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City of Kirkland v. Ellis

filed: July 29, 1996.

CITY OF KIRKLAND, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
WILLI J. ELLIS AND DAVID KIMMEL, RESPONDENTS. KING COUNTY DISTRICT COURT, NORTHEAST DIVISION, AND JUDGE DAVID S. ADMIRE, JUDGE ROSEMARY P. BORDLEMAY, JUDGE WILLIAM J. O'ROARTY AND JUDGE J. WESLEY SAINT CLAIRE, AND DONNA K. BRUNNER, COURT ADMINISTRATOR, DEFENDANTS.



Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 94-2-08877-7. Date filed in Superior Court: June 7, 1994. Superior Court Judge Signing: Hon. Marilyn Sellers.

Written by: Kennedy, Concurred by: Webster, Baker

Author: Kennedy

KENNEDY, A.C.J. -- The City of Kirkland appeals the King County Superior Court's grant of a writ of mandamus/prohibition ordering the Northeast District Court to dismiss the traffic citations issued to Willi Ellis and David Kimmel, and prohibiting its judges from sitting at the contested traffic infraction hearings then scheduled for trial in district court. The City contends that the Superior Court erred in granting the writs because Ellis and Kimmel had an adequate remedy at law by way of an appeal. The City also contends that the Superior Court erred in awarding statutory costs to Ellis and Kimmel. We affirm the grant of the writs and the award of costs.

FACTS

Willi Ellis and David Kimmel were cited by a City of Kirkland police officer for speeding. Both Ellis and Kimmel requested a traffic infraction contested hearing, and received a notice of hearing from the district court.*fn1 On the reverse side of the notices, in the section entitled "Rights of Defendants", was the following: "The right to subpoena witnesses, including the officer who issued the Notice. If you wish to subpoena a witness, you must apply to the court in person at least 5 days prior to your hearing." Clerk's Papers at 229.

Both Ellis and Kimmel went to the district court clerk's office to inquire about the procedure for requesting the presence of the radar technician at their respective contested hearings. Ellis and Kimmel were told that they need only make a handwritten request. Ellis's request read: "I . . . request the police officer be present in court . . . . I further request the radar technician . . . be present." Clerk's Papers at 118-19. Kimmel's request read: "I David Kimmel request the radar technician be present for case # 159275K." Clerk's Papers at 121. Each defendant's hearing was then rescheduled to "radar day."

On March 8, 1994, Ellis and Kimmel appeared at district court for their respective contested hearings. The prosecuting attorney for the City, Kevin Tarvin, had not secured the presence of the police officer and the radar technician for the Ellis and Kimmel hearings. The district court judge continued the hearings, stating that Ellis and Kimmel had failed to serve the City with notice of their requests for these witnesses.

Both Ellis and Kimmel objected to the continuances, Ellis through counsel and Kimmel pro se. Ellis's attorney pointed out that the continuance was unfair because it would force Ellis to take off another day of work, and was solely due to the City's error. The City argued, and the court agreed, that the law required defendants requesting the presence of police officers and radar technicians to give notice of their requests to the prosecuting authority.*fn2

On June 7, 1992, Ellis and Kimmel, after notice and a hearing, obtained a writ of mandamus/prohibition from the Superior Court. The writ prohibited the Northeast District Court and its judges from presiding at the Ellis and Kimmel contested hearings and mandated that the judges dismiss the infraction cases with prejudice. In granting the writ, the judge entered findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court found that:

3. . . . The Infraction Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction do not state that the citizen-defendant must appear in person at the court in order to request that witnesses appear at their contested hearings. . . .

4. There is no court rule requiring that the citizen-defendants serve the City of Kirkland or any prosecuting authority with a copy of the request that the citing police officer and/or the radar expert appear at a contested hearing. Plaintiffs Ellis and Kimmel followed the court rules and the instructions on the Notice of Hearing by appearing in person at the Northeast District Court and requesting in writing that the citing police officer and/or radar expert appear at their hearings. They were told by the clerks of the Northeast District Court, after they had appeared in person and requested in writing that the witnesses appear at their contested hearings, that nothing further needed to be done by them.

Clerk's Papers at 229.*fn3

The City now appeals the writ of mandamus/prohibition and the Superior Court's ...


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