NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

LIVE from Olympia: Washington’s Supreme Court hears oral argument in Lee v. State

Good morn­ing from Olympia! NPI Trea­sur­er Essie Hicks and I are here at the Tem­ple of Jus­tice, the meet­ing place of the Supreme Court, to lis­ten to oral argu­ment in Lee v. State, the legal chal­lenge to Tim Eyman’s I‑1366. Attor­neys rep­re­sent­ing each of the par­ties in the case will have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to sum­ma­rize their argu­ments before the nine jus­tices of the Court.

I will post updates through­out the hour as we go along.

UPDATE, 9:10 AM: The first attor­ney to present is Richard Stephens, who rep­re­sents Tim Eyman and his asso­ciates. Eyman is one of the defen­dants in the case, but he’s also one of the appel­lants, because he was on the los­ing side when the case was decid­ed in King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court.

Since step­ping for­ward to begin his pre­sen­ta­tion, Stephens has been pep­pered with skep­ti­cal ques­tions, pri­mar­i­ly from Jus­tice Debra Stephens, but also from Jus­tices Mary Yu, Susan Owens, Sheryl Gor­don McCloud, and Mary Fairhurst.

The main line of ques­tion­ing from the jus­tices con­cerns the defen­dants’ argu­ment that I‑1366 is sim­ply con­di­tion­al leg­is­la­tion that is with­in the scope of the ini­tia­tive pow­er. Jus­tice Owens asked if an ini­tia­tive that would roll back the sales tax unless the Supreme Court lift­ed its McCleary sanc­tions would be con­sti­tu­tion­al; while Jus­tice Stephens want­ed to know if an ini­tia­tive that threat­ened to roll back the sales tax unless the gov­er­nor resigned would sim­i­lar­ly be constitutional.

These are very, very good ques­tions. The jus­tices have clear­ly done their home­work and came pre­pared to chal­lenge the defen­dants’ attor­neys’ arguments.

UPDATE, 9:20 AM: Cal­lie Castil­lo is up now, rep­re­sent­ing the State of Wash­ing­ton. She’s argu­ing I‑1366 was about “tax reform” (we com­plete­ly dis­agree), and there­fore the ini­tia­tive does­n’t vio­late Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 19, the sin­gle sub­ject rule, which applies to bills and ini­tia­tives alike. (The sin­gle sub­ject rule was devised by our founders to pre­vent logrolling — the lump­ing togeth­er of dis­sim­i­lar pol­i­cy objec­tives under one piece of legislation.)

UPDATE, 9:27 AM: Paci­fi­ca Law Group’s Paul Lawrence is now speak­ing for the plain­tiffs, who are the respon­dents in this appeal.

The crux of the case against I‑1366 is that it:

  • con­tains two sub­jects, in vio­la­tion of Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 19;
  • runs afoul of Arti­cle XXIII because it attempts to invoke the con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment process, which only the Leg­is­la­ture may do;
  • abridges the 2016 Leg­is­la­ture’s ple­nary powers.

UPDATE, 9:38 AM: The jus­tices have posed some inter­est­ing hypo­thet­i­cals for Paul. Jus­tice Char­lie Wig­gins, for instance, want­ed to know if the Leg­is­la­ture could have con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly adopt­ed a mea­sure like I‑1366.

Lawrence imme­di­ate­ly answered no. The sin­gle-sub­ject rule, he not­ed, applies to bills as well as ini­tia­tives. He also observed that the 2016 Leg­is­la­ture can’t bind a future Leg­is­la­ture. “You can’t restrict their options,” Lawrence said.

UPDATE, 9:46 AM: Paul is doing a splen­did job of explain­ing why the pro­vi­sions of I‑1366 (the mas­sive sales tax cut and the pro­vi­sion that attempts to dic­tate a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment) aren’t severable.

The Court must there­fore strike down the ini­tia­tive in its entirety.

UPDATE, 9:58 AM: Paul Lawrence has fin­ished his pre­sen­ta­tion and Cal­lie Castil­lo is back up for rebut­tal (using the bal­ance of her time).

Castil­lo was inter­rupt­ed right off the bat when she stat­ed that the peo­ple have the same pow­ers as the Leg­is­la­ture. “Wait a minute,” said Jus­tice Gon­za­lez, point­ing out under Arti­cle XXIII, only the Leg­is­la­ture has the pow­er to pro­pose con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments. (The peo­ple do not have that power.)

Castil­lo acknowl­edged the peo­ple don’t have the pow­er to pro­pose amend­ments, but reem­pha­sized her argu­ment that I‑1366 is a “leg­isla­tive act”.

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  1. Does the AG’s office rep­re­sent Eyman?

    # by Mike Barer :: March 15th, 2016 at 1:18 PM
    • Eyman has his own attor­ney, Richard Stephens. How­ev­er, Cal­lie Castil­lo also rep­re­sents him since he is (pre­sum­ably) one of the 760,518 vot­ers who vot­ed for I‑1366. There were 715,684 vot­ers who opposed I‑1366. The vot­ers who vot­ed no on on I‑1366 and who want to see I‑1366 struck down are rep­re­sent­ed (indi­rect­ly) by the plain­tiffs in this case and their attor­neys at Paci­fi­ca Law Group, who are the respon­dents in this appeal.

      # by Andrew :: March 15th, 2016 at 7:36 PM
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