News and Press Releases

Defendants Now Will Make Initial Court Appearances in Vancouver, Washington

June 17, 2008

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan announced that beginning today initial appearances in federal criminal cases will be heard at the federal building in Vancouver, Washington. The hearings will be heard by part time US Magistrate Judge David Christel in a courtroom shared with US Bankruptcy Judge Paul Snyder. The move is part of a continuing effort to better integrate Southwest Washington into the federal judicial and law enforcement systems. Until today, defendants had to be transported 135 miles to Tacoma for initial appearances.

“Not only will this save time and federal resources for law enforcement officers, it will aid defendants as well,” said Jeffrey C. Sullivan, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. “The Magistrate Judge will be able to make detention decisions, which could allow defendants to be released on bond, without spending several days of delay with transport to Tacoma for a hearing.”

In federal proceedings the initial appearance is the hearing at which a defendant is advised of the charges, release or detention is decided, and future hearings are scheduled. The nearest full-service U.S. District Courthouse is in Tacoma and subsequent proceedings will continue to be held there. This new procedure is the result of cooperation between the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Washington, the U.S. District Court, the U.S. Marshal’s Office, the U.S. Pretrial Services Office, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the Clark County Jail, and the various federal law enforcement agencies who have ramped up their participation in Southwest Washington.

Clark County Prosecutor Art Curtis will provide three Deputy Prosecutors who will be designated Special Assistant United States Attorneys to handle these initial appearances in Federal Court. Clark County Sheriff Gary Lucas has agreed to house federal detainees at the Clark County Jail. United States Marshal W.J. Hawe has arranged a transportation contract with the jail for movement of prisoners. The U.S. District Court has retooled the courtroom technology in Vancouver to accommodate criminal hearings. Federal law enforcement agents have been trained on security protocols unique to the Vancouver Federal Building.

Beginning in 2002, a Steering Committee comprised of federal and local leaders identified a series of steps to provide better federal law enforcement response to Southwest Washington. The United States Attorney’s Office reached out to local law enforcement, changed federal charging guidelines and placed greater emphasis on prosecuting crime in this fast growing area of the state. Federal law enforcement leaders created a Federal Investigative Center to consolidate federal law enforcement agencies for greater collaboration and coordination of investigations. The U.S. District court expanded the authority of the part-time magistrate to include issuance of search warrants and arrest warrants, and the court also began handling certain civil cases and hearings in Vancouver in addition to the previous involvement of the US Bankruptcy Court.

The initial appearance today at 3:30 marks yet another milestone in the efforts of federal, state and local leaders to ensure the citizens of Southwest Washington are being better served by the federal court and federal law enforcement.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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