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Kitsap City Of Bremerton Judicial Municipal Court Judge

Municipal courts are those created by cities and towns. Violations of municipal or city ordinances are heard in municipal courts. A municipal court's authority over these ordinance violations is similar to the authority that district courts have over state law violations. The ordinance violation must have occurred within the boundaries of the municipality. Like district courts, municipal courts only have jurisdiction over gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors and infractions. Municipal courts do not accept civil or small claims cases. As with district courts, municipal courts can issue domestic violence protection orders and no-contact orders. A municipal court can issue anti-harassment protection orders upon adoption of a local court rule establishing that process. More than two million cases are filed annually in district and municipal courts. Excluding parking infractions, seven out of every eight cases filed in all state courts are filed at this level. This is due primarily to the broad jurisdiction these courts have over traffic violations and misdemeanors.
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  • James Docter (NP) Municipal Court Judge

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Biographical Information

Why did you decide to run for this position?

What are the major issues facing the court today?

How could the municipal court be made more efficient?

What particular skills will you bring to this position?

Phone 360-473-5215
Email jamesdocter@hotmail.com
Town where you live Bremerton
Experience (300 characters max) I've been Bremerton's municipal court judge for almost twenty years. Prior to that I was a criminal defense attorney for nine years in Kitsap County District and Superior courts.
Initially I decided to run for this position because I felt I was more qualified than the incumbent, and thought I could do a better job. I decided to run again this year because I still believe I am highly qualified, and that I'm still doing a good job. Plus, I still enjoy my job tremendously.
Any trial court has two punitive options available for those who commit crimes: fines and jail/prison time. (Although there are various alternatives to jail time that can be imposed.) Across the country, and in the state of Washington, the trial courts are being told (by Supreme Court Justices and other experts) the fines we are imposing are too high, and the jail time is too much. We are admonished that people can't pay what we assess, and our jails/prisons are too full. Sympathetic judges must find creative sanctions that are effective, yet don't violate this directive (or its spirit) from higher courts.

Behavioral health issues are very prevalent in the population we serve. Finding the right services and connecting defendants with them is challenging, but critical.

Also, technological advances can be problematic. Locally and statewide, courts struggle with access to fast, accurate and effective case management systems necessary to manage our heavy caseloads and calendars.
We can be more efficient with better computer systems for managing our caseloads and calendars.

We need to continue to innovate and develop ways of handling and monitoring those with behavioral health issues. We have incorporated behavioral health specialists to better approach this population, but resources and methods must be supported and maintained. This will continue to help us in our mission to protect the public and get help for those who struggle with these issues.

More probation staff and resources would help supervise offenders and better protect businesses and the public from criminal activity.

We could function more efficiently and effectively if we had our own jail, or if we had easier access to a holding facility. I do not expect this to be remedied anytime soon. Or ever.
My skills include possessing and demonstrating substantial patience and mountains of compassion, twenty nine years of on the job criminal justice training, and a strong command of the principles of criminal law. I have attended several hundreds of hours of judicial education in the last twenty years, and served on several committees designed to improve the way judges administer justice. This includes serving on many judicial education committees, the Board for Judicial Administration's Public Trust and Confidence committee, and serving on the District and Municipal Court Judges' Association Board of Governors. I attended the Leadership Institute for Judicial Education in Memphis, Tennessee. This ongoing activity has helped make me a better judge. I continuously look for ways to improve my skills, including networking and consulting with other judges, reading useful articles and participating in on-line training.

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