Catching up on court cases: September 16, 2021

It’s been a busy week in Seattle courts, though much has flown under the radar. Let’s get caught up.

SPD Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settled

The estate of Iosia Faletogo, who was shot and killed by SPD officers on December 31, 2018, has reached a tentative settlement of the wrongful-death lawsuit it filed against the city. According to the filing with the court, the terms of the settlement are still being reviewed by the court-appointed guardian for Faletogo’s minor beneficiaries. Assuming the guardian approves, the settlement terms — which have not yet been disclosed — will be filed with the Court for its approval and the parties will move to have the case dismissed.

Eviction Moratorium Challenge Headed for Dismissal

A federal magistrate judge is recommending that a lawsuit challenging the eviction moratoriums enacted by the Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington Governor Jay Inslee be dismissed.

Magistrate judges hear cases on behalf of a sitting U.S. District Court judge; the magistrate judge makes recommendations to the judge, who then reviews and officially makes the major rulings in the case.

In Magistrate Judge Richard Creatura’s 31-page recommendations filed yesterday, he found the two eviction moratoriums to be constitutional. This is consistent with his December 2020 finding in the case, on a motion for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the moratoriums.

Since January, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued two rulings that suggested the conservative wing of the Court is much more favorable to the view that the moratoriums are unconstitutional “takings” of property without just compensation. The first of those rulings, Cedar Point Nursery vs Hassid, has been shrugged off by judges subsequently hearing eviction moratorium cases, instead relying on the traditional view that the Yee vs. Escondido case is the controlling case law. Creatura follow suit in claiming that Cedar Point is not relevant to eviction moratorium cases. But the second case, Alabama Assn. of Realtors, in which the Court was quite explicit in saying  “preventing [landlords] from evicting tenants who breach their leases intrudes on one of the most fundamental elements of property ownership—the right to exclude,” has not yet been addressed by courts actively hearing eviction moratorium cases, and despite the fact that the plaintiffs brought it to the attention of the court, Creatura does not address it in his report.

The parties in the case have 14 days to file written objections to Creatura’s findings and recommendations, after which Judge Richard Jones will make his final ruling. If he follows Creatura’s lead and dismisses the case, expect it to be appealed. Currently both the city and state moratoriums are set to expire at the end of the month; however, that only makes the question of an injunction moot (assuming the moratoriums aren’t once again renewed); the plaintiffs can still sue if they believe they are owed just compensation.

Protestors Lawsuit Against SPD Voluntarily Dismissed

You may recall that a year ago there were two lawsuits filed against the city over SPD’s heavy-handed treatment of protesters last summer. The first, which received the bulk of the attention was filed by Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County. The second Benton et al vs. City of Seattle, duplicated much of the claims in the BLM lawsuit, but added the novel argument that the city had violated their equal protection rights by forcing them to buy protective equipment in order to protest. That argument never got any traction, and two weeks ago Judge Richard Jones denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs were not due any relief beyond what he had already granted to the BLM plaintiffs. That ruling, which was devastating to their case, led to a motion earlier this week to voluntarily dismiss the case, which Judge Jones has approved. Both sides will cover their own legal costs. According to a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, the plaintiffs approached the city and asked whether it would agree to a voluntary dismissal, and the City Attorney agreed.

City Attorney Clears Outstanding Prostitution Warrants

As PubliCola first reported today, the City Attorney’s Office has asked a Seattle Municipal Court judge to quash 37 outstanding warrants for prostitution issued between 2001 and 2019. The motion requests that the court dismiss the underlying cases with prejudice, which means that they cannot be refiled in the future.

Click to access Motion_Prostitution_CasesAmended.pdf

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