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City and County Court Services

This page provides information about court services for city and county officials in Washington State, including relevant legislation, examples, and articles.


Each county, city, and town is responsible for the prosecution, adjudication, sentencing, and incarceration of misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses committed by adults in their respective jurisdictions, and referred from their respective law enforcement agencies, whether filed under state law or city ordinance, and must carry out these responsibilities through the use of their own courts, staff, and facilities, or by entering into contracts or interlocal agreements under this chapter to provide these services. (RCW 39.34.180)

The courts administered by local governments include the county superior court (See description in New Commissioners Handbook) and the courts of limited jurisdiction: district courts; municipal departments in district courts (existing prior to July 1,1978) and municipal courts. (See description in Citizens Guide to Courts.)

For more information about courts:

Court-Related Statutes

Court Reform

Interlocal Agreements for Court Services

Cities Contracting with Counties

  • Clallam County
    • Sequim and Clallam County Interlocal Agreement establishing district court filing fees for 2012, dated 02/28/2012
  • Grant County
    • Grand Coulee and Grant County
      • Interlocal Agreement for the provision of jail and district court services, including probation, prosecution, and public defense; term is 01/1998-12/2008 - Funding is through the city's share of county-wide sales and use tax for criminal justice.
      • Interlocal Agreement for the provision of court services within the municipal department of the district court; term 01/01/2004-12/31/2009 - Continues in force for subsequent years until terminated (Current as of 03/2012)
  • King County - The cities that contract for District Court services are: Beaux Arts, Bellevue, Burien, Carnation, Covington, Duvall, Kenmore, Redmond, Sammamish, Shoreline, Skykomish and Woodinville
  • Kittitas County
    • Ellensburg and Kittitas County Interlocal Agreement for municipal department in district court, 11/2003 - Provides automatic 1-year renewals
    • Kittitas and Kittitas County Interlocal Agreement for court services; effective 1/01/2009 - Continues until terminated
  • Stevens County
    • Kettle Falls and Stevens County Interlocal Agreement for all services for processing, trial, adjudication and sentencing, of criminal cases and infractions arising in the city's jurisdiction; term 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014
  • Walla Walla County
    • Walla Walla and Walla Walla County Interlocal Agreement for municipal court services; term is 2007-2015

Cities Contracting with Other Cities

  • RCW 3.50.815 - Provides that a city may meet the requirements of RCW 39.34.180 by entering into an interlocal agreement with the county in which the city is located or with one or more cities
  • In City of Medina v. Primm, 160 Wn.2d 430 (2007) - The Washington Supreme Court upheld the use of interlocal agreements to share municipal court facilities, and it determined that cities had the authority to enter into intercity agreements for the provision of court services outside the geographical limits of the contracting cities. In 2008 the statutes were amended to incorporate this decision.
  • The following cities are providing municipal court services for other cities: Auburn (Algona); Battle Ground (Ridgefield, La Center); Buckley (Carbonado); Enumclaw (Maple Valley); Kirkland (Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, Medina, Hunts Point); Marysville (Lake Stevens, Arlington); Mercer Island (Newcastle); Napavine (Vader); Nooksack (Everson); Pateros (Brewster); Sunnyside (Mabton); Tenino (Rainier); and Wilkeson (South Prairie).

Cities Contracting with Other Cities

  • Des Moines and Normandy Park Interlocal Agreement - Des Moines provides municipal court services to Normandy Park; term 01/01/2009 to 12/31/2013.
  • Issaquah and Snoqualmie Interlocal Agreement - Issaquah provides court services to Snoqualmie; term ends 12/31/2009 may be renewed an additional two years.
  • Kirkland Interlocal Agreement - Kirkland provides municipal court services to Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, Medina, and Hunts Point; beginning 1/2000 for a term of 10 years; automatic renewal for 5- year periods.
  • Mercer Island and Newcastle Interlocal Agreement - Mercer Island provides court services to Newcastle; initial termination 12/31/2005, with annual renewals.
  • Pasco and Mesa Interlocal Agreement - Pasco provides municipal court services to Mesa; term 02/01/2013 to 02/01/2015.
  • Puyallup and Milton Interlocal Agreement - Puyallup provides municipal court services to Milton; term 01/01/2013 to 12/31/2017; automatic renewal.

Municipal Court Studies

Public/Indigent Defense Services and Standards

On June 15, 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court adopted new Standards for Indigent Defense. Most notably, the new standards limit the number of cases public defenders should handle each year. The standards also address guidelines for administrative costs, limitations on private practice, qualifications of attorneys, appellate representation, and the use of legal interns.

The caseload limits, part of Standard 3.4, were to take effect on September 1, 2013, while the rest of the standards take effect on October 1, 2012. However, the state supreme court has now delayed the implementation of caseload limits until January 1, 2015, to provide time for the Washington State Office of Public Defense to conduct a "statewide attorney time study" and to develop a model misdemeanor case weighting policy that is consistent with the indigent defense standards adopted by the court. Washington State Supreme Court Order No. 25700-A-1016 , 04/08/2013. Under the caseload limits in Standard 3.4, full-time public defenders should not have caseloads exceeding 300 or 400 misdemeanor cases per year, depending on whether the jurisdiction has developed a "numerical case weighting" system, described in Standard 3.6.



Court Decisions

  • Wilbur v. Mount Vernon, Memorandum of Decision, No. C11-1100RSL (W.D. WA 12/04/2013) - The federal district court found that the public defense systems provided by cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington violated indigent defendants' Sixth Amendment rights of effective assistance of counsel. The court issued a "continuing injunction” against the cities that, among other things, required the cities to hire a “Public Defense Supervisor” to supervise and evaluate the cities’ provision of public defense services and to ensure that indigent clients are provided certain specific services and receive adequate representation.

RFPs for Indigent Defense/Public Defender Services

Contracts for Indigent Defense


Specialized Courts

Drug Courts

Youth Courts

Mental Health Courts

Veterans Court

Court Administration Service Examples

Adjudication by Mail/Internet

Other Court Services

Probation Programs

See also MRSC's Jail Services and Alternatives to Incarceration page.

Volunteer Programs

Last Modified: September 12, 2017