website for quite awhile.  After poking around looking for inspiration, I decided to go with WordPress after seeing the great new theme created at Headway Themes.

I’ve used the free version of WordPress and based on that experience I knew it was a very user-friendly content management system.  Once I saw the bells and whistles available at Headway Themes, I was sold.    I wanted a website that I could easily update (both in content and design) and I am very happy with the initial results.

There is a lot more tinkering to be done with the overall layout/design and some new pages to add.  In the to-do bucket presently:

  • A page of online resources for family law in Washington and family law litigants in Spokane County.
  • An article focused on Spokane County for folks who want general information about the family law help available locally which will include:
    • Location of statutes and court rules.
    • An online child support calculator.
    • A list of mediators.
    • Where to find the forms you need.

Those are just a few of the ideas I have percolating around in my head to make this website not only a marketing tool for my practice, but also an online resource for self-help seekers and my own clients.

Jury Instructions are Serious Business

As a family law attorney, I don’t get to try cases in front of jurors. However, as a legal-geek, jury trials do fascinate me. We just had a development in a local Spokane case that illustrates just how serious the jury instruction not to talk about the case is taken by the Court. A juror was tossed off a high-profile case in Spokane today for discussing a prosecutor’s comb-over at a social gathering. The link to the Spokesman Reviewarticle is here.

Even though the comments made by the juror were pretty benign and apparently meant innocently,he was tossed off the panel. Moral to the story is that if you are juror, even non-substantive social chit-chat-type comments are off limits.