case asks us to determine whether a superior court may
conduct preliminary appearance hearings for misdemeanors and
gross misdemeanors originally filed in district court.
Because our court rules authorize the superior court to
conduct these hearings regardless of which court files these
misdemeanors and because there are no statutory or
constitutional restrictions on this authority, we hold a
superior court may conduct preliminary appearance hearings
for misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors that are originally
filed in district court. Accordingly, we affirm the Court of
Appeals' judgment and remand the case to the Stevens
County Superior Court to issue a writ of mandamus against the
Stevens County District Court to accept and file cases from
the superior court.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 29, 2018, the Stevens County Superior Court (Superior
Court) ordered all preliminary appearance hearings for
misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors (Misdemeanors) to be
heard by the Superior Court, including cases filed in the
Stevens County District Court (District Court). The Superior
Court asserted this order was necessary to prevent scheduling
conflicts between the courts, court clerks, prosecutors,
defense counsel, and the county jail.
February 2, 2018, District Court Judge Gina Tveit ordered the
District Court staff not to file any orders in a District
Court case unless those orders had been signed by a District
Court judge-effectively barring any cases signed by a
Superior Court judge under the January 29 order.
February 8, 2018, the State filed a writ of mandamus with the
Superior Court directing the District Court to permit filing
of orders signed by Superior Court judges. The Superior Court
subsequently ordered the writ against the District Court.
March 7, 2018, a visiting judge in the Superior Court held
the District Court was not required to recognize the Superior
Court's orders in cases originally filed in the District
Court, reasoning that neither party cited to any case law or
statute granting the Superior Court the authority to sign
orders for these cases absent the District Court's
authorization. The visiting judge also raised and dismissed
the priority of action rule, which states that "the
court which first gains jurisdiction of a cause retains the
exclusive authority to deal with the action until the
controversy is resolved." Sherwin v. Arveson,
96 Wn.2d 77, 80, 633 P.2d 1335 (1981).
State appealed the visiting judge's decision. The Court
of Appeals, Division Three, reversed and held the District
Court's refusal of Superior Court cases was legally
erroneous. State v. Stevens County Dist. Court
Judge, 7 Wn.App. 2d 927, 936, 436 P.3d 430 (2019).
However, in its reasoning, the Court of Appeals stated a
preliminary appearance hearing is "distinct from the
criminal trial process" and, thus, the priority of
action rule does not apply because a preliminary appearance
hearing is not a '"critical stage'" of
proceedings. Id. at 930, 935. The District Court
appealed the Court of Appeals' decision, and we
subsequently granted review. State v. Stevens County
Dist. Court Judge, 193 Wn.2d 1018 (2019).
the priority of action rule apply when a superior court
conducts the preliminary appearance hearing for a case that
was originally filed in a district court?
a superior court conduct preliminary appearance hearings and
enter related orders in all county misdemeanors and gross
misdemeanors, even when a charge has been filed in the
county's district court and the district court assumed
exclusive jurisdiction over the trial process?
of mandamus are subject to two separate standards of
review." Cost Mgmt. Servs., Inc. v. Lakewood,178 Wn.2d 635, 648, 310 P.3d 804 (2013). If the issue raised
is "whether a statute prescribes a duty that will
support issuance of a writ," then our review is de novo.
Id. at 649. Here, the issue is whether the Superior
Court may require the District Court to file Misdemeanors
after the Superior Court conducts preliminary appearance
hearings for these Misdemeanors. Therefore, the issue is