Articles Posted in Election 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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Plaintiffs-retired justices Robert Utter and Faith Ireland sued the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), alleging that BIAW violated Washington's Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), chapter 42.17 A RCW, in part by failing to register as a political committee during the 2007-2008 campaign season. The trial court granted BIAW' s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case on the ground that there was no material factual dispute and BIAW was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, but it denied BIAW's request for attorney fees. The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed, stating in dicta that there was an issue of fact as to whether BIAW met the statutory definition of a "political committee," but held only that the plaintiffs' case did not meet the procedural prerequisites to filing a citizen suit. The Court of Appeals also affirmed the trial court's denial of BIAW's request for attorney fees. Plaintiffs petitioned the Washington Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court reversed, holding that: (1) plaintiffs' suit was not procedurally barred under Washington's citizen suit provision; and (2) plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact about whether BIAW met the statutory definition of a "political committee." View "Utter v. Bldg. Indus. Ass'n of Wash." 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

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Petitioners Albert Ugas and Daniel Fishburn filed a recall petition against Respondent Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, charging him with misfeasance and/or malfeasance and breach of his oath of office. Petitioners alleged that Mr. Lindquist failed to investigate alleged corruption and falsification of records by a former county assessor-treasurer. Additionally, Petitioners contended that Mr. Lindquist obstructed justice by deterring law enforcement from investigating the assessor-treasurer. The lower court dismissed Petitioners' affidavit of prejudice and held that the recall petition was legally and factually insufficient. The court awarded Mr. Lindquist $50,000 in attorney fees for Petitioners' intentionally filing a frivolous recall petition in bad faith. Petitioners argued on appeal that their recall petition was legally and factually sufficient and that they should not have been ordered to pay attorney fees. Upon review of the petition and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "In re Recall of Lindquist" on Justia Law

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In Fall 2010, former employees and representatives of the Town of Coulee filed a petition to recall Mayor Rick Heiberg. Of eleven charges, only two were found by the courts to be factually and legally sufficient to support a recall election. On appeal to the Supreme Court, it was determined that the two surviving claims against the mayor were not legally sufficient to support a recall. The Court reversed the lower courts' decisions and dismissed the recall petition. View "In re Recall of Heiberg" on Justia Law