Senate passes Angel bill on managing, preserving historical court exhibits

Sen. Angel gives floor speech

The state Senate has unanimously approved Sen. Jan Angel’s bill that would help county clerks better manage old court exhibits and preserve those documents that are considered historical.

Angel said the bill, which was requested by the Washington State Association of County Clerks, aims to help clerks modernize and provide better services.

“The county clerks have so much paper they’ve had to keep over the years,” said Angel, R-Port Orchard. “Some papers cover rules or laws that go back to territorial times. These papers often are kept in basements of county buildings, which takes up a lot of space and presents a fire hazard. The clerks are asking how long they need to retain these documents, and this bill is an answer.”

Substitute Senate Bill 6324 would lengthen the time period – to 10 years, from the current six – during which court exhibits can’t be destroyed, or turned over to a county sheriff by a county clerk. The bill would allow a county clerk to offer, to the state archivist, court exhibits deemed by the clerk to have historical value.

During the time the bill was before the Senate Law and Justice Committee, the Superior Court Judges’ Association worked with Angel to add language that would require a court order to destroy court exhibits and records. Also added were requirements that allow a county clerk to require court reporter notes to be filed electronically, and that statewide filing standards for electronic filing of court reporter notes be established by the county clerks’ association.

“The judges wanted to make sure records that might be needed later aren’t destroyed, so they asked that a court order be included that can easily be reviewed and ruled on ahead of time,” Angel said.

“With all of the technology that has become available, some of the old laws kept on file create problems for our clerks,” added Angel. “This is a clean-up bill that will help county clerks get these old court documents up to date with more efficiency.”

SSB 6324, which was passed 48-0 by the Senate Wednesday night, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.