A busy day for the City Attorney’s Office

Even putting all the furious activity around the SPOG contract aside for a moment, it was a very busy day for the city on the legal front.  Two rulings were handed down today, along with one legal filing that essentially settles a long-pending case.

First up: the judge in the legal challenge to the “Save the Showbox” ordinance ruled on the city’s motion to dismiss the case, granting the city’s motion in part.

The plaintiffs had asked for both relief under the Land Use Protection Act (LUPA) and declaratory relief for three separate issues: that it was an unconstitutional government taking, that the City Council violated the “appearance of fairness” statute, and that the city is compelling speech by requiring the Showbox to continue as a music venue. Judge Roberts agreed with the city that LUPA does not apply to this case and dismissed that claim; she also dismissed the “taking” claim because the city has not taken final action on the application of the ordinance to the Showbox property. But she declined to dismiss the other claims, and ordered a new schedule for the case to move forward. No word yet on whether the plaintiffs will appeal the ruling.

Second: the judge in the legal challenge to the city’s gun storage ordinance passed earlier this year issued a ruling on the city’s motion to dismiss the case. At a hearing yesterday the judge ruled from the bench in favor of the city. Today she issued a terse order dismissing the case, without a written explanation for her decision.

According to a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, the judge said in court yesterday that she determined the plaintiffs lacked standing, and the case was not yet “ripe” to be adjudicated. The issue is that the ordinance is not yet being enforced, and the court’s rules for who can challenge an ordinance in its “pre-enforcement” period (and under what circumstances) are complicated and restrictive. But the judge didn’t rule on the merits of the challenge: whether the ordinance violates the statewide preemption on gun control regulations. Unless the plaintiffs successfully appeal, that question will need to wait until next year when the city begins to enforce the ordinance, and possibly until it actually prosecutes someone for violating it. Once that happens, expect the challenge to be renewed.

Third: the City of Seattle, the City of Portland, and the Trump Administration jointly filed a request with the US District Court hearing the cities’ challenge to Trump’s executive order withholding federal funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t comply with  8 USC 1373. They asked the judge to file an order granting declaratory relief to the city, declaring that section 9a of the executive order is unconstitutional, and that it would be unconstitutional for the feds to withhold money from Seattle and Portland under those terms.

This action was prompted by recent appeals court rulings that found the executive order unconstitutional; Seattle and Portland’s case was paused until those appeals were resolved as they were potentially binding precedents.

Today’s proposed order does have one ominous note at the end:

This Order and Judgment does not address whether any specific statutory grant program permits grants to be conditioned on compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373.

That suggests the government may feel that some federal grant programs, other than the ones discussed in the case, may still be able to be conditioned on compliance with 1373. However, there are some problems with that. First, there is already a district court ruling in another circuit saying that 1373 is itself unconstitutional. Second, the bar for conditioning federal funding is high: Congress can do it, but not the executive branch unless explicitly granted permission by Congress. Congress must explicitly name the condition, and it must relate to the intended use of the funds.

That caps a busy legal week, with the Che Taylor wrongful death suit being pared down to fewer plaintiffs and fewer allowed claims.

 

Also, in the case arguing that the City Council violated the Open Public Meetings Act when it repealed the head tax, the judge ordered the city to produce additional records, and ordered polling firm EMC to hand over documents related to the polling results it briefed the Mayor’s staff and City Council members on that led to their decision to repeal the tax.

 

Happy weekend reading.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “A busy day for the City Attorney’s Office”

  1. so…. was the EMC presentation/polling data released today? I’m interested to see the results gathered re: the EHT – but am honestly just as interested to see if the data gathering methodology is described in the docs.

    After all, how does one do reliable and scientifically accurate polling these days in Seattle? call land lines? stand outside of grocery stores? pay FB extra $$ to psycho-analyze profiles? 😉

    We famously and regrettably ‘shanked’ national polling a recent important election. So…. how reliable are provincial, local polls – and how is the data gathered by firms like EMC?

    Anyway, I do hope the EMC/EHT info does eventually get released to the public so we can understand how the data might have informed or influenced our elected officials… and who else might have been involved in those conversations that led to the abrupt change in decision.

    1. No idea. It’s not getting published by EMC; they have to deliver it to the plaintiffs. I will try to get it though, if it isn’t sealed.

    2. The methodology is pretty much the whole thing. Something most polls and private number crunching don’t publish. Making them not reproduceable exercises proclaiming a particular POV. Marketeering based on if it is ‘said’ enough then it is true.

      1. @Kat – I’m curious is this (political polling) your industry?

        I’m wondering about what you mean that the “methodology is pretty much the whole thing.” Does that mean that
        1) methodology is pretty much the whole presentation that a firm like EMC would craft, and then explain to their clients? (i.e. here is how we gathered the data results that we’re about to show you?)
        – Or –
        2) methodology is a “whole thing” for the research industry – meaning that their trade secrets are super protected and clients only often get to see the results – not the process(es) by which they were gathered.

        FWIW – political polling is not my industry whatsoever…. but I do appreciate a good, clean data set – so genuinely curious about what could have caused the Council to yo-yo on a decision so rapidly. 😎

  2. Regarding Zilly’s order in the Che Taylor case, almost all of the dismissals are “without prejudice.” This type of ruling usually means that plaintiffs may file an amended complaint fixing the problems. In that regard, look at the sentence on page 4, lines 7-8; where is Zilly’s “consider[ation] whether to grant leave to amend”? In the absence of anything else in the order on the subject, I believe it’s simply the fact that most dismissals are “without prejudice.”

    1. Yes, I believe you are reading that correctly. However, in general most dismissals for lack of standing or ripeness are made without prejudice; that itself doesn’t imply that the complaint can actually be amended to fix the flaw that caused the lack of standing.

  3. @SCC Insight – appreciate your sharing some of the docs via Twitter. I don’t know whether to LOL or bury my head in hand with frustration re: some of the quotes in those e-mail threads. 😛
    .
    You provide a true community service re: transparency in City government- and do so in a way that is respectful and more informative than 99.99% of other information sources out there on the InterWebs. =) Thank you.

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