Meet the Candidate

The Tacoma Municipal Court is the court system that handles all traffic and non-traffic infractions, as well as criminal traffic and non-traffic misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses that occur within the city limits of Tacoma. These offenses are prosecuted by the City of Tacoma City Attorney’s Office.  A common example of a traffic infractions are speeding tickets. Some examples of non-traffic infractions are parking tickets and animal licensing tickets. Traffic misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors include charges like driving while license suspended, hit and run, reckless driving or racing, and driving while under the influence (DUI). Non-traffic misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors include charges like theft in the third degree, aiming or discharging a firearm in the city limits, or domestic violence assault.

Municipal court can have a great influence over how the public perceives the justice system as a whole, since the principal and most common case types these courts preside over include traffic and ordinance violations, domestic violence cases, DUIs, and other misdemeanor offenses.  For serious cases, domestic violence assaults and DUIs in particular, the first and often only influence the justice system may have on an offender is municipal court due to the most common offense level of the crime.  Additionally, individuals in chronic distress, those experiencing homelessness, drug addiction, or the mentally ill (or any and all combinations of the three situations) often become entangled in the criminal justice system at the level of municipal court.

The biggest challenge facing the Tacoma Municipal Court system is that it currently does not offer alternative or therapeutic court options.  The cities of Seattle, Olympia, and Lakewood all offer an alternative to the traditional court system through community court, veteran’s treatment court, or by offering mental health court.  Currently, Pierce County Superior Court offers therapeutic court services, and the same is desperately needed for the City of Tacoma’s court system.

Through my experience working for the Seattle City Attorney’s office I have first-hand experience working with these programs and have seen how successful they can be.

I will work with my judicial colleagues to advocate the city council and the city attorney’s office to create these programs.  Funding for these programs will come from money saved when an individual is not incarcerated.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for every dollar invested in treatment programs the public sees a return of $4-7 in reduced drug-related crime.

Now is the time to implement alternative court in Tacoma’s Municipal Court System, and I bring the experience necessary to make this a success.

One of the greatest benefits is that an alternative court system focuses on getting an individual the resources they need to successfully reintegrate into society, rather than simply incarcerating them.  The city spends a great deal of money on incarceration, and in a city with budget struggles it’s crucial we make better use of the taxpayer’s money.

Alternative court is not adversarial and focuses on rehabilitating individuals while still protecting and serving the needs of the community.

As a Tacoma Municipal Court Judge, I will only preside over criminal law cases, which are the cases I have worked my entire career.  I have served as both a prosecutor and defense attorney on more than 10,000 DUI cases, and have worked on Class A felonies, misdemeanor offenses, and everything in between.  I have spent the last 16 years working in the Seattle City Attorney’s office, as the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Kent, and as a Judge Pro-Tem for Federal Way, Des Moines, Pacific/Algona, and Kent Municipal Courts where I have worked with clients, city attorneys, and police departments to achieve the best possible outcome for the individual facing charges.  

Our city needs a judge who can handle the full range of cases that they will deal with on a day-to-day basis, and I bring that experience.  I have dedicated my career to this type of law and look forward to bringing this much needed experience to our great city.

Simply put, I want to serve our community. I have lived in Tacoma for 25 years, and this position will allow me to bring improved programs to our court system that focus on reintegrating and rehousing, rather than simply incarcerating.

Paid for By Derek Smith For Judge