I have worked virtually my entire career in the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle. It is a place that usually hums with people and energy. It brings together high-powered attorneys, everyday jurors, victims of crime, defendants charged with crimes, and all of us who work there. It is a place where people go to tell their story and seek justice. It is a place that I love, in all of its dilapidated charm, because of this melting pot of humanity.
All that changed on March 19, 2020, when the Washington State Supreme Court put a halt to jury trials and most in-person court appearances. Judges and most court staff are working from home, the “Just Us” café on the first floor is closed, and the courthouse has become quiet. Virtually all criminal hearings are postponed; Civil motions are heard over the phone; Default judgments and evictions are on hold; and domestic violence protection orders have moved online, without the need for victims to go to the courthouse to seek advocacy, help and, court intervention.
While we all know of the statistics that show women are disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, the changes to the domestic violence protection order may help increase victim, mostly women’s, safety. There have been mixed reports of whether the incidence of domestic violence has increased during the shelter in place order. But seeking an order of the court for protection has never been easier. No longer do victims have to find childcare or pay for downtown parking or get time off from work to come to the courthouse for relief. LegalAtoms.com is a free website that allows domestic violence victims to complete court documents, link to protection order advocates, and E-file in King County, all without any fees. I can’t claim any credit for these innovations; I’ve been working on getting my civil cases moving forward and figuring out how to hold trials via Zoom, but I fully support keeping anything that makes it easier for victims of domestic violence to get relief in the post-COVID world.
While we’re all adjusting to life in the time of COVID, I’m hoping that some of these changes end up moving us out of our complacency of business as usual.
-Judge Melinda Young, King County Superior Court Pos. 6, Incumbent Running for Re-Election
Learn more here: https://www.judgemelindayoung.com/