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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 examples of interlocal agreements, contracts and RFPs for public defense services, and other court-related programs.

For links to statutes, federal, state, county, municipal courts, and specialized courts relevant to Washington State, see our page Courts Overview.


The courts administered by local governments in Washington include the county superior courts and the courts of limited jurisdiction: district courts and municipal courts. For a detailed description of Washington’s courts, see the Washington Administrative Office of the Courts' Guide to Washington State Courts.

RCW 39.34.180 outlines the criminal justice responsibilities of counties, cities, and towns as follows:

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.

Interlocal Agreements for Court Services

Many cities and towns choose to enter into interlocal agreements with their respective counties or with other cities to receive municipal court services. RCW 3.50.815 provides that a city may meet the criminal justice responsibilities outlined in 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.

Examples of Cities Contracting with Counties

Below are examples of interlocal agreements for court services between cities and counties.

  • West Richland and Benton County Interlocal Agreement (2015) – Agreement for the county to provide district court services to the city for purposes of enforcing violations of state statutes or city ordinances committed by person within the city's jurisdiction that constitute gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors, or civil infractions.
  • Grandview and Yakima County Interlocal Agreement (2017) – Agreement for the county to provide municipal court services and facilities to the city, including the processing of Grandview criminal complaints and citations and civil infractions (includes Grandview resolution authorizing the mayor to sign the agreement).
  • Stevenson and Skamania County Interlocal Agreement (2016) – Agreement for the the county to provide a courtroom, a district court judge, court commissioner and necessary support staff to adjudicate violations of city civil ordinances and no other matters except as conferred by statute.
  • Clarkston and Asotin County Interlocal Agreement (2015) – Agreement for the county to provide municipal court services to the city. The court will process all actions filed with the court and collect all fines and forfeitures for cases filed by the city.
  • McCleary and Grays Harbor County Interlocal Agreement (2014) – Agreement for the county to provide district court services to the city.
  • Coulee Dam and Okanogan County Interlocal Agreement (2013) – Agreement for county to provide district court services to the town, including all judicial and court services necessary to adjudicate all matters arising from violation of traffic and non-traffic civil infractions.
  • Kettle Falls and Stevens County Interlocal Agreement (2017) – Agreement for the county to provide all services for processing, trial, adjudication and sentencing of criminal cases and infractions arising in the jurisdiction of the city for reasonable costs incurred by the county.
  • Kittitas and Kittitas County Interlocal Agreement (2009) – Agreement between the city and the county for the purpose of prosecution, adjudication, indigent defense, and sentencing services for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses committed by adults within the city and civil infractions including municipal code violations.

Examples of Cities Contracting with Other Cities

Below are examples of interlocal agreements for court services between cities and other cities.

  • Cheney and Medical Lake Interlocal Agreement (2017) – Agreement for Medical Lake to obtain municipal court services including facilities, materials and personnel from Cheney.
  • Sunnyside and Toppenish Interlocal Agreement (2017) – Agreement for Sunnyside to provide prosecution, adjudication and sentencing services, and attendant public defender and court interpreter services for Toppenish.
  • Battle Ground and LaCenter Interlocal Agreement (2016) – Agreement that Battle Ground provide municipal court services for traffic infractions, prosecution of criminal offenses and the enforcement of ordinances to LaCenter.
  • Sumner and Bonney Lake Interlocal Agreement (2015) – Agreement to provide municipal court services by Bonney Lake to Sumner through the use of facilities, materials and personnel for the filing and processing of Sumner's civil, traffic or other infractions, criminal citations, impound hearings, drug forfeiture hearings and potentially dangerous/dangerous dog appeal hearings (includes Bonney Lake resolution authorizing the mayor to sign the agreement).
  • Lakewood and University Place Interlocal Agreement (2015) – Agreement for Lakewood to provide municipal court, prosecution, public defender and related services to University Place.
  • North Bend, Snoqualmie, and Issaquah Interlocal Agreement (2015) – Contract for the provision of municipal court services including the filing and processing of North Bend's and Snoqualmie's civil, traffic or other infractions and criminal citations by the Issaquah Municipal Court.

Examples of Municipal Court Studies

Below are examples of municipal studies for court services.

Public Defense Services

The right to counsel is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the Washington State Constitution, statutes, and court rules. When an individual has a right to counsel but is indigent, the government is required to provide a competent public defense attorney to represent that person (RCW 10.101.005).

For a good overview of how Washington city and county governments structure public defense services, see this Public Defense Overview developed by Spokane County's public defender.

Standards for Indigent Defense

Chapter 10.101 RCW provides the statutory framework for indigent defense services and standards. RCW 10.101.030 requires all cities and counties to adopt local standards for public defense services. This statute also mandated the Washington State Bar Association to develop a Standards for Indigent Defense Services document to assist cities and counties with developing these local standards.

In 2012 the Washington State Supreme Court adopted new Standards for Indigent Defense, limiting the number of cases public defenders should handle each year. Under the caseload limits, full-time public defenders should not have caseloads exceeding 300 or 400 misdemeanor cases per year (Standard 3.4), depending on whether the jurisdiction has developed a "numerical case weighting" system (Standard 3.6). The standards also address guidelines for administrative costs, limitations on private practice, qualifications of attorneys, appellate representation, and the use of legal interns.

For information on the implementation of the standards for indigent defense, see the Washington State Office of Public Defense Frequently Asked Questions Related to Implementation (2016).

Court Decision

In Wilbur v. Mount Vernon (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.

Model Misdemeanor Case Weighting Policy

Model Ordinance / Resolution Adopting Standards

Examples of Ordinances / Resolutions Adopting Standards

Below are an example of an ordinance and a resolution adopting standards. For a model resolution/ordinance, see Ogden Murphy Wallace's Ordinance/Resolution Adopting Standards.

Examples of RFPs for Indigent Defense / Public Defense Services

Below are examples of requests for proposals/qualifications for public defender services. For a model RFP, see Ogden Murphy Wallace's Request for Proposals for Public Defender Services.

Examples of Contracts for Indigent Defense / Public Defense Services

Below are examples of contracts for public/indigent defense services. For a model contract, see Ogden Murphy Wallace's Contract for Indigent Defense Services.

Recommended Resources

Examples of Adjudication by Mail / Email

Below are examples of online forms and information from cities and counties providing adjudication by mail/email.

Examples of Probation Programs

Below are some examples of city and county probation programs.

For an example of a probation report form, see Grant County’s District Court Monthly Probation Report Form (2017)

Examples of Volunteer Programs

Below are some examples of city and county courts volunteer programs.

Last Modified: January 24, 2023