Thurston County Connection Newsletter
Thurston County Connection
Thurston County Connection
June, 2014
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 One Family, One Judge.

Thurston County Family and Juvenile Court Celebrates 15 years.

On the surface it sounds very simple- “One Family, One Judge”- but the impact of that approach in Thurston County’s Family and Juvenile Court (FJC) has been profound. Thurston was the first county in Washington State to co-locate all family and juvenile operations in a single facility, separate from other Superior Court operations. The idea is to ensure that decisions made regarding one member of a family are not done in a vacuum. For example, there may be a history of substance abuse or domestic violence on the part of the parents. In a separate case, a juvenile member of the same family may be in the criminal justice system for a different crime. It only makes sense to look at the impact of these separate cases on each other and on the entire family; and that’s what a combined Family and Juvenile Court is all about.

Members of the court gathered recently to mark the 15th anniversary of the creation of the FJC. Judge Anne Hirsch noted that it took many people to make the plan into reality. She had a big thank-you for former Superior Court Judge Paula Casey who lead the effort and for all those who had the vision for a new facility that would house the family court, juvenile court and juvenile detention.

Judge Hirsch noted that it takes everyone: court employees, juvenile detention staff, probation, social workers, clerk’s office staff, judicial officers and volunteers to make the system work. “I appreciate how focused everyone is on making this process the least damaging as possible for the families who have to go through it.” She says she looks forward to carrying on this good work in the next 15 years and beyond and the innovations that time and hard work will bring.

Over the decade and a half of the existence of Family and Juvenile Court thousands of cases have been heard and hundreds of family members have been able to take advantage of special programs that provide a wide array of assistance. Those programs include-

  • Parenting Plans and Seminars
  • Mediation
  • Family Recovery Court
  • Juvenile Drug Court
  • Youth Court
  • Youth at Risk and much more


The emphasis is on helping families (in family law cases) resolve their cases in a non-adversarial manner. For example, there is a required Orientation Program in dissolution cases--the session provides an overview of the court process and also gives parents information on mediation and the court required (4 hour) parenting class.

Judges serve a minimum 3 year rotation at FJC and are required to be specially trained in issues pertaining to child abuse and neglect, child development, and other topics pertaining to the unique issues presented in Family and Juvenile Law cases. By court rule, training must be on-going during the rotation. Court Commissioners currently serve approximately two years in a specific rotation.

There also are many active groups working at FJC that provide support to the court and those who use it including the Art Committee, a Self Represented Parties Committee, A dependency team (meeting monthly to create and maintain improvements to the dependency court process) and more. The court also sponsors monthly, free community education sessions on a variety of legal topics relating to families and children. FJC also hosts some special yearly events, including the Adoption Day celebration every November.

If you would like to find out more about Thurston County’s Family and Juvenile Court, please visit their Web Pages.

By John Tennis

Celebrating 15 years! Celebrating 15 years!

Judge Hirsch (L) celebrates with FJC staff. Judge Hirsch (L) celebrates with FJC staff.