Seattle is at a crossroads. This is the most consequential election in the city’s history. 

Under our leadership, the Seattle Municipal Court created a specialized court to address the needs of mentally-ill defendants by monitoring treatment and assisting homeless individuals in gaining housing. We each presided over that court for several years. Judge Kondo also served on the Department of Justice Crisis Intervention Committee. U.S. District Court Judge James Robart’s consent decree mandated review of interactions between the Seattle police and mentally-ill individuals.  

As part of the work of the crisis intervention committee, all police officers were required to undergo academy skills training for effectively interacting with residents in crisis. As a result, police were reconnecting many individuals back to their own caseworkers or to existing programs. Crisis Intervention Team-trained officers were establishing street level rapport with many of them. Repeat offenders were given opportunities to stay out of the system before their cases were referred to the city attorney. After filing in SMC, with judicial oversight many defendants on probation were able to complete treatment, obtain housing and successfully exit the mental-health court. Often cases were dismissed upon compliance with court conditions. Jail was considered a last resort.

Decisions by the majority of the current city council have crippled efforts to meaningfully address the problems of the mentally-ill and homeless populations in this city. Implementing failing policies that hinder law enforcement, defunding the police, targeting the court’s probation department by forcing staff reductions, and wasting resources by funding programs with little rehabilitative value hardly solve Seattle’s issues.

The current city attorney’s policies of lack of offender accountability have contributed substantially to Seattle’s current problems. A new, independently elected city attorney is critical to steer Seattle’s criminal legal system with compassion and accountability. City attorney candidate Ann Davison understands there is a role for the court system and judicial oversight. Her opponent is an avowed abolitionist who will dismantle the criminal justice apparatus and make the city’s problems much worse.  

Public safety is a citywide concern. Domestic-violence incidents have risen during the pandemic. There are scores of unfiled driving-under-influence reports sitting unreviewed in the current city attorney’s office. Evidence is getting stale. Cases involving repeat theft and public-nuisance crimes are not being filed either. Whoever becomes the next city attorney will have a tremendous amount of work reviewing and clearing a backlog of cases.

Eliminating Seattle’s entire criminal justice system is not the solution. Davison’s opponent also believes in jury nullification — that a jury does not have to return a verdict based on law and the facts of the case. That is unconscionable. The jury system is the touchstone of our democracy. All attorneys take an oath to uphold the constitutions of the state of Washington and the United States of America. For a candidate to advocate that prospective jurors conceal their true beliefs, be seated on a jury, and then ignore the evidence and nullify any verdict is outrageous. 

Voters in Seattle have a clear choice. Thirty retired judges at all levels of Washington’s courts have endorsed Davison. She has the administrative and legal skills needed to turn this office around. Seattle needs to move forward in a new direction. The current approach is clearly not working.