Catching up on the court cases: February 19, 2021

A few things happened this week in some of the pending court cases involving the city. Let’s catch up.

Hazard Pay Lawsuit

At the beginning of the month, the first lawsuit was filed challenging the city’s ordinance granting $4 per hour hazard pay to front-line grocery workers. Last week, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt its (ongoing) implementation and enforcement. On Wednesday of this week, there was a very brief (two minutes maximum) status conference, in which Judge Coughenour said that he could either decide the motion on written briefings alone in short order, or schedule a hearing for oral arguments — but the soonest he could schedule it is March 18th. The plaintiffs requested that a hearing be scheduled, and the defendant (the City of Seattle) agreed. The hearing is now set for 1:00am on March 18th.

But wait, there’s more: yesterday the city filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that there is no legal basis for any of the plaintiffs’ claims. This was not entirely unexpected, as in order to defend against preliminary injunction the city already needs to lay out its case for why the claims are meritless.

Expect the judge to consolidate the written briefing schedule and hear arguments on both motions on March 18th.



Cyberstalking Sawant

There has been a fair amount of press coverage recently of the threats that Councilmember Sawant received from a city-owned email account used by a Seattle firefighter who claimed to have nothing to do with it. Last Friday SPD arrested a different firefighter, Andrew Finseth, in connection with the case, and earlier this week filed charges in King County Superior Court, accusing him of identify theft and two counts of cyber-stalking. According to the charging documents, Finseth has confessed to using the email account of Bradley Engel, a fellow firefighter with whom he had a frosty relationship, to send harassing and threatening emails to Sawant. He also used the account to submit a transfer request on behalf of Engel. He told SPD investigators that he intended to “get Engel to be punished by his chain of command and held accountable for ‘something’ because Engel was always getting away with things.”

Finseth was released from custody without bail, and will be arraigned on March 3. The court has ordered that he have no contact with Sawant or Engel.



Cal Anderson homeless sweep lawsuit

finally, we return to a case from last fall, in which one of the homeless individuals who was living in a tent in Cal Anderson Park sued the city to try to stop the Parks Department from clearing out the park. That effort failed, but the case lived on so that the plaintiff, Ada Yeager, could argue that her rights had been violated. This week, Yeager and the city settled the case, reportedly for $10,000. The case is now dismissed.


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