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Navigating Spokane's Court System? Here's A Tool That May Help

Spokane County

The American court system can be difficult to navigate, especially for people who don’t deal regularly with it. Spokane County has taken one temporary step to help those who have court-related questions.

In the Spokane County courthouse it’s common to see people walk from courtroom to courtroom, searching for the place they’re supposed to appear. Or looking for attorneys they’ve never met except on the phone.

Some are so frustrated by their experiences that they just stop going to the courthouse and fail to appear at their hearings and that gets them into even more trouble.

“Many of us have been thinking through ways to provide accessible and understandable information to community members about upcoming court dates and criminal proceedings," said Maggie Yates, the county’s law and justice administrator.

She and others in the court system decided to create a telephone hotline similar to one that operates successfully in New York City. It’s manned by real human beings who can answer general questions.

Yates says the project costs the county about $21,000, the money coming from the MacArthur Foundation grant which the county is using to study and reform its criminal justice system.

“We’ll be looking at call volume, what sorts of calls come in and what sorts of information we can provide. We’re also working to see if we can track appearance rates for relevant court dates to see whether the information we’ve provided actually helps people get to court and/or contact their attorney," she said.

Yates says the hotline is scheduled to be active until mid-August. If it proves to be useful, it could be become permanent, if local money can be found to operate it.

The county’s criminal court system hotline number is 509-477-5640.