Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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At issue before the Washington Supreme Court was whether the superior court erred in ruling that 29A.80.061 was invalid under the First Amendment. Also at issue was whether the bill containing the statute violated the single subject or subject in title requirements of article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution. RCW 29A.80.061 requires political parties to elect, rather than appoint, legislative district chairs for each legislative district. Appellant Andrew Pilloud, acting pro se, sought to enforce the statute against the King County Republican Central Committee (Committee), which, by bylaw, had long chosen to appoint its legislative district chairs. The superior court concluded that the statute violated a political party's right to free association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pilloud appealed this decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding RCW 29A.80.061 violated the Committee's freedom of association. View "Pilloud v. King County Republican Cent. Comm." on Justia Law

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Yakima County Clerk Janelle Riddle appealed a trial court's ruling that five out of the six recall charges filed against her were factually and legally sufficient. Riddle was elected on in late 2014, defeating incumbent Kim Eaton. Riddle attributed many of the challenges she faced to Yakima County's early adoption of new case management software called “Odyssey.” Yakima County had received approval to be "an early adopter site" for Odyssey about a year before Riddle's election. Odyssey was implemented in November 2015. And although most of the early adopter sites for Odyssey encountered some difficulties in its implementation, the Yakima County Clerk's Office had the most difficulty making the transition. Another source of difficulty for Riddle has been her ongoing disagreement with other Yakima County officials, particularly the superior court judges, about the scope of Riddle's powers and duties as clerk. This disagreement prompted the Yakima County Superior Court to pass five new local administrative rules regarding the powers and duties of the clerk on an emergency basis. In May 2017, about two and a half years into Riddle's four-year term, the recall petitioners filed a statement of charges against Riddle, largely alleging Riddle failed to transmit court orders as required by statute, refused to perform in-court duties and threatened to shut down the Yakima County Superior Court, and failed to properly collect and account for clerk's office revenue. The Washington Supreme Court granted the recall petitioners' motion for accelerated review and found the five remaining recall charges legally sufficient. View "In re Recall of Riddle" on Justia Law

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Robbin Taylor filed a statement of charges seeking recall of Black Diamond City council member Patricia Pepper. In November 2015, Pepper defeated opponent Ron Taylor (husband of Robbin Taylor) in an election for Black Diamond City Council in King County. Beginning in January 2016, a chasm developed with Mayor Carol Benson and council members Tamie Deady and Janie Edelman on one side, and a majority of the city council - Pepper, Erika Morgan, and Brian Weber - on the other. After Pepper, Morgan, and Weber passed R-1069, they voted to fire city attorney Carol Morris. Upon passing R-1069, Pepper and a majority of the council made decisions to alter contracts regarding the Master Development Review Team (MDRT) contracts for two large development projects planned in Black Diamond that had been approved by Mayor Benson and former council members. Mayor Benson hired emergency interim city attorney Yvonne Ward. Ward submitted two memoranda to the council, concluding that R-1069 violated the Black Diamond Municipal Code (BDMC) and the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW. The council had also received advice from prior city attorney Morris and from the city's risk management pool that the resolution could create liability for the city if council members violated the OPMA. Ultimately, the council's decision to enact R-1069 and revisit the MDRT contracts, among other actions, led to a lawsuit: MDRT contractor CCD Black Diamond Partners LLC (Oakpointe) filed suit against the city and council members Pepper, Morgan, and Weber, alleging violations of the OPMA, which has led to litigation and costs for the city. Pepper was a member of council standing committees; allegations were made that Pepper, Morgan, and Weber held secret council and standing committee meetings conducting city business in violation of the OPMA. After approximately a year and a half of tensions, Taylor filed a statement of charges with the King County Elections Division, requesting Pepper's recall. The superior court ruled that four of those charges were factually and legally sufficient to support a recall petition. Pepper appealed. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision with regard to the first three charges, but reversed with regard to the fourth charge. View "In re Recall of Pepper" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Envision Spokane gathered enough signatures to place a local initiative on the ballot that would establish a "Community Bill of Rights." Petitioners filed this declaratory judgment action challenging the validity of the Envision Initiative. The petitioners included Spokane County, individual residents of Spokane (including two city council members acting in their individual capacities), for-profit corporations and companies in Spokane (including Pearson Packaging Systems and the utility company A vista Corporation), and nonprofit associations (including the Spokane Association of Realtors, the Spokane Building Owners and Managers Association, the Spokane Home Builders Association, and local chambers of commerce). The trial judge ruled that (1) petitioners had standing to challenge the initiative and (2) the initiative exceeded the scope of the local initiative power. She therefore instructed that it be struck from the ballot. Envision Spokane appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that petitioners lacked standing and ordered the initiative be put on the next available ballot. The first issue before the Supreme Court in this case was who has standing to bring those types of challenges. The Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals created new limits on who can bring such challenges, but the Supreme Court reversed and adhered to existing standards because they adequately ensured that only those affected by an ordinance may challenge it. Applying those existing standards, the Supreme Court found that petitioners in this case had standing to bring this challenge. The second issue in this case was the substance of the petitioners' challenge: whether the initiative's subject matter fell within the scope of authority granted to local residents. The Court affirmed the trial court's finding that this local initiative exceeds the scope of local initiative power and should not have been put on the ballot. View "Spokane Entrepreneurial Ctr. v. Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution" on Justia Law

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Appellants sought to reverse a superior court order denying appellants' motion to enjoin the secretary of state from placing Initiative 1366 (I-1366) on the November 2015 general election ballot. Appellants claimed the initiative went beyond the scope of the people’s initiative power under article II, section 1 of the Washington constitution and was therefore not proper for direct legislation. The trial court ruled that: ( 1) appellants had standing to challenge the initiative as taxpayers, county election officials, and legislators; (2) this was a challenge to the scope of the initiative and therefore appropriate for preelection review; (3) the "fundamental, stated and overriding purpose" of I-1366 was to amend the constitution in violation of article II of the state constitution; (4) I-1366 violated article XXIII of the state constitution; and (5) appellants were unable to show a "clear legal or equitable right" to an injunction under “Rabon v. City of Seattle,” ( 957 P.2d 621 (1998)), because the Supreme Court had yet to decide whether preelection restrictions on initiatives infringe on free speech rights under the First Amendment or article I, section 5 of the Washington constitution. After review, the Washington Court determined that appellants did not make a clear showing that the subject matter of the initiative was not within the broad scope of the people's power of direct legislation and, as such, failed to demonstrate a clear legal right for injunctive relief. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court. View "Huff v. Wyman" on Justia Law

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he issue before the Supreme Court in this case concerned a recall petition against Mayor Terecia Bolt and Councilman Dennis Jenson of the town of Marcus. The petition included ten charges against the mayor, and six against the councilman. THe superior court concluded that only one charge against the mayor and one against the councilman was legally sufficient to support a recall election. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that none of the charges were factually or legally sufficient, and accordingly reversed the superior court's decision on the one remaining charge. View "In re Recall of Bolt" on Justia Law

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Appellants Vicki Parker, James Johnson, and Marie Clarke appealed a superior court order directly to the Supreme Court. The lower court's order denied them relief in an action challenging the candidacy of Christine Schaller for the office of judge of the Thurston County Superior Court. Appellants argued that Schaller was not statutorily eligible for the office because she did not reside in, and therefore was not a qualified elector of, Thurston County. Upon review, the Court held that Schaller was not required to reside in or be an elector of Thurston County to be eligible for the office. View "Parker v. Wyman" on Justia Law

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The Washington constitution limits municipal indebtedness to protect taxpayers from legislative and voter improvidence. The issue before the Supreme Court centered on whether the city of Wenatchee (City) would exceed its debt limit by entering into a "contingent loan agreement" (CLA) with appellant Greater Wenatchee Regional Events Center Public Facilities District (District) to help the District finance a regional events center. The District argued that the CLA was not subject to the City's debt limit because it created a "contingent" liability, triggered only if the District is unable to make payments on the District's bonds. Upon review, the Supreme Court rejected this argument because the City was unconditionally obligated to service the District's debt if the District could not and because the risk of loss fell upon the City and its taxpayers: "[o]ur decision accordingly places the approval of the CLA in the hands of the voters." View "In re Bond Issuance of Greater Wenatchee Reg'l Events Ctr." on Justia Law

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David Ward and Michael Whittaker were commissioners for the Jefferson County Fire Protection No. 2 (the District). Two citizens of the District, Harry Goodrich and Linda Saunders (the petitioners), initiated a recall proceeding against Ward and Whittaker, alleging various counts of misfeasance. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the recall petition should advance to the signature-gathering phase of the recall process. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court and held that one of the four charges against Ward and Whittaker may advance to the next phase of the recall process. View "In re Recall of Ward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court was asked to determine whether Initiative 1183 (I-1183) violated the single-subject and subject-in-title rules found in article II, section 19 of the Washington State Constitution. I-1183 removed the State from the business of distributing and selling spirits and wine, imposes sales-based fees on private liquor distributors and retailers, and provides a distribution of $10 million per year to local governments for the purpose of enhancing public safety programs. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court held that the Appellants Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, Gruss, Inc. and David Grumbois did not overcome the presumption that the initiative was constitutional, and therefore the Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the State and the intervenors. View "Wash. Ass'n for Substance Abuse & Violence Prevention v. Washington" on Justia Law