Seven Tri-City judges aren't suing Franklin County Clerk Michael Killian over paperless records.
They're suing because of Killian.
Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner made the disclosure in a written exchange with Barbara Christensen, the president of the Washington State Association of County Clerks.
The letter was included in a recent court filing in the case, which involves Washington's new court electronic records system, Odyssey, which is being implemented in most counties this year.
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"(T)he bench does not have an Odyssey problem. But, there is a clerk problem," Spanner wrote to Christensen.
The judges sued Killian in March to force him to maintain paper files for criminal, divorce, probate and other matters handled in court.
Last week, the dispute spawned a separate case now under consideration by the state Supreme Court.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant asked the state's highest court to review an order after the judges appointed a special deputy prosecutor to work under him as their attorney.
The Killian case is rooted in his move to fully transition Franklin County to the Odyssey system.
The system has operated for more than a year. In a cost-cutting move announced in December, Killian said he would stop maintaining a separate paper record keeping system last January.
The judges saw that as a challenge to their authority to manage the courts. They want Killian to obey their rule requiring him to keep maintaining paper folders.
They say the court says it needs the folders so it can conduct business in jury rooms and other spots where computer terminals may not be available.
Though Spanner later disputed that Odyssey is the issue, the judges lawsuit expresses clear concern about a completely paperless system.
"The (judges) directed (Killian) to continue keeping and maintaining paper files until such time as the court can assure that a paperless system will allow it to effectively serve the court and the community," said the suit.
Their attorney, W. Dale Kamerrer, echoed that point in a meeting with the Franklin County commission., Kamerrer told commissioners Odyssey could lead to due process challenges that could result in successful appeals of local court decisions.
As a result, the case has been cast as a dispute over how records are kept and whether the elected judges or the elected clerk have the final word.
But when Christensen wrote to Spanner inviting him to share his concerns about the new system.
Spanner wrote that he's satisfied with Odyssey and has heard no complaints from his fellow judges.
Instead, he said Killian hasn't made full use of the system.
For example, he said Franklin County has seven "work flows" in its computer system while Thurston County has 253, suggesting Franklin isn't taking full advantage of what the system has to offer.
But Christensen explained that Thurston County has 20 work flows and that 253 refers to "event codes."
In his most damning complaint, Spanner said judgments and sentences aren't reaching the Franklin County jail in a timely fashion. He said prisoners are spending more time in custody as a result of Killian refusing to send felony judgments and sentences quickly.
Killian disputed that orders aren't reaching the jail in a timely manner. The clerk's office scans orders and emails them directly to the jail, a process that takes 30 seconds, he said. Using Odyssey for that function would take 30 to 40 minutes.
"This is totally out of his lane for him to even make that complaint," Killian told the Herald. He said he's baffled.
"He's never come to me to discuss issues regarding Odyssey or my office or myself," he said.
The suit against Killian is pending in Kittitas County Superior Court, with the next hearing set for July 13.
In the interim, a separate dispute over who should hire and compensate the judges' attorney, W. Dale Kamerrer, has been sent to the state Supreme Court for possible review.
After the Washington Attorney General and Franklin County commission declined to pay for Kamerrer's services, the judges signed an order appointing him a deputy special prosecutor. The judges signed the order without a public process and apparently without notifying Franklin County's elected prosecutor.
Sant said he was not informed about the move, even though he is identified as the defendant in records maintained in the Odyssey system.
Sant appealed the move to the state's highest court on Friday, saying the judges bypassed his authority and committed public resources for their own benefit.
Tuesday, a Supreme Court commissioner stayed Kamerrer's special deputy prosecutor status as part of a set of housekeeping orders setting deadlines pertaining to the court's review. The court has yet to decide if it will accept the case.
Sant's appeal is set for consideration on the court's Aug. 7 calendar.