The mission of the Bellingham Municipal Court is to administer the operations of the judicial branch of City government in a neutral and effective manner and ensure access to justice for all citizens. ~ Judge Debra Lev
Every visitor who enters the Bellingham Municipal Courthouse will go through security and weapons screening overseen by Court security staff. At this time, the only persons exempt from screening are sworn Law Enforcement Officers and attorneys who have applied for and been issued by-pass photo ID badges. (Note: By-Pass badges are only issued to practicing attorneys upon completion of a criminal history records check by the Bellingham Police Department and payment of a $75 issue fee. Applications can be obtained from the Court Clerk public window.)
Items not allowed in the Courthouse (including but not limited to):
- Potential weapons including: pocket knives, pepper spray, corkscrews, laser pointers, tools, etc.
- Contraband and illegal items including: knives, brass knuckles, tasers, drugs, drug paraphernalia, etc.
- Vaping devices, lighters, food and drink
If You Bring Contraband Items
To ensure a smooth entry into the Courthouse Building, do not bring any of the above listed items. If you do bring any of these items to the Courthouse Building, you will not be allowed to enter the building. All persons with a valid concealed weapons permit may check in their firearms to a locked storage box while they are in the Courthouse.
The most common criminal cases heard in the Bellingham Municipal Court include assault, malicious mischief, theft, driving under the influence of intoxicants (“DUI”), trespassing, violation of protective orders, driving with a suspended license, disorderly conduct, and minor in possession or consumption of alcohol. Many of the Court’s cases involve domestic violence. The Court also hears thousands of civil infractions, primarily involving traffic and parking violations, each year.
The Bellingham Municipal Court currently holds seventeen regular court sessions, or calendars, each week. Search the state database to Find My Court Date.
Due to health concerns raised by COVID-19, the court is closed to visitors until further notice. All court hearings will be held electronically. To contact the court, please call 360-778-8150 or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Bellingham Municipal Court has jurisdiction over violations of the Bellingham Municipal Code, including both criminal matters and civil infractions, committed in the City of Bellingham. The Court also has appellate jurisdiction over impoundment decisions of the City’s Hearings Examiner. The Whatcom County Superior Court has jurisdiction over felonies committed within the City of Bellingham.
Judge Debra Lev
Judge Lev became Bellingham’s first elected Municipal Court Judge in January, 2002. She previously served as the Court’s Commissioner for four years. Judge Lev has also managed a private law firm and served as a Deputy District Attorney. She has lived and practiced law in the Bellingham area since 1990. Judge Lev received a degree in Communications from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and graduated from Stetson University’s College of Law.
Commissioner Pete Smiley
Commissioner Smiley was appointed by Judge Lev in January, 2003. Commissioner Smiley previously served as an Assistant City Attorney, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, and Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington. He was raised in Bellingham, and graduated from Sehome High School. Commissioner Smiley received a degree in Government from Cornell University and graduated from Cornell Law School.
Judges Pro Tem
Judges pro tem are appointed by Judge Lev to serve as substitute judges. Judges Pro Tem for the Bellingham Municipal Court include:
- David Jolly, a local attorney in private practice
- Jeffrey Lustick, a local attorney in private practice
- Tom Lyden, a local attorney in private practice
- Carl Munson, a local attorney in private practice
- Melissa Nelson, a local attorney with Attorney General’s Office
- Jonathan Rands, a local attorney in private practice
- Kristen Reid, a local attorney in private practice
- Jason Smith, a local attorney in private practice
Domestic Violence Court
- Domestic Violence (DV) Court is the first of its kind in northwest Washington.
- It focuses all community resources on domestic violence cases, the most difficult cases in Municipal Court.
- Victims, defendants, attorneys, treatment providers, probation officers, and law enforcement officers all participate in a multi-disciplinary approach to help solve complicated issues in domestic violence cases.
- Probation officers report better compliance by convicted offenders in DV Court.
- Emphasis is placed on close judicial supervision of convicted domestic violence batterers to ensure accountability, enforce treatment requirements, and protect victims.
Mental Health Court
- Therapeutic court program provides an alternative to traditional prosecution by promoting mental health treatment, reducing substance abuse, providing close supervision by specialized probation officers and mental health professionals, and requiring frequent judicial reviews.
- Defendants interested in becoming members of the mental health court are carefully screened by licensed mental health professionals using established criteria to promote effectiveness and public safety.
- Team of mental health professionals, attorneys, judicial officers, probation officers, program manager, and case workers meet before court to determine appropriate rewards and sanctions to encourage positive choices and compliance with treatment plans. During the “wellness calendar,” a judicial officer presides over a court session with the team and members present to discuss compliance issues, support members’ progress, and ensure accountability.
- Studies have shown mental health courts dramatically reduce crime, incarceration rates and costs while promoting public safety.
Alternatives to Incarceration
- Court allows Electronic Home Monitoring for all eligible defendants in lieu of jail.
- Court allows most non-violent offenders to perform community service in lieu of jail.
- Court allows Whatcom County Jail Alternatives for eligible defendants.
- Court permits citizens to defer findings on their traffic infractions in exchange for payment of court costs and good driving behavior.
- Reduces insurance costs for citizens, increases revenues for City, and promotes safer driving.
Proactive Compliance Reviews
- Focusing use of probation services and implementing frequent compliance/status court reviews to reduce probation bill and increase compliance with probation conditions.
Before you enter a courtroom please follow these simple expectations: no food or drinks are permitted in the courtroom, remove hats, remove gum, turn off cell phones and pagers, keep feet off the furniture, rails, or benches. Proper attire is appreciated. Please be on time and be courteous to other participants while waiting for your case to be called. If possible, please try to arrange for child-care outside of court for any infants or young children.
There are two courtrooms in the Bellingham Municipal Court Building. Courtroom One is the large courtroom on the ground floor. Courtroom Two is the smaller courtroom on the second floor. The bulletin board near the public entrance indicates which courtroom will be used for each case. Additionally, in-custody cases are typically heard at the Whatcom County Jail’s courtroom starting at 8:45 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with exception to defendants who are being held at Yakima County Department of Corrections. Victims and other parties who are interested in watching the in-custody cases may do so via two-way closed circuit television from the In-Custody Viewing Room on the basement floor of the Whatcom County Courthouse at 311 Grand Avenue. All Yakima cases are heard on Thursdays at 9:45 a.m. by video conference at Bellingham Municipal Court.
It is not necessary to check in at the clerk’s window before your case is called. However, the clerk’s window, located on the ground floor near the public entrance to the Bellingham Municipal Court Building, is available for people who would like to ask questions, file pleadings including applications for the appointment of assigned counsel, or to arrange or make payments.
If you are unable to attend a scheduled court session or are unsure of the scheduled time or date for your hearing, please contact the court clerks at the Municipal Court as soon as possible. Failure to appear in court for a required appearance typically results in the issuance of a bench (arrest) warrant in criminal cases and a finding of “committed” in infraction cases.