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In a significant 2009 legal decision, the Supreme Court of Washington made a pivotal ruling in State v. Kenyon (167 Wn. 2d 130), addressing the critical issue of a defendant’s right to a speedy trial under Superior Court Criminal Rule (CrR) 3.3. This case, involving defendant James Ryan Kenyon charged with seven counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, highlights the complexities and challenges in applying the speedy trial rule.

Trial Delays and Legal Proceedings:

James Ryan Kenyon faced multiple trial delays due to the unavailability of a judge and numerous continuances requested by his attorney. These continuances were primarily attributed to incomplete discovery and the need for further case preparation, despite Kenyon’s objections to some of these delays.

The trial’s postponement past the speedy trial date became a focal point of legal contention, particularly as the trial court labeled the judge’s unavailability as an unavoidable circumstance, rejecting Kenyon’s motion for dismissal based on CrR 3.3.

Judicial Complications:

The case was further complicated by the limited availability of judges in the county. One judge was on vacation, while the other was occupied with another criminal trial, adding to the trial’s delay.

Supreme Court’s Reversal and Rationale:

In a decisive move, the Supreme Court of Washington overturned the Court of Appeals’ decision. The Court scrutinized the application of CrR 3.3, emphasizing its intent to safeguard a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.

The Court identified a crucial oversight: the trial court’s failure to document the availability of substitute judges or pro tempore judges and vacant courtrooms. This lapse was considered a breach of Kenyon’s speedy trial rights, leading to the dismissal of all charges against him.


The State v. Kenyon case serves as a landmark decision in Washington State’s legal landscape, underlining the judiciary’s responsibility to uphold a defendant’s constitutional rights and the intricate balance required in the administration of justice.

You can read the text of State v. Kenyon, 167 Wn. 2d 130, 167 Wash. 2d 130, 216 P.3d 1024 (Wash. 2009) here

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About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us