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Spokane City Council gives raises to municipal judges

Tue., Oct. 29, 2013, midnight

Three Spokane Municipal Court judges will get a $17,000 salary bump, the City Council decided Monday.

The judges had been receiving the lowest pay among all of the state’s municipal judges.

The action will boost the salaries to $137,000. They haven’t had a raise in five years.

The amount is 95 percent of the $144,000 pay set for county District Court judges by the state’s salary commission.

The city now will be eligible for trial court improvement funds from the state.

Those grants will more than offset the cost of the higher salaries, said Presiding Judge Mary Logan. Spokane will net $7,000 during the first year of the grants.

Councilman Mike Allen said the higher salaries will ensure that Spokane remains competitive in attracting future judges.

All three of the current judges – Logan, Tracy Staab and Michelle Szambelan – are running unopposed on this year’s city ballot.

Council President Ben Stuckart praised the three judges for their willingness to be innovative.

In an interview after the council vote, the judges said they are strong supporters of alternatives to jail. The court handles about 12,000 new criminal cases each year, but many inmates have more than one charge.

The judges have implemented an electronic home monitoring system in lieu of bail for 25 to 30 inmates at a time. The monitoring is credited with ensuring that defendants show up in court when they are scheduled to be there, the judges said.

The court has contracted with the state Department of Corrections to provide community service opportunities as part of many sentences. The state charges $16 a day compared with the $130 a day it costs to have someone in jail.

The court also implemented an electronic case management system, which has eased workloads and speeded the handling of cases, the judges said.

The judges are also working on a plan to open a community court at the Downtown Library that will get nonprofit organizations and health care providers involved in helping defendants turn their lives around, they said.



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