The Washington state Attorney General’s Office has declined to represent the seven judges who are suing the Franklin County clerk over his decision to convert to all-digital documents.
Prosecutor Shawn Sant had made the request after the lawsuit was filed March 21 in Franklin County Superior Court.
The suit pits county elected officials against another county elected official, Mike Killian.
However, the Superior Court judges are dual officers, with half of their salary paid by the state and the other half covered by Benton and Franklin counties for the bicounty judicial system, explained Sant. That’s why he was hoping Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office would step in.
Sant previously retained two private lawyers to represent the judges and Killian.
In November 2015, Killian’s office got a new electronic records management system that involves the placement of a touchscreen monitor on each courtroom bench so judges can view scanned copies of case documents.
Killian decided at the time to start reducing paper files, with the ultimate goal of going paperless by the end of 2017. While he no longer maintains physical file folders for each new case, he does keep copies of the documents in a box corresponding to the day and the case type.
The lawsuit alleges that Killian refused to follow the direction of the judges, who want him to keep paper copies of all files until the Odyssey system is fully reliable and accessible.
The unprecedented local action has been on hold while Sant waited for hear back on his request. That means the 20-day deadline for Killian to file a response was delayed.
A funding request for the judges’ legal fees was on Tuesday’s agenda before the Franklin County Commission. However, it was tabled for a later meeting.
County Administrator Keith Johnson said he had received an email Monday “that they’re not ready to move forward with that discussion.”