Catching up on court cases: July edition

One old favorite, and two relatively new cases, have slowly but surely moved forward.


Fort Lawton

A month ago when we last checked in, the City of Seattle had run out of patience with Elizabeth Campbell and her organization the Discovery Park Community Alliance as she attempted to stop the city from moving forward with an affordable housing project at the old Fort Lawton site. Last November the city won a ruling from the judge that Campbell needed to add the U.S. Army as a party to the case, which meant that she needed to file an amended complaint and serve papers on the Army. At that moment she was on the verge of losing her second attorney, but Coughenour refused to let him out the door until he filed the complaint and served it on the Army. He finally did so in February, and quickly exited stage left. What neither side noticed at the time was that he had done so incorrectly — he had only sent it to the Army, whereas he was required to send it to the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington as well.

Also, Campbell has still not found a new attorney to represent her and Discovery Park Community Alliance. In March she filed the paperwork to represent herself in the case, but the court’s rules require that organizations must have an actual attorney.

So the city filed two motions with the court: one to dismiss Discovery Park Community Alliance as a party to the case for lack of an attorney representing it, and one to either dismiss the case entirely because the Army had not been properly served as the judge had ordered — or alternatively to set a deadline for Campbell to properly serve it. Officially Campbell had ninety days to properly serve the Army after the amended complaint was filed in February; that has long since expired.

Also, in the joint status report filed a month ago, Campbell indicated that by July 3 she intended to add four additional parties to the case: the U.S. Department of Education, the National Parks Service, the Archdiocese of Seattle, and United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. She has not done so.

Since then Campbell submitted an affidavit showing that the amended complaint had been sent to the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington. However, she did so incorrectly: she was also supposed to serve a summons, so that the Army would be on notice to appear before the court and take part in the proceedings. To this date she has still not served a summons, and the Army has still not made an appearance.

Today Coughenour indicated that he also has pretty much had enough of Campbell’s attempts to drag this out. Upon renewed requests by the city, he dismissed Discovery Park Community Alliance as a party in the case, leaving Campbell as the only remaining plaintiff. He also found that Campbell had incorrectly served papers on the Army, and gave her 14 days to correct it, otherwise he would dismiss the case in its entirety.  We’ll see if Campbell, who is not an attorney, can figure out how to write and serve a summons.

The petition to recall Mayor Durkan

Two weeks ago Mayor Durkan filed a motion asking King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts to reconsider her ruling certifying one charge as acceptable grounds for a recall petition. Since then, the petitioners filed their response to that request, attempting to refute the Mayor’s argument and also asking Roberts to revive one of the other charges that she had rejected.

Durkan filed a reply to that brief, mostly reiterating her earlier arguments.  Today Durkan filed with the court a copy of Judge Robart’s ruling last Friday night, noting that it confirms that changes to the use-of-force and crowd control policies needed to go through DOJ and court approval and could not be made unilaterally by the Mayor.  The petitioners have argued, however, that Durkan has unilaterally ordered policy changes in the past, including on June 8 when she issued an executive order directing that police officers’ body cams will be turned on when they are interacting with protesters.

As of this writing, Judge Roberts has not scheduled a hearing or indicated when she might rule on the two motions to reconsider in front of her.

CHOP Business Owners and Residents’ Class Action Lawsuit

You may recall that in late June a number of businesses and property owners in or neighboring the “CHOP” filed a class-action lawsuit against the city for its role in allowing the CHOP to establish itself, and for actively supporting it despite the vandalism, looting and threats to physical safety inflicted on neighbors.

Last week, the city filed a motion to deny class certification, and to dismiss the case altogether.

The city argues that the class of plaintiffs cannot be certified because they don’t all share the same harm, and many of their harms occurred at separate times. It also argued that the case should be dismissed entirely because the city cannot be held accountable for the actions of third parties.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly, who is assigned to the case, has not scheduled a hearing yet. Expect the plaintiffs to file their reply in the next week or so, followed by a reply by the city, before the judge rules.

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