A key part of the State's defense will be that the virtual experience is sufficiently meeting the Constitutional requirement for public access to the Legislative process. Tell the Court just how wrong that is!
Share your experiences trying to participate in this legislative session.
Article II, Section 11 of the Constitution of the State of Washington:
Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings and publish the same, except such parts as require secrecy. The doors of each house shall be kept open, except when the public welfare shall require secrecy. Neither house shall adjourn for more than three days, nor to any place other than that in which they may be sitting, without the consent of the other.
Article I, Section 29 of the Constitution of the State of Washington:
The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.
RCW 9A.80.010 - Official Misconduct:
(1) A public servant is guilty of official misconduct if, with intent to obtain a benefit or to deprive another person of a lawful right or privilege:
(a) He or she intentionally commits an unauthorized act under color of law; or
(b) He or she intentionally refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him or her by
(2) Official misconduct is a gross misdemeanor.
On 1/21/21 I filed a Civil Suit in Thurston County Superior Court against Governor Jay Inslee and Director of Enterprise Services, Chris Liu over the presence of the chain-linked fence currently surrounding the Legislative Building and other portions of the Capitol Campus, as well as for barring the public from entering the Legislative Building in order to observe the legislature while it is in session.
Article 2, Section 11 of the Washington State Constitution states, in part, “The doors of each house shall be kept open, except when the public welfare shall require secrecy.”
Both the historical context, as well as plain reason, informs us that the intent of this clause is to ensure that the public has the right to observe, in-person, the actions of their elected representatives while they are conducting the people’s business.
This clause appears in no fewer than 36 other State’s Constitutions, with some dating back to our nation’s founding. The authors of the Washington State Constitution were keenly aware of the history, nature, and purpose of this clause, and they expressed their clear intent by including in both the 1878 Constitution, as well as the 1889 draft which was ratified with Washington’s entry into the Union.
Over the 132 years of Washington Statehood, there is no known instance of this provision ever being denied to the people. Not through the Spanish-American War, or the First or Second World Wars, and not even in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Through all of those times the public did see increased security, but never were they kept out completely.
I am acutely aware that we are still battling the lingering effects caused by the COVID-19 virus. I am not demanding or even asking that people assume more risk than is necessary.
However, Article 1, Section 29 of the Washington State Constitution states that, “The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.”
There is no place within the rest of the State Constitution were the provisions of Article 2, Section 11 are allowed to be suspended, or waived, or altered in any way or for any reason whatsoever. They are, therefore, mandatory. And it is the responsibility and duty of our Governor, and all state officers and employees, to ensure that this provision is carried out.
It has been argued by many that the public still has access to the legislative process via technology that allows for remote viewing and participation. I am certainly not arguing against the marvelous progress that technology has made that allows us to provide an enhanced opportunity to participate in our government.
However, if we have learned anything in this past year, it is that the virtual cannot replace the actual. The quality of our interactions in-person simply cannot be replicated electronically.
More importantly, and to the purpose of this suit, when it comes to Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights, any supposedly adequate alternative expression of those rights are wholly insufficient when determining whether that right is being fulfilled.
As a united people, we have fought too many battles, over too many decades, to elevate and secure the basic principle of liberty that says that no person, at no time, need ever justify the exercise of their liberty. Just as Rosa Parks had no need to justify her right to sit at the front of the bus instead of the back, so too no person in Washington State need justify their preference for sitting in galleries of the legislative chambers at the Capitol, instead of a computer screen at some other location – especially when the Constitution ensures their right to do so.
Last March I created the Liberty, At All Hazards Facebook page in response to what I saw as gravely concerning infringements on basic Constitutional freedoms in some of the responses by our State Government toward the COVID-19 outbreak. At that time these concerns were measured. We were all dealing with the unknown, compounded by mixed messaging and conflicting data. The public was being asked to take extraordinary steps in order to help combat what was rapidly becoming a world-wide pandemic, and the public responded, as we traditionally do, with an overwhelming sense of community and willingness to set aside personal concerns to do what we could in order to help others.
All that I, and many others, were asking, was that as we took these steps, that we not lose sight of our foundational principles of liberty, nor disregard the documents that guarantee those liberties – The Constitution of the United States of America, and the Constitution of the State of Washington.
Unfortunately, instead of listening and responding to these concerns, the attitude of the State, primarily through the Governor’s Office, has been one of dismissiveness.
Last April, when we had more than 3,000 Washington citizens peaceably express these concerns and frustrations, here, on the steps that are now off-limits to the public, that expression fell on deaf ears.
A month later, when at least as many turned out to again peaceably express our anger and frustration over the unilateral, oppressive actions of our Governor, that expression fell upon deaf ears.
As the year wore on, repeated calls by members of this legislative assembly, urging the Governor to call a special session to allow the people’s representatives the opportunity to address these challenges were rebuffed and treated with contempt.
It is regrettable that this lawsuit became necessary. But make no mistake, it is the Governor that has made it so. And while I am confident of victory in the courts in this case, my strong preference remains for government officials to obey the Constitution of their own accord. And nothing would thrill me more than being able to drop this suit because the Governor has realized his error, removed this fence, and restored the people to their proper place inside the State House.