Clallam, Jefferson courts receive grant

As Clallam County Court Commissioner Brent Basden approaches six months of employment with the court, his division will receive financial backing from the state.

Basden presides over nearly all family court cases and juvenile hearings in the county's court system, except for juvenile criminal offenders. The county's Unified Family Court includes divorces, paternity cases, domestic violence incidents, protection orders, truancy issues, juvenile drug court, dependency court and family therapeutic court.

The state Legislature recently provided grants to its 11 statewide judicial districts and accepted grant proposal from courts in those districts. Clallam and Jefferson counties teamed to win $68,600 to help unify and coordinate the many family court venues.

"We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to analyze our family court structure and refine its operations so that they work in conjunction with each other and do not conflict," Basden said. "A common approach really helps, especially when people or families are crossing these lines, often involved in more than one arena."

Clallam County began the state's first unified family court program in a multi-judge county in 1990. The funds will be used to hire a consultant to review the court's operations with an outside set of eyes and create a recommendation to improve its operations.

"For instance, right now we have one judicial officer coordinating the outcome of a family that may be appearing in different venues of family court," Basden said. "And while certain protocol in that area could be improved, one thing I think we will really be looking at is a coordination of services available to those who need them as they move through the system."

The process already has started. The court system created a job posting and plans on hiring someone soon after teaming with Jefferson County officials for the interview and selection process.

"It's an extremely good feeling to be moving forward with an already highly functioning family court system," Basden said, indicating there are hundreds of cases that flow through the court each week. "I really like working on these types of projects so this new position is really working out well."

Basden succeeded former court commissioner William Knebes in April of this year. Knebes was a pioneer in family court formations having worked on the formation of Clallam's first family court in 1990.

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