News Outlets Sue, Judge Agrees: Washington Lawmaker Records Open To Public

Thurston County Judge Chris Lanese ruled Friday that individual lawmakers are agencies under the state's Public Records Act and therefore their records such as calendars and emails are subject to disclosure. CREDIT: AUSTIN JENKINS / NORTHWEST NEWS NETWORK

Listen

A coalition of news outlets have won a partial victory in a public records lawsuit against the Washington Legislature. In a ruling Friday morning, a judge in Thurston County said lawmakers are subject to the state’s public disclosure law.

The Associated Press, public radio and other news media sued the Legislature in September. The lawsuit named the four top legislative leaders who had previously denied requests for their records.

In his ruling, Thurston County Judge Chris Lanese said individual state representatives and senators are agencies as defined by the Public Records Act. That means their records such as calendars and emails are subject to disclosure if the public or members of the media request them.

“And as a result, the court finds that the individual defendants have violated the Public Records Act by failing to respond to the public records request in this case as agencies under the Public Records Act,” Lanese said.

Washington’s Public Records Act requires public officials and agencies to disclosure their records upon request. Lawmakers maintain that because of how legislative records are defined they are mostly exempt from that law.

The judge found the chief clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate have not violated the law.

Lawyers for the Legislature say they will likely appeal the ruling.

“Legally, the clients have the better position and I’m confident that on appeal the legal position the state Legislature has taken and the individuals legislators have taken will be affirmed by an appellate court,” said attorney Paul Lawrence who represents the Legislature.

Lawrence would not say if he plans to appeal directly to the Washington Supreme Court.

Copyright 2018 Northwest News Network

Related Stories:

The Washington State Patrol and Department of Transportation closed I-5 near Tukwila and re-routed traffic off the freeway after a semi crash on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Combined, the two agencies lost more than 550 workers as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Will The Passes Get Plowed? Impact Of Vaccine Mandate Firings On State Services Not Yet Clear

Roughly nine in 10 employees of the state of Washington are now vaccinated against COVID-19. Gov. Jay Inslee considers that a huge success and a win for public health. But his vaccine mandate has also led to the departure of hundreds of state employees. Now there are questions about the implications for some state services. Continue Reading Will The Passes Get Plowed? Impact Of Vaccine Mandate Firings On State Services Not Yet Clear

Read More »
At a news conference on October 14, Gov. Jay Inslee said the state was following science and the law when deciding whether to accommodate employees who received medical or religious exemptions to his COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Unvaccinated Washington State Employees Face Their Last Day On The Job

Monday is the deadline for Washington state employees, healthcare and long-term care workers and those working in the education field to be fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t could be out of a job by day’s end. Some of the state employees who face termination got exemptions, but not a workplace accommodation so they could stay on the payroll. Continue Reading Unvaccinated Washington State Employees Face Their Last Day On The Job

Read More »