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District court office on shaky ground

Federal Way residents seeking small or civil claims or dealing with traffic tickets issued east of Interstate 5 might have to go to court outside Federal Way if a county cost-cutting proposal to consolidate several district courts becomes a reality.

Though the city hasn’t stated an official position, assistant city manager Derek Matheson said Federal Way’s Municipal Court will continue to handle many cases that used to be heard in District Court.

“We’re sympathetic to the county’s need to control its costs and supportive of efforts to create an efficient court system,” Matheson said.

County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer said he supports saving taxpayers money by eliminating duplicative court services.

“Because of the establishment of Federal Way’s MunicipalCcourt, most of the cases that used to go to the county District Court now go to” the city-operated court, he said.

Federal Way began contracting with King County for court service when the incorporated in 1990.

The Federal Way division of District Court hears cases involving traffic infractions, misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors stemming from unincorporated King County.

District Court also hears civil and small claims cases, vehicle impounds, name changes and anti-harassment and protection orders. It also provides passport services.

The Municipal Court, established in 2000, hears civil and traffic infractions, criminal and gross misdemeanors and civil vehicle impounds stemming from the city.

“The question is, do we need two courts?” von Reichbauer said. “Now we’re just duplicating services that one (court) could provide.”

Most Federal Way residents won’t be affected by the change. All city traffic infractions will still be heard in Municipal Court. So will city misdemeanors and impounds.

Federal Way residents will have to go somewhere else if they get a ticket in unincorporated areas outside city limits, for example.

The County Council will hear several court-trimming proposals at its regular meeting Monday.

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