Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Gonzales v. Inslee
Acting under enhanced powers to act in an emergency under RCW 43.06.220 and related statutes, the Washington Governor Inslee imposed a moratorium on evicting people from their homes for failing to pay rent from March 2020 through June 2021. The Washington Supreme Court was asked whether this eviction moratorium was lawful. The Court concluded that it was and affirmed the courts below. View "Gonzales v. Inslee" on Justia Law
Snaza v. Washington
Following waves of protests across the country calling for racial justice and reform of police practices, the Washington Legislature enacted several statutes in 2021 establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers. This case concerned article XI, section 5 of the Washington Constitution and the constitutionality of RCW 10.116.030(3)(a), which required sheriffs of non charter counties receive authorization from the chair of the board of county commissioners prior to deploying tear gas in response to a riot. The trial court on motion for summary judgment, held that the statute violated article XI, section 5 by interfering with the sheriff’s core functions. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Snaza v. Washington" on Justia Law
Wolf v. Washington
At issue in this case is the triggering event for the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse actions. Timothy Jones’ estate (Estate) brought negligence and wrongful death claims against the State of Washington. Timothy was born to Jaqueline Jones in 1990. In 2003, Jacqueline lost her home to foreclosure, and Timothy moved in with Price Nick Miller Jr., a family friend. A month later, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) was alerted that Miller was paying too much attention to children who were not his own. After investigating the report, DCYF removed Timothy from Miller’s home based on this inappropriate behavior. In November 2003, Timothy was placed in foster care and DCYF filed a dependency petition. Timothy’s dependency case was dismissed in 2006. Later that year, Timothy told a counselor that Miller had abused him sexually, physically, and emotionally from 1998 to 2006. In 2008, Miller pleaded guilty to second degree child rape connected to his abuse of Timothy and second degree child molestation related to another child. In 2007 or 2008, Jacqueline sued Miller on Timothy’s behalf. The attorney did not advise Timothy or his mother that there may be a lawsuit against the State or that the State may be liable for allowing Miller’s abuse to occur. Sometime in mid-2017, and prompted by a news story about childhood sexual abuse, Timothy and a romantic parter Jimmy Acevedo discussed whether Timothy may have a claim against the State. Acevedo recommended that Timothy consult a lawyer. In fall 2017, Timothy contacted a firm that began investigating Timothy’s case. In June 2018, Timothy committed suicide. Jacqueline was appointed personal representative of Timothy’s estate and filed claims for negligence, negligent investigation, and wrongful death against the State. On cross motions for summary judgment, the trial court concluded the statute of limitations for negligence claims begins when a victim recognizes the causal connection between the intentional abuse and their injuries. The court granted summary judgment for the State and dismissed the Estate’s claims as time barred. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding no evidence was presented that Timothy made the causal connection between that alleged act and his injuries until August or September 2017, and the Estate filed its claims on March 12, 2020, within RCW 4.16.340(1)(c)’s three-year time period. View "Wolf v. Washington" on Justia Law
Wahkiakum Sch. Dist. No. 200 v. Washington
In this action, the Wahkiakum School District (WSD) alleged the State of Washington “fail[ed] to amply fund the [WSD]’s needed facilities [and] infrastructure.” WSD argued that this failure violated the Washington Constitution, article IX, section 1. The complaint explained the impact of this lack of ample funding for facilities and infrastructure: “The [WSD] is a poor, rural school district located along the banks of the Columbia River. It has less than 500 students. Approximately 57% of its students are low income. It has less than 3500 registered voters. And the per capita income of its voters is approximately $29,000.” Specifically, the WSD requested that the State pay the cost of rebuilding its elementary, middle, and high schools; it estimated more than $50 million in construction costs. The State moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim (CR 12(b)(6)) and for lack of jurisdiction (CR 12(b)(1)). In support of its motion, the State argued, “[F]unding for school construction and other capital expenditures is governed by entirely different constitutional and statutory provisions that primarily look to local school districts themselves, with the State providing funding assistance. As such, WSD fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted . . . .” It also argued that the court could not award monetary damages because the legislature has not created a private right of action and monetary damages would violate separation of powers principles. The WSD conceded that it failed to file a tort claim form and thus that its claim for monetary damages was barred. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice. After review, the Washington Supreme Court concluded the constitution did not include capital construction costs within the category of “education” costs for which the State alone must make “ample provision.” The Court thus affirmed the trial court's decision to grant the motion to dismiss. View "Wahkiakum Sch. Dist. No. 200 v. Washington" on Justia Law
Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Olympic Game Farm, Inc.
The United States District Court certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court, asking whether a violation of Washington’s animal protection laws could establish a claim for a public nuisance, absent an indication that the legislature so intended and absent a showing that the violation interfered with the use and enjoyment of property or was injurious to public health and safety. The case was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) against the Olympic Game Farm Inc. (OGF). ALDF argued OGF violated Washington’s wildlife laws, animal cruelty laws, and both the Washington and federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, thus creating a public nuisance. OGF argued ALDF had no valid legal claim for public nuisance because ALDF did not demonstrate any wildlife statutes have been violated. Even if ALDF could prove such a violation, the Washington Supreme Court determined the state legislature has not named such violations a nuisance nor has ALDF demonstrated that a property interference or threat to public health and safety has occurred. Based on Washington case law and statutory definitions of public nuisance, and the lack of any indication in case law or statute that violation of animal protection laws has been declared a nuisance, the Supreme Court answered the federal court's certified question in the negative. View "Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Olympic Game Farm, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Det. of D.H.
DH was taken into emergency custody on an involuntary 72-hour hold as authorized by former RCW 71.05.153(1) (2019). Instead of filing for a 14-day commitment court order, the State let the 72-hour hold expire and did not release DH, although he had been asking to leave for days. The State kept him detained overnight and evaluated him again the next morning for a new 72-hour hold and filed a petition for a 14-day commitment. At DH’s subsequent 14-day hold hearing, he argued that he was entitled to dismissal because the State had totally disregarded the requirements of the ITA. The court denied the motion to dismiss and granted the new 14-day petition. The Washington Supreme Court held that when the State totally disregards the requirements of the ITA by holding someone despite lacking the authority under the ITA to do so, the ITA petition shall be dismissed. in this case, the State totally disregarded the requirements of the ITA when it failed to release DH at the end of the 72-hour period as mandated by statute. The trial court abused its discretion when it did not so hold and did not dismiss the new petition. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court for dismissal of the petition and any further proceedings. The Court also granted review of whether failure to inform a committed person about a loss of firearm rights for involuntary treatment constituted a “manifest error affecting a constitutional right” such that the Court should review the unpreserved issue under RAP 2.5(a)(3). Given its resolution of dismissal of the petition the Court declined to reach this issue. View "In re Det. of D.H." on Justia Law
In re Det. of A.C.
NG, CM, and AC were all involuntarily detained under the Washington involuntary treatment act (ITA). NG and CM were confined at Western State Hospital for more than a month after the court orders authorizing their continued civil commitments expired. Even after hospital staff realized the court orders had expired, they continued to hold NG and CM. Staff summoned designated crisis responders to initiate “new” ITA proceedings. AC was detained under a valid court order but was involuntarily medicated at an evaluation and treatment center before a court hearing despite asserting her statutory right to not be. The trial judge continued the hearing for a day to allow AC to appear un- medicated. The Washington Supreme Court held that when the State totally disregards the requirements of the ITA by holding someone despite lacking the authority under the ITA to do so, the ITA petition shall be dismissed. "Beginning 'new' ITA proceedings while someone is being held without authority of law is not an acceptable remedy." In NG’s and CM’s cases, the Court concluded the requirements of the ITA were totally disregarded and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial courts for dismissal. In AC’s case, the Court concluded the requirements of the ITA were not totally disregarded and that she was not held without authority of law. In that case, the Court affirmed the courts below. View "In re Det. of A.C." on Justia Law
Alaska Airlines v. Dep’t of Labor & Indus.
Alaska Airlines’ (AA’s) Collective Bargaining Agreement with its flight attendants required those flight attendants to schedule vacation days in advance. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) argued that RCW 49.12.270 displaced the CBA’s mandatory advance scheduling requirement term without explicitly saying so. AA argued that it did not. The Washington Supreme Court agreed with AA: "It takes more to displace a mandatory CBA term than RCW 49.12.270 contains. In fact, RCW 49.12.270 explicitly preserves non-choice-of-leave terms of the CBA and RCW 49.12.290 bars interpreting RCW 49.12.270 to 'reduce any provision in a [CBA].'" The Court therefore held that RCW 49.12.270 did not displace the advance scheduling requirement of the CBA. View "Alaska Airlines v. Dep't of Labor & Indus." on Justia Law
Portugal v. Franklin County
In this case, three Latino voters from Franklin County, Washington alleged that the county’s system for electing its board of commissioners violated the Washington voting rights act of 2018 (WVRA) by “dilut[ing] the votes of Latino/a voters.” The plaintiffs (respondents on appeal) ultimately settled with defendants Franklin County and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. The issues on appeal were raised by James Gimenez, a Franklin County voter who was allowed to intervene by the trial court. Immediately after his motion to intervene was granted, Gimenez moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim, arguing that the plaintiffs did not have standing and that the WVRA was facially invalid. The trial court denied Gimenez’s motion to dismiss, and he was not an active participant in the case thereafter. After the trial court entered a final order approving the parties’ settlement, Gimenez appealed directly to the Washington Supreme Court, arguing that in his view, the WVRA protected some Washington voters but excluded others. Based on this interpretation, Gimenez argued that plaintiffs did not have standing because the WVRA did not protect Latinx voters from Franklin County as a matter of law. Gimenez also argued that the WVRA was repealed by implication and was facially unconstitutional because it required local governments to implement electoral systems that favored protected voters and disfavored others on the basis of race. The Supreme Court disagreed with Gimenez's interpretation of the WVRA, and found plaintiffs had stnging and the WVRA was valid and constitutional on its face. View "Portugal v. Franklin County" on Justia Law
Kenmore MHP LLC v. City Of Kenmore
The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the Washington Growth Management Hearings Board’s (“Board”) decision to dismiss a timely petition for review was arbitrary and capricious when it found that the petitioner did not substantially comply with the service requirements under WAC 242-03-230(2)(a) without considering prejudice. The City of Kenmore argued and the Court of Appeals held that the Board’s interpretation of substantial compliance derived from Your Snoqualmie Valley v. City of Snoqualmie, No. 11-3-0012 (Cent. Puget Sound Growth Mgmt. Hr’gs Bd. Mar. 8, 2012 (Ord. on Mots.)), was entitled to deference, that the definition did not require a finding of prejudice, and that the Board’s application of the test for substantial compliance to the facts in this case was not an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court held that the Board’s erroneous interpretation and application of the substantial compliance standard articulated in the prior Board decision constituted arbitrary and capricious action and that the petitioners substantially complied with the service requirements. View "Kenmore MHP LLC v. City Of Kenmore" on Justia Law