Seattle city attorney details plan to address case backlog with focus on violent crimes

Apr 20, 2022, 8:22 AM

Seattle City Attorney...

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison. (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

The month before she took office, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison voiced concerns over a backlog of nearly 4,000 un-filed criminal cases, vowing to prioritize the clearance of that backlog at the start of her term. On Tuesday, she detailed a more specific roadmap to accomplish that goal, with input from former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran.

Seattle City Attorney tightens filing deadline for incoming cases to address growing backlog

Moving forward, Davison plans to have her office prioritize case referrals related to “crimes against persons,” including domestic violence, assault with sexual motivation, and “other assault and harassment related crimes.” After that, the focus, in order, will be on crimes involving guns and other weapons, DUIs, and those with suspects who meet the “High Utilizer Initiative” criteria of three or more current referrals in the existing backlog.

Although much of her campaign messaging was centered around increasing prosecution for misdemeanor crimes like property destruction, theft, and trespassing, a sizable portion of backlogged cases related to those offenses will be declined “in order to maintain close-in-time filing for present day cases.”

Combined between those cases and others where the statute of limitations has already lapsed, Davison’s office estimates that over 1,900 total cases in the backlog will be declined in total.

“To best serve the interests of public safety, we must prioritize resources to review our recent referrals within a reasonable amount of time,” Criminal Chief Natalie Walton-Anderson said in a news release. “Simply filing every case would not resolve the backlog – the court system cannot handle an influx of cases of this magnitude all at once.”

Ann Davison: Will be ‘room in the middle’ in Seattle City Attorney’s office

The hope is that this strategy — along with having filled nine vacant prosecutor positions since Davison’s term began — is to “address the backlog by the end of the year.”

To mitigate against the potential for “overwhelming the criminal justice system with a onetime influx of cases,” Davison plans to have her office collaborate with other stakeholders in the process to plan around expected monthly case referrals.

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Seattle city attorney details plan to address case backlog with focus on violent crimes