Thursday, Dec 05, 2019
 
search SGN
Thursday, Dec 05, 2019
click to go to click to visit advertiser's website


 

 

Speakeasy Speed Test

Cost of the
War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
 

 

 

click to go to advertisers website
 
Jean Rietschel - innovative judge runs for Superior Court
Jean Rietschel - innovative judge runs for Superior Court
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

Judge Jean Rietschel has been an innovator in her 12 years on the bench. The first openly Lesbian judge in Washington State, she is also the originator of the Domestic Violence Court, one of the Co-Chairs of the Misdemeanor Report work group, and a long-time advocate for Seattle's re-licensing program. The Seattle Municipal Court Judge is running for a vacant seat on the King County Superior Court against two other opponents. She will be on the primary ballot this August 19.

"I didn't intend to be a judge," she says. "It just happened that way. I served pro tem several times&And I found I liked it! It's the best job I ever had. I use everything I know every day." Rietschell notes with pride that she has been rated "Outstanding" by Seattle's Municipal League, and "Exceptionally Well Qualified" by QLaw, the LGBT Bar Association.

What makes a good judge in Rietschel's view is life experience. "You have to use your emotional intelligence when interacting with people. It's not just intellectual. You have to have a good heart as well as good intellect."

"You have to understand people," she adds. "You have to have experience with adversity as well as success. Often you're dealing with people who've experienced a lot of adversity." Rietschel has tried to apply exactly these insights in her reforms of the Municipal Court.

The Domestic Violence Court allows the same judge to handle a case with the same defendants and family members involved for a period of two years. Rietschel believes this allows for better tracking of the case, and more familiarity with the issues and defendants.

Domestic violence cases "are the most serious cases we have before the Municipal Court, in terms of potential harm to the community," she says. Before the creation of the Domestic Violence Court "only 30% of probation violations resulted in court action, while now 70% result in action by the court," Rietschel says, resulting in much improved protection for victims of domestic assaults and abuse.

The Misdemeanor Report was written by a working group of police, prosecutors, judges, and attorneys. Rietschel co-chaired the panel with another judge. Their findings "became what everybody's doing now. Sometimes you write a report and it just gets filed somewhere and forgotten. I've participated in plenty of those. But this time our recommendations went somewhere," Rietschel says with satisfaction.

Rietschel's goal for the group was both to improve the efficiency of the Municipal Courts, and "to make the courts a better place for people who have a dim view of what courts do." The reforms resulting from the Report include better notice to defendants of upcoming court dates, "so we don't spend all our money tracking down people when they don't show up," she says.

The Alternatives to Confinement program also had its origins in the Misdemeanor Report. "In the old days you'd just put people in jail or fine them. Maybe assign community service. Now we have options that can be more positive and rehabilitative," Rietschel says. Electronic monitoring is now used often as an alternative to jail time.

"I worked with CAMP (Central Area Motivation Project) and LELO (Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing) on the re-licensing program," Rietschel says, citing two organizations based in Seattle's communities of color. "We did a lot of outreach to folks who don't trust courts too much."

The re-licensing program allows drivers who have had their auto licenses suspended or revoked to regain driving privileges. It serves mainly the working poor and communities of color, because they are the most likely to have difficulties paying traffic tickets or fines.

"A typical ticket for driving without insurance, let's say, is $450," Rietschel explains. "Maybe you can't afford to pay, so you drive anyway. Then the next violation is a criminal offense. What we wanted to do is to keep people out of the system."

The re-licensing program offers amnesty to those driving without a valid license and a time payment program that allows poorer drivers to pay off their accumulated tickets and fines while continuing to drive legally. The time payment plan Rietschel helped to introduce in Seattle set a precedent for the whole state. "I worked with Sen. Adam Kline who introduced legislation to allow all courts to offer time payments," Rietschel says.

Rietschel intends to apply this same innovative attitude to work on the Superior Court, she says. She is particularly enthusiastic about an idea for a "Unified Family Court" where all cases involving the same family would be handled by same judge. Like the Domestic Violence Court at the Municipal Court level, she expects this Unified Family Court to allow for better tracking of family law cases.

Rietschel is also eager to help tackle the Superior Court's budget problems, as she did as Presiding Judge of Seattle's Municipal Court. "The Municipal Court has budget problems," she says, "but the Superior Court has a real budget crisis. Washington State is 47th or 50th in the U.S. in money assigned to courts." The Superior Court's budget comes from both county and state sources. "Courts compete with everybody else for county and state funds," Rietschel says. "We need a more stable source of income. What I can see is more reliance on expanded state funding."

Rietschel believes that the LGBT community is still disadvantaged by the legal system. "We're more fairly treated than we used to be, but we still face prejudice and discrimination," she says. "Even now, we don't have the same legal protections as other minorities." Rietschel practiced juvenile law as an attorney, among other areas of specialization, and she notes that homeless youth involved in the court system are disproportionately LGBT.

Rietschel lives with her partner of 30 years Lois Thetford. Asked how the family was holding up under the stress of a hotly contested campaign Rietschel replied, "She's doing great! She's been very helpful. She's actually a better political organizer than I am." The couple enjoys visits from their grandson, Max. "We have him every Friday afternoon," Rietschel says. "He provides the comic relief of the campaign."

click to visit advertiser's website

click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
Seattle Gay Blog post your own information on
the Seattle Gay Blog



: http://sgn.org/rss.xml | what is RSS?
copyright Seattle Gay News - DigitalTeamWorks 2008

USA Gay News American News American Gay News USA American Gay News United States American Lesbian News USA American Lesbian News United States USA News