District court administrator fired, judge calls staffing shortage ‘pretty grim’
The Kitsap County District Court administrator was sacked on Wednesday from the post he had held for five years, marking the departure of the four-judge court’s top unelected official.
Reached by phone, Clint Casebolt confirmed he had been fired and called it “brutal”.
“Over the past few months, it has become clear that I no longer have the support of the new presiding judge,” Casebolt, 57, wrote in a prepared statement to the Kitsap Sun. “I’m disappointed with this and sorry to leave the district court.”
Before becoming a court administrator in March 2017, Casebolt worked as a Washington State Patrol Trooper for 26 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant. A few years after his retirement, he started as a court administrator, replacing longtime administrator Maury Baker, who retired. The court deals with misdemeanors, traffic citations, and other offenses issued in unincorporated areas of the county.
District Court Judge Claire Bradley, presiding judge of the court, announced Casebolt’s departure Wednesday in an email to other Kitsap County officials and wrote that she would handle administrative duties.
“Things are tough here, lots of bodies and losing two more next week,” Bradley wrote in the email. “It’s pretty dark. However, I also see this as an opportunity for our court to really look at the organizational structure and look at what works and what doesn’t. Please let me know if you have any ideas or constructive criticism that you think could help us.
In comments to the Kitsap Sun on Friday, Bradley said the judges wished Casebolt well, but said for personal reasons she could not divulge details of her departure.
She said the court has enough staff to do the job right now, praised court staff for their hard work, and said new staff are expected in the coming weeks.
However, Bradley acknowledged that the pool of qualified court applicants has dwindled — something she said was not specific to the district court, but a broader, society-wide phenomenon.
Kitsap County courts, including the district court and superior court, require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy that Bradley said likely affected the court’s ability to retain some employees.
“Of course,” Bradley said. “I’m sure that at least helped.”
She did not know whether new applicants had been informed of the terms of reference before applying.
Bradley said she respected the mandate, as the judges prioritized the safety of not only employees, but also members of the public who have no choice but to appear in court.
“We have an absolute and affirmative obligation to ensure the safety of people who come to court,” Bradley said. “They don’t choose to go out to dinner, these people are forced to come to court, including our jurors.”
In a 2017 statement announcing the hiring of Caseboltno mention was made of previous experience in the courts.
“The Kitsap District Court is fortunate to be able to hire Mr. Casebolt as the new court administrator,” Judge Jeff Jahns said. “His extensive management experience will be a valuable asset to our office.”
In the same statement, Casebolt said learning to look at the criminal justice system from the perspective of the judiciary “was certainly an educational experience, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.”
After his dismissal, Casebolt wrote that he was proud of his work with the court.
“Especially in our response to COVID and our continued efforts to keep the public and our staff safe while maintaining access to the courts,” Casebolt wrote. “Partnerships and support from the County Board of Commissioners, County Administrator, Human Resources and other departments have been essential to our ability to continue the core functions of the court.”
Rumors circulated after Casebolt left, but one claimed he had been escorted by a sheriff’s deputy. Not true, Casebolt, Bradley and Jahns said.
The turnover in court was finalized at the end of last year when in November the court dismissed a 27-year-old employee whose efforts to be exempt from the court’s mandate regarding the COVID-19 vaccine have been rejected. The former employee, Tammy Duryea, had applied for religious and healthcare exemptions. She said Friday that a lawsuit against the county alleging wrongful termination was “imminent.”
Duryea keeps in touch with her former colleagues and said she knows eight employees who have left the office since the fall. She said that following these departures, the remaining employees were to take on the job.
“I wouldn’t say it was the best place in the world, but it was working, everyone was getting along and everyone was doing their job,” Duryea said. “I think it’s the mandate that just imploded it.”