Morton’s in-person court proceedings are on shaky ground, as the small town will no longer allow Lewis County District Court judges to use its Bob Lyle Community Center for once-monthly proceedings.
The move comes after court officials expressed frustration over the Morton Police Department’s security force, saying officers had refused to wear masks despite several requests to do so. The police department’s “stance” on masks, as well as their “rather frail” security officers, district court judges R.W. Buzzard and Wade Samuelson wrote, threatened to undermine court operations.
Morton Mayor Dan Mortensen told The Chronicle that the small town is tired of being the county’s “whipping boy.”
“They didn’t want to hold court in East Lewis County, and they made that perfectly clear. We’re just not going to let them use Morton as their scapegoat,” he said.
Mortensen also referenced previous concerns of bug infestations within the facility, saying “we addressed that with an exterminator … then, they didn’t like the security we provided for them — free of charge, I might add.”
In years past, Lewis County had considered terminating the East Lewis County service as well, with judges making the hour-and-a-half roundtrip to hold court that could be held virtually, as county commissioners have pointed out before.
However, if commissioners want to continue the in-person service, Buzzard and Samuelson would be “happy to do so” once a new facility is found, they wrote in a memo March 31.
Until then, the court is offering virtual appearances to those unable to travel to the Law and Justice Center in Chehalis.