As part of a plan to eliminate an inherited criminal case backlog, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced that her office expects to decline over 1,921 cases that have been backed up for an average of 334 days.
Former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran has been assisting Davison to help identify process improvements and develop a plan to address the backlog. She hopes to eliminate the entire backlog by the end of the year, and focus on more serious offenders.
“My number one priority is improving public safety. Seattleites should feel safe walking down the street or going to the park. My early actions to implement five-day filing and create a High-Utilizer Initiative to address frequent offenders were first steps to disrupt the culture of crime in Seattle,” Davison said in a statement. “Following recommendations from former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, [the plan announced on April 19] will eliminate the backlog by the end of the year. We will also improve the processes of the Criminal Division to prevent another miscarriage of justice like this backlog.”
If seen through, Davison’s plan would clear nearly 5,000 misdemeanor cases from the previous administration, which was the largest in the history of the City Attorney’s Office.
Davison will decline cases involving “[p]roperty destruction, theft, criminal trespass, and non-DUI traffic” that have been piling up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help clear the remaining cases, Davison filled nine vacant prosecutor positions since the start of the year and will assign additional cases to assistant city prosecutors in the Review and Filing Unit, as well as from additional Criminal Division work units.
“By combining staff resources, the City Attorney’s Office will build capacity to review approximately 300 backlog cases each month,” the City Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “The City Attorney’s Office will also seek a supplemental budget request to fund additional staff until the backlog is eliminated.”
Moran’s assistance with the backlog has already resulted in a decision to announce a new filing deadline for incoming cases. His assessments have led to this new plan to remove the backlog by the end of the year.
“The actions announced [on April 19] are in line with my backlog assessments and recommendations to modernize the office’s prosecutorial approach,” said Moran. “The public expects, demands and deserves more; and the backlog – the likes of which I have not seen before in my 30-year career – that City Attorney Ann Davison inherited cannot occur again . . .with [the City Attorney’s] new direction and leadership, I am optimistic that they will accomplish the hard task of eliminating the backlog.”
The City Attorney Office’s did not include any information regarding possible compensation for the victims for the cases to be declined.