New report: “Improving equity, fairness, and accessibility at the Seattle Municipal Court”

Early in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic and the national movement for racial justice sparked by George Floyd’s death, Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) had two community engagement efforts in the works: a court user survey and a series of court user focus groups. SMC has conducted court user surveys in the past, most recently in 2015. This year, we wanted to not only get a new benchmark reading on how we are serving the community, but also get more in-depth, qualitative feedback from court clients.

Now, as 2020 comes to an end, we are excited to share the results of both the survey conducted in February and the five virtual focus groups that were held in August.

2020 Access and Fairness Survey: 703 people took the survey in person at the courthouse in late January – early February, and 340 people completed the online survey when they used our website to make a payment. The survey showed that most people were generally satisfied with access and fairness at the court, but it also highlighted areas where we can improve equity. 

2020 Focus Group Findings and Recommendations Report: We contracted with a local outreach and communications small business, The Vida Agency, to conduct court participant focus groups that allowed individuals to share their honest feedback. Focus group participants were people who had a criminal case at SMC, an infraction case, or served on a jury. This report gives us a great deal of in-depth feedback and creative recommendations for how the focus group participants believe we can improve equity, fairness, and accessibility at Seattle Municipal Court. 

At the end of each focus group, participants were invited to share any questions they have for the Court. Our Presiding Judge Willie Gregory answered these questions in a video response shared with all the participants, along with our gratitude for their participation.

We are carefully considering each recommendation from these reports and are incorporating action steps into our 2021 work plan. Some changes, such as remote video hearings, are happening already. Other changes will need more time or may not be possible due to legal or budget constraints. We appreciate all of the feedback we heard, and we commit to being transparent with the public about how we move forward. Sign up for our newsletter for updates on our progress.