Public Records Information
Washington gained statehood in 1889, making it the 42 state in the U.S. The state’s economy benefits greatly from the Columbia river and the largest hydroelectric dam and the biggest hydropower plant in the U.S.,the Grand Coulee dam. Today’s economy includes Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon and electronics. The state also produces natural products such as lumber and aluminum. Washington has a monopoly over all liquor and spirits sales in the state (known as an Alcoholic Beverage Control State) only state-run or state-contracted stores can sell these items, 17 other states share the same law.
With over 71,000 square mile territory, Washington state is the 18th largest with a population of 6,724,540 residents. Washington’s state government is comprised of 3 branches. The Washington legislative branch has a 49 member state senate and a 98 member state house of representatives. The executive branch is headed by the governor and other elected officials such as commissioners, treasurer, attorney general, auditor, public instruction superintendent, secretary of state and its departments. The judicial branch is the state’s courts and contains the supreme court, appellate divisions, district and lower courts.
The re are 39 counties and 281 cities in the state. The re were 34 counties formed prior to Washington gaining statehood making it the state’s oldest form of government. The last county formed was in 1911 bringing it to today’s total of 39. Counties function as an arm of the state government and provide services such as law enforcement, maintenance of records, property assessment, road construction, courts and tax collections. Cities have a mayor, council members, local law enforcement, municipal courts as well as other local services.
One of the ways residents stay informed about their government is with Washington’s Open Public Records and Meeting Laws. Enacted in 1972, the state passed both laws in efforts to keep its agencies transparent. Agency officials no longer have the authority to turn away requests of records that are deemed open to the public. This allows the public to request records, without revealing confidential information, and access to information from all of Washington’s state and public agencies without providing a reason. Many request are for perceived government oversight issues, such as financial corruption, and are uncovered by reporters or watchdog groups.
Many requests from various agencies are not related to discovery of government malfeasance. Numerous requests are made for recorded documents such as birth certificates from 1907 to present and marriage certificates from 1968 to present The Washington Department of Health provides death, marriage and divorce records. Any member of the public can request a background criminal investigation from the Washington State Patrol. Washington law demands all local justice agencies to submit arrest and disposition information of felony and gross misdemeanor arrests to the state patrol where a complete criminal background can be conducted. Washington courts offer free online search of municipal, district, superior and appellate cases. Cases involving civil and criminal trials, judgments, liens, tax warrants, family court details of divorces and other filings can also be found in the state’s court system. The assessor’s office provides real estate information with an instant parcel search for homeowners or any member of the public that wants to view property details such as the land value and ownership. State offices that license professionals offer an instant online search to verify status and other details regarding a professional practicing within the state.
Court Records Information
Washington municipal courts have jurisdiction to hear cases that involve misdemeanors, traffic, domestic violence matters, parking violations and general ordinance violations.
District courts are the state's trial courts and have jurisdiction to hear torts, contracts from $0 to $50,000, have exclusive small claims jurisdiction, $4,000 and further extends to various misdemeanors, domestic violence cases, traffic, parking violations, and other general violations, hold venue to preliminary hearings with available jury trials, except in traffic and parking matters.
Magistrate courts have jurisdiction to hear cases of tort, contract, real property rights from $0 to $5,000, misdemeanors, traffic, domestic, violence matters and hold venue to preliminary hearings, Jury trials are available in magistrate courts.
Superior courts have jurisdiction over torts, and contracts from $0 and up, exclusive jurisdiction over real property rights from $0 and up, estate, mental health, civil appeals and miscellaneous civil matters, have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases that involve domestic relations, felonies, criminal appeals and juvenile cases.
The court of appeals has mandatory jurisdiction to hear cases involving civil, non-capital criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, and original proceeding matters, has discretionary jurisdiction in administrative agency, and interlocutory decision cases.
State's highest is the supreme court with mandatory jurisdiction to hear civil, capital criminal, criminal, administrative agency, juvenile and certified questions from federal court cases, has discretionary jurisdiction in civil, non-capital criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, disciplinary, original proceeding, and interlocutory decision cases.
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