Washington Court Records
What Are the Functions of the Washington Court of Appeals?
The Washington Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court for Washington and has a non-discretionary jurisdiction. Non-discretionary jurisdiction means the Court of Appeals must approve, investigate, and provide a documented verdict for all appeals filed, unlike the Washington State’s Supreme Court, which can reject an appeal. The Court of Appeals has three divisions in different locations:
- Division I: Located in Seattle and houses ten judges
- Division II: Located in Tacoma and houses seven judges
- Division III: Located in Spokane and houses five judges
Three judges are generally available in each division to hear appealed cases. There is no full bench review for a division; however, a judge from one division may serve as an acting judge on another division. The Court of Appeals in Washington has two main functions which are:
- To ascertain if the court below in hierarchy used the right laws on every case.
- To identify if the evidence supports the judgment of the jury/court.
Furthermore, the Washington Court of Appeals has exclusive jurisdiction to overturn, incarcerate, alter, or confirm the lower court’s verdict. The court makes each case judgment after accessing the record transcripts in the superior court and considering both party’s arguments.
However, several cases may go past the Court of Appeals and straight to the state’s highest court, the Supreme Court. Some of the issues worthy of direct Supreme Court jurisdiction usually involve:
- A state officer
- A lower court ruling with an unconstitutional statute or ordinance
- Conflicting regulations or rules of law
- A case of public interest requiring a prompt and ultimate hearing
- The imposition of the death penalty
According to the Washington court structure, the Court of Appeals handles the following cases:
- All personal restraint petitions
- Appeals from decisions made by administrative agencies
- Cases with an already-imposed death penalty
- Discretionary investigation of interlocutory appeals from sentences of the Superior Court which seems to have no other potent remedy
- All appeals from final verdicts of the Superior Court
- Writs of quo warranto, prohibition, injunction, or mandamus directed to state officials
- Discretionary investigation of the Superior Court’s rulings in an appeal from a court with limited jurisdiction
- Cases of fundamental and critical matters of public import requiring prompt and terminal decisions
- Cases where a tax or statute validity was held to breach the state’s constitution
However, a discretionary review will only be accepted if:
- There was an obvious error committed by the trial court, which renders other proceedings unnecessary.
- There was a probable mistake committed by the trial court, hence altering the status quo or limiting one party’s freedom.
- The trial court has gone off-course for judicial proceedings and needs the Court of Appeals for review.
Interested parties must make a motion for discretionary review within 15 days after the Court of Appeals accepts the case. The court has the power to agree or review the entire case.
The state of Washington has 9 Supreme Court justices, 22 Appellate Court judges, and 186 Superior Court judges, all selected in the same manner. All judges compete in contested elections, are given no reference to party affiliation, and when the terms expire, the judges may run for re-election. Court of Appeals judges generally serve for six years before contesting for re-election.
The Chief Justice of the Washington Court of Appeals has a set term of one year to run. For a judge to serve on the Court of Appeals, the judge must:
- Have lived in that district for a year at least
- Have practiced law in the court of Washington for at least five years
In the state of Washington, a nonpartisan election appoints judges. A nonpartisan election is when the court holds a primary election but does not wish to find one best candidate from each party. Instead, the goal is to find two top tier candidates, regardless of the party, to advance to the general election. During the primary and general elections, all candidates are registered on a ballot without any party affiliation.
If a judge of the state’s Court of Appeals resigns or dies during the term in office, the Governor appoints another to fill that position.
Below are the locations of Washington State Courts of Appeals:
Seattle Appellate Court
600 University St
+1 (206) 464–7750
Spokane Appellate Court
500 N Cedar St,
+1 (509) 456–3082
Tacoma Appellate Court
+1 (253) 593–2970
Interested persons can find Washington Court of Appeals case records via the Appellate Court. Court files concerning the court that heard the case can be accessed by calling the court clerk and specifically asking about a particular topic. However, depending on the court system, the clerk may give the record results over the phone or require the requestor to get it in person. According to the Court of Appeals judicial system, a notice must be filed between 30 days after the verdict being appealed has been entered with the court’s clerk.
Typically, the Court of Appeals will organize a verbal argument between four to six months after completing the briefs. However, the court can also decide on cases without granting a verbal argument. After the oral argument, the case can take as long as ten months or a year to make its final judgment.
In between the part with the notice appeal and awaiting judgment, there may be many twists and turns along the way, such as extending the time, accelerating review, attorney fees, court fees, staying the trial pending appeal, and other procedural motions. The court can plan a conference on its own or at the request of a party. Both parties can also settle the case amicably rather than move further with the appeal. These can be quite tricky, so experienced appellate attorneys are required as the lawyer knows how to handle each situation and help guide clients through the appellate court system.