The Federal Way Municipal Court needs to heal from damage caused by negative attention and lawsuits.
However, a proposal to terminate the municipal court, and instead contract with King County’s district court, is not the best option for Federal Way in the long run.
Once the city council pulls that trigger, the bullet cannot be taken back — at least for several years.
In financial terms, autonomy is the best route for Federal Way in any municipal matter. The city saves roughly $256,573 by operating its own court. Futhermore, contracting court services with the county presents too many economic risks. The county has already established a reputation for delivering subpar public service. That’s one reason why Federal Way incorporated in 1990 and eventually formed its own police department a few years later. The city council should consider the guaranteed economic headaches from contracting with the county.
With the court’s underlying institutional issues, the council has every right to examine whether the court is worth keeping. For nearly a year and a half, Federal Way endured costly legal drama over the public release of a court workplace investigation (dubbed “the Stephson Report”). If the problem rests with the court’s management, then the council should at least wait to see if Federal Way voters re-elect Presiding Judge Michael Morgan in November.
The proposal to terminate the municipal court seems more like a short-term fix than a sound solution. The court and city must end the “us vs. them” attitude that was exaggerated to the hilt during the past year. Federal Way must seize this opportunity to set an example for courts across the state in terms of managerial accountability and public confidence.
Federal Way must strengthen the court, not throw it away.