The Washington State Board for Judicial Administration (BJA) presented Innovating Justice Awards to a King County judge and a technology integrator for their leadership in shepherding new programs that work on access and equity problems in the courts such as those involving eviction cases, court filings by prisoners, examining racial justice issues, and more.
The Innovating Justice Awards were established in late 2020 by the BJA to recognize leadership during the COVID crisis that promotes judicial branch innovation as well as responsiveness to racial equity and access to justice issues.
“There is a lot to be concerned about right now, but there’s also a lot to be thankful for,” said Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González, who serves as co-chair of the BJA. “It is important to pause and celebrate branch members who are dedicated and innovative in solving problems.”
The August 2021 recipients of the BJA Innovating Justice Award include:
– King County Superior Court Judge Judith Ramseyer for tireless leadership on access to justice, racial equity and court recovery throughout the pandemic era. Judge Ramseyer became president of the Superior Court Judges’ Association (SCJA) just as the pandemic and a nationwide racial reckoning were taking hold. The letter from multiple judicial branch leaders nominating her for the award said, “In 2020, following the killing of George Floyd, she penned a passionate letter to the SCJA membership regarding the courts’ responsibility in ensuring race equity. She requested that each SCJA standing committee actively consider how race equity and access to justice could be addressed within the scope of committee work and asked that each report back. She created and took a leadership role in the new SCJA Racial Justice Work Group and assisted in standing up the new statewide Racial Justice Consortium. Judge Ramseyer also organized a statewide training entitled, Advocating for Justice: What’s a Judge to Do?, in collaboration with the Commission on Judicial Conduct to examine the role for judicial officers in addressing race equity. Under her leadership, the SCJA convened a Protection Order Work Group to address streamlining and modernizing protection order processes, improving litigant access to the courts. Judge Ramseyer formed the SCJA Unlawful Detainer [Eviction] Work Group in early June 2020 to develop judicial resources that would enhance access to justice for all parties when the eviction moratorium ended. She was one of the key visionaries promoting the development of the Eviction Resolution Program which has now became authorized statewide. She helped advocate for implementation of a statewide text messaging program that will help reduce the number of warrants issued for missed court appearances. Judge Ramseyer has, unfailingly, led the charge and done all that can be done to advocate for our courts and for access to justice in a time when unforeseeable challenges made business as usual literally impossible. She took phone calls from airplanes, appeared for meetings during her one vacation, and answered each and every email coming in droves every single day. Her work, in partnership with others, led to remarkable outcomes which served the overall interests of the SCJA and the system of justice itself.”
– Senior Business Analyst Jamie Kambich for leading a complex, statewide effort to develop inmate e-filing from all eight of the Washington State prisons to all three of the divisions of the Courts of Appeals and the Washington Supreme Court.
“This is a way to help people who have a right to be heard respectfully and in a timely manner. Jamie saw through the bureaucracy and tirelessly followed through,” Justice González said. The nominating letter said, “As a result of Jamie’s work, inmates who need to file legal documents from any of the Washington state prisons to any of the appellate courts can do so almost instantly. Given the significant rate of disproportionality in our prisons, Jamie’s work positively impacts all inmates of color who seek to access the appellate courts. In the past, inmates rarely had access to copying services and, if they did, the prison charged them for copies. Thus, most of the time, inmates had to send their originals and would not get them back. If those materials got lost, they had no hope of having their matters considered by the appellate court. Jamie worked tirelessly throughout the COVID crisis to ensure that this electronic filing system was up and running throughout the state.” Kambich trained and tested processes and systems between multiple courts and institutions, nearly always with employees working remotely. He continued working through each of the major prisons to train everyone involved in the inmate filing system. “In these filings, the details matter—if subject lines of emails from the inmate filing are incorrect, they may not be filed timely. Jamie worked with each of the librarians at each of the prisons to ensure that all legal filings were accurately identified in the subject lines of the emails and ran repeated quality assurance tests to make sure the system functioned as intended. Jamie worked on this project to its completion during an extraordinarily difficult time for the courts. Despite closures, working remotely, and working with a variety of staff at multiple institutions, Jamie was able to get this project up and running successfully, reducing the workload for court clerks and ensuring prison inmates have access to the courts. This project would not have happened without his dedication.”
The Board for Judicial Administration includes judges from all court levels in the state, along with officials from other judicial branch agencies, and is charged with developing policy and providing leadership to the state judicial branch.
– Washington Courts