Pierce County District Court Judge Position No. 6 – Karl Williams

Judicial Questionnaire

Candidate Information

  • Candidate Name: KARL WILLIAMS
  • Position Sought: PIERCE COUNTY DISTRICT COURT JUDGE POSITION NO. 6 (Non-incumbent)
  • Home Legislative District: 28th Legislative District
  • Democrat: Pierce County District Court Judge is a Non-Partisan position

Campaign Information

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

I served have as Pierce County District Court Judge Pro Tem for 22 years. I have also served as a Judge Pro Tem for Fife, Puyallup and Ruston. I have practiced law for 31 years with trial experience in both criminal and civil cases.

1978, Graduate, Curtis High School; 1982, BA, University of Washington, Political Science; 1986, JD, University of Puget Sound Law School.

Faculty Member National Judicial College; Volunteer Pierce County Free Legal Clinics; Member NAACP; Rotary District 5020, Youth Protection Officer; Member Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective; Member Allen AME Church

2. What law firms or public law offices (i.e. King County Prosecutor’s Office) have you worked for? Have you served as a prosecutor or a public defender? Please include dates, and title for each position that you have held, as well as areas of law practiced.

1984 Intern, Pierce County Dept of Assigned Counsel; Criminal Law
1985 – 1987, Rule Nine Intern, Griffin, Imperiale, Bobman and Verhey; General
1987 – 1992, Attorney, Griffin, Imperiale, Bobman and Verhey; General
1992 – 1997, Of Counsel, Peter J. Nichols and Associates; General
1997 – present, President, Griffin & Williams. P. S.; General (Family Law excluded)

3. Have you ever served as a mediator or arbitrator? (If so, please describe your experiences.) If you are an incumbent, do you perform settlement conferences?

I have served as an arbitrator for the Superior courts of Pierce and King County since 1995. I have been a volunteer mediator since 1997. My experiences as an arbitrator and mediator have been very beneficial in honing my skills as a neutral decision maker.

4. Have you been a judge pro-tem? If so, what was that experience like? What did you learn from it?

I have been a Judge Pro Tem for 22 years. I love the experience and it has motivated me to run for the position. Every time I take the bench it is an opportunity to learn. Experience is knowledge. I understand that patience and respect are the means to better court management. Everyone who has come before me has been treated with respect and patience and for the most part they have reciprocated. Judges can help people make changes in their lives for the better. I have seen this first hand and I know I can make a difference.

5. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?

Experience is one of the most important qualifications. My 22 years on the bench as a Pro Tem Judge are invaluable as I have heard every type of case in District Court. I can draw upon that experience to make proper decisions in the cases that will come before me.

Judicial temperament is also essential. Judges have to be in control of their emotions, as they cannot effectively manage a courtroom if they are losing their temper. Judges have to understand that the people that come before them are often nervous, inexperienced and intimidated. My tone of voice and my attitude towards individuals can make all the difference in how they view their court experience.

Knowledge of the law is another essential qualification. As a Pro Tem Judge, I pride myself in being prepared by reading the all materials submitted prior to the hearing. I familiarize myself with the law, to confirm that my understanding is current and the law has not evolved or changed since my last review

The most important qualification is caring about the people who come before the court. I see every case as unique, every situation different. I must make sure I am doing what is not only best for the safety of the community, but also what is best for that particular individual.

6. What prompted you to run for this office? What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?

District Court judges can change lives. District Court Judges have the ability to require evaluations and treatment. When I see the impact that these life changes have on individuals and their families, I want to be a part of that, that’s why I am running.

One priority for me is to change the way that Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM) is offered. EHM is jail alternative that allows an individual to serve their sentence in their home and allows them to continue their employment. Currently, EHM is only available to those who can afford the cost. People who are financially challenged can ill afford to lose their employment yet these are the individuals denied the option of EHM due to the fact that they cannot afford the cost. The costs of housing an inmate in the Pierce County Jail is substantially more expensive than the costs of EHM. Pierce County can save money by absorbing the cost of EHM.

7. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

I have secured endorsements from judicial officers, elected officials, attorneys and community leaders. I have attended campaign events and candidate forums. I have mailed information to the voting public. I have spoken to groups both large and small. I have maintained a media presence. I have put up campaign signs in most areas of the county. I will continue to do everything I can to get my message out, and that is “Good judges make a difference.”

 

Part II – Position-specific

1. Do you support making it easier for Washingtonians who are not members of the bar to access public records, particularly at the Superior/District court levels, where per-page fees are charged?

Yes, I would support that. Currently if you want copies of records in Pierce County District Court you have to physically go to the clerk’s office and request the file, determine what copies you want and have someone in the clerk’s office physically make the copies for you. If records are filed and stored electronically, that may be a means to making it easier to access records. It is simply more efficient. If accessing and copying records can be done on-line, it should reduce the cost significantly.

2. Do you have any thoughts on how our courts should address the growing use of smartphones during court proceedings, particularly by jurors?

As a rule, we ask that all phones be turned off, not just silenced, during court proceedings. There is the problem of jurors using their smartphones to get information and/or conduct their own investigation. This is prohibited and the jurors are instructed not to make attempts to get information and/or conduct their own investigations by any means and that includes their smartphones. There will always be those who cannot resist the temptation and will disregard these instructions. Often other jurors who are abiding by the court’s instructions will report if they see other jurors disobeying the instructions of the court. Self-reporting or reports from other jurors are the only means to determine if a juror’s conduct was inappropriate, and if it was inappropriate the court must make a determination if that conduct prejudiced the participants’ ability to get a fair trial. If the conduct did in fact detract from the participant’s ability to get a fair trial, then the court must fashion a remedy.

3. Is Washington relying too much on court fees to cover the cost of operating our judicial system? How do you believe our courts should be funded?

Court fees are not going away, but we have to start looking at other sources of funding for the Courts.
One alternative source recently utilized by Pierce County are the funds generated from the Trueblood case. These are the funds generated from the State’s failure to have mental health defendants evaluated in a timely fashion. The contempt sanctions have been used by Pierce County to assist in funding various programs for the mentally challenged and veterans.
Court fees are felt the most by low income individuals who do have the option in almost every type of case to make application to the court to proceed “in forma pauperis”. If the judicial officer makes the determination that the individual cannot afford the court fees, then the judicial officer can order that the fees be reduced or waived in their entirety.

 

Part III – Access to Justice

1. If elected, how will you work to improve access to justice, particularly for communities and constituencies that do not understand the American legal system?

Pierce County District Court has free interpreters to assist in criminal cases. The court also has free interpreters to assist in traffic infractions. But these services are not available in small claims and civil cases. Perhaps that is something the court should consider.

Pierce County has consolidated all of its outlying courts to the downtown location. The increased distance to court for the individuals in the outlying areas can create problems. To address these concerns the court created better access through technology. Some technological advances in Pierce County District Court include on-line access to schedule a traffic hearing; the ability to electronically file a traffic hearing by mail, on-line chat is available through the clerk’s office. I would suggest that these on-line services be provided in several languages. The Court has yet to allow electronic filing and/or retrieval of records in civil cases. However, there are plans to do so in the future. This will hopefully allow better access to everyone.

2. What does the phrase Black Lives Matter mean to you as a judicial candidate?

As an African-American judicial candidate it has significant meaning. Black Lives Matter is a response to the seeming indifference to the loss of black lives due to law enforcement actions. Many times law enforcement is found by their internal investigations to have acted appropriately even though there may be visual evidence to the contrary. A further frustration by the Black Lives Matter movement is the apparent lack of any legal accountability by the individuals who are criminally charged. The acquittal rate is quite alarming. To the Black Lives Matter movement, it seems there is no justice for African-American victims regardless of the evidence (often captured on video) against law enforcement. As a legal professional, I know that these law enforcement individuals must be given wide latitude to make split second life or death decisions. First we must admit that there is a problem. Only then can we have a productive dialogue on possible solutions. One possible approach is to require more training directed at recognizing and addressing inherent bias. We must find a way to reduce the number of innocent African-American victims. Doing so will benefit all innocent victims.

3. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?

The Pierce County District has been pro-active in trying to respond to the needs of the citizens. They have recently created a mental health court, a veterans’ court and have a program called DART for assistance for first time offenders with opiate addiction. As chair of the District/Municipal Court Liaison Committee I will continue to foster a dialogue amongst community stake holders in addressing these issues.

 


By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name: KARL WILLIAMS

Date: 07/24/18

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