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Court Withdraws Ruling Over Judge's Conflict

The Washington Supreme Court has withdrawn a landmark ruling in a public records case in response to complaints that the opinion could benefit a separate lawsuit filed by one of the justices who decided the case. The court issued a one-page order withdrawing its earlier ruling and saying that the case will be scheduled for a new round of oral arguments "in due course." Sanders

According to the Seattle Times, Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders (pictured) wrote the majority opinion in a case that capped a 12-year quest by Armen Yousoufian to obtain documents from King County about public funding of Qwest Field. The opinion concluded that $124,000 in fines and $88,000 in attorneys' fees ordered against the county by a lower court were not nearly enough. Sanders said the fines against the county for withholding documents should have approached $100 a day, which could add up to as much as $900,000.

But the county's lawyers complained that Sanders had a conflict of interest. Even as he decided the case against King County, he had his own public records lawsuit pending against the state attorney general. Sanders' attorneys used the Yousoufian ruling to seek an increase in the fines awarded in his case, from $18,000 to nearly $600,000.

A lawyer for Yousoufian, Michael Brannan, told the Seattle Times that believed the Supreme Court was wrong to set aside its earlier decision and that Sanders committed no impropriety. "Five other justices signed on to the opinion," he said, "it's inconceivable that their collective critical faculties could be so flawed as to justify redoing the case."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 17, 2009 at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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