Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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Franklin County Washington was an early adopter of an electronic filing system for superior court cases. The county clerk and the superior court judges largely cooperated with the transition to "Odyssey" and anticipated that court files would be paperless by 2018. To facilitate this transition, the clerk gave the superior court judges wireless access devices and expressed his willingness to accommodate other requests. Shortly after the clerk's transition to a paperless file system was fully implemented, the superior court judges of Franklin County directed the Franklin County clerk to continue making and maintaining paper files. The clerk declined to do so as his budget was insufficient to allow him to maintain duplicate paper files. The clerk also deemed it unnecessary to maintain duplicate paper files once Odyssey had been implemented. Declaring an emergency, the judges adopted a local rule requiting the clerk to maintain paper files for all file types. When the Franklin County Clerk continued to resist creating duplicate paper files, the judges threatened legal action. The Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney appointed a special deputy prosecuting attorney pursuant to RCW 36.27.040 to represent the clerk with respect to any contempt or other legal action the judges threatened to pursue. The issue presented to the Washington Supreme Court was whether the judges validly issued an order of appointment under RCW 36.27.030, securing their own special deputy prosecuting attorney to pursue their legal action against the clerk. The Supreme Court determined the judges' appointment order was invalid: "while the judges are free to sue the clerk, they must do it at their own expense." View "In re Appointment of Special Deputy Prosecuting Attorney" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (“Commission”) had standing to challenge the National Homebuyers Fund’s (“NHF”) authority to provide down payment assistance to Washington residents in conjunction with federally insured mortgages. The Commission alleged NHF was falsely claiming governmental authority when it provided down payment assistance in Washington, impermissibly competing with the Commission’s own activities. The Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the Commission on the basis that the Commission lacked standing. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed, finding the Commission indeed had standing. View "Wash. State Hous. Fin. Comm'n v. Nat'l Homebuyers Fund, Inc." on Justia Law

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Seattle voters approved the "Democracy Voucher Program," intending to increase civic engagement. Recipients could give their vouchers to qualified municipal candidates, who could redeem those vouchers for campaign purposes. The city would find the program through property taxes. Mark Elster and Sarah Pynchon sued, arguing the taxes funding the program was unconstitutional. Because the program did not violate the First Amendment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Elster v. City Of Seattle" on Justia Law

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The Yakima County clerk was ordered by a superior court judge to procure a supplemental bond to maintain her elected office. The court warned that failure to comply would result in the court declaring the office vacant. The clerk sought a writ of prohibition from the Washington Supreme Court to prevent enforcement of the superior court's order. The Supreme Court denied the writ: the superior court judge did not exceed the court's jurisdiction by issuing the supplemental bond order; the clerk could have availed herself of "a plain, speedy and adequate remedy at law - an injunction. Thus, prohibition will not lie." View "Riddle v. Elofson" on Justia Law

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In Washington State, cities, towns, and counties are empowered to enact criminal codes, employ law enforcement officers, and operate jails. Currently, cities, towns, and counties were "responsible for the prosecution, adjudication, sentencing, and incarceration of misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses committed by adults in their respective jurisdictions, and referred from their respective law enforcement agencies." They can carry out these responsibilities directly, through their own courts, law enforcement agencies, and jails, or through agreements with other jurisdictions. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review was whether, in the absence of a prior interlocal agreement, a county was entitled to seek reimbursement from cities for the cost of medical services provided to jail inmates who were (1) arrested by city officers and (2) held in the county jail on felony charges. The Court concluded it was not. View "Thurston County v. City of Olympia" on Justia Law

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This case centered on contempt sanctions imposed against the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) for failing to timely complete competency evaluations for criminal defendants. Specifically, the issue reduced to whether the State waived its sovereign immunity under RCW 7.21.030 to the imposition of interest concerning imposed contempt sanctions. The Washington Supreme Court found no waiver under this statute's plain language or in the context presented. The Court also determined whether remedial sanctions ran from the date of the trial court's oral ruling imposing the sanctions or the filing of the written sanction order, holding the oral ruling determining contempt and imposing sanctions triggered the running of the contempt sanctions. View "Dep't of Soc. & Health Servs. v. Sims" on Justia Law

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In 1998, petitioner Christal Fields pled guilty to attempted second degree robbery for trying to snatch a woman's purse. As a result, Fields was permanently disqualified from working at any licensed childcare facility in Washington pursuant to Department of Early Learning (DEL) regulations. At issue in this case was the extent to which a criminal record could preclude a person from supporting herself through lawful employment in her chosen field. The Washington Supreme Court held DEL's regulations prohibiting any individualized consideration of Fields' qualifications at the administrative level violated her federal right to due process as applied. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for further administrative proceedings. View "Fields v. Dep't of Early Learning" on Justia Law

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This case involved statutory interpretation concerning application of the reporting requirements contained in the Washington Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), chapter 42.17A RCW. The specific issue presented was how the FCPA reporting requirements in RCW 42.17A.255 and the definition in RCW 42.17A.005(4) ("ballot proposition") were to be applied in the context of local initiatives. In 2014, Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) staff created sample municipal ordinances and ballot propositions for citizens to use to advance certain causes to their local city councils or commissions. Local residents in the cities of Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton used those samples in filing two ballot propositions in each city, one to require collective bargaining negotiation sessions to be publicly conducted and the second to prohibit union security clauses in city collective bargaining agreements. The proponents submitted the proposed measures to their local city clerks along with signatures they had gathered in support of the measures, and asked their respective city councils or commissions either to pass the measures as local ordinances or, if the councils or commissions did not agree, to alternatively place each measure on the local ballot for a vote. None of the cities passed the measures as ordinances or placed the ballot propositions on the local ballots. In response, EFF employees, who were attorneys, participated in lawsuits against each jurisdiction on behalf of the local resident proponents, each suit seeking a judicial directive to the respective city to put each measure on the local ballot. Each lawsuit ended in a superior court dismissing the case, and those decisions were not appealed. EFF did not file any campaign finance disclosure reports identifying the value of the legal services it provided to the resident proponents in support of the local ballot propositions. The State conducted an investigation and then filed a civil regulatory enforcement action against EFF alleging EFF failed to report independent expenditures it made in support of the noted local ballot propositions. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' reversal of the trial court's 12(b)(6) dismissal of the State's regulatory enforcement action under the FCPA: under the circumstances of this case, EFF's pro bono legal services were reportable. The applicable reporting statutes were not unconstitutionally vague, nor did their application here violate EFF's First Amendment rights. View "Washington v. Evergreen Freedom Found." on Justia Law

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At issue was the geographic scope of the permitting authority delegated to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife over hydraulic projects. A coalition of counties challenged the Department's statutory authority to regulate the construction or performance of work to occur exclusively above the ordinary high-water line. The Washington Supreme Court held the plain language of the statute at issue looked to the "reasonably certain" (not "absolutely certain") effects of hydraulic projects on state waters in determining the scope of the Department's permitting authority, and at least some projects above the ordinary high-water line were reasonably certain to affect those waters. An examination of relevant legislative history confirmed that the legislature intended the Department's regulatory jurisdiction to include projects above the ordinary high-water line that affected state waters. View "Spokane County v. Dep't of Fish & Wildlife" on Justia Law

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Proposed Initiative 27 (I-27) would have allowed King County, Washington voters to decide whether to ban public funding for community health engagement location (CHEL) sites, colloquially known as safe injection sites, and to create civil liability for any person or entity who operates a site. The King County Superior Court granted respondent Protect Public Health's ("PPH") motion for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, and enjoined King County from placing I-27 on the ballot. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether the proposed initiative was beyond the scope of the local initiative power. The Court affirmed the superior court, holding I-27 was outside the scope of local initiative power because it improperly interfered with the budgetary authority of the King City Council. View "Protect Pub. Health v. Freed" on Justia Law