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Budget, workload lead debate for Bremerton Municipal Court judge

Eggs and Issues returns with incumbent Docter, challenger Wolfe.

After a short recess, Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues forum was back in session Tuesday.

Bremerton Municipal Court Judge James Docter and Ed Wolfe, a local attorney vying to replace Docter after his 12 years as judge, met to take questions from the public.

Wolfe focused his speech on “efficiencies,” things he said would speed up the court process and reduce court costs like write-in contesting of parking violations and online payment processing of court fines and fees.

He also said he would like to see the municipal court judge position do more outreach to youth in Bremerton.

“We have to get to the kids before they become a part of the system,” Wolfe said.

Docter retorted, saying Wolfe’s plans for “efficiencies” will not work and Wolfe’s idea of the job of judge is not correct.

“My job is not to solve the problem of crime,” Docter said. “That is the job of the police and prosecutor.”

With budget cuts affecting various city departments, many of the questions asked revolved around the court’s expenditures and how the candidates planned to help with those costs.

“Increasing efficiencies to lower costs,” is the best solution to the budget issue, Wolfe said.

Docter said the workload has increased dramatically in recent years and a plan to cut down on court time is just not presently feasible.

“With regard to ‘efficiencies,’ workloads and pro tem time, I refer you to Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge’s Annual Report which can be found at www.kitsapgov.com/pros,” Docter said. “You will see the last Annual Report he did was in 2008 for 2007. He evidently has budget issues that preclude him from producing a 2009 report for 2008. Specifically, I refer you to pages 32 and 34, the criminal filings for District Court and Bremerton Municipal Court. The criminal filings in Bremerton increased dramatically over the years referenced there. I believe they amount to a 62 percent increase in a four year period, and a 32 percent increase from 2006 to 2007 alone.”

Docter said there is a disparity between District Court and Municipal court as well.

“Compare the District Court filings, which stayed rather steady over four years,” he added. “Please note, Bremerton filings are two-thirds those of District Court, while District Court has 4.5 judges, compared to Bremerton’s sole judge, plus pro tems. District Court also has civil and small claims cases, but they do not have parking or photo enforcement tickets.”

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