Posted on Friday at 5:35 p.m. and moved up so you don't miss it.
City Attorney Pete Holmes will get his chance, on behalf of Seattle, to argue that Washington state attorney general Rob McKenna broke the law when he sued to block the national health-care reform act passed by Congress earlier this year. Holmes filed a petition in April that says McKenna isn't authorized to join the federal lawsuit with 12 other states because he lacked approval from the governor or legislature.
The Washington State Supreme Court agreed this afternoon to hear the case and could force McKenna to withdraw from the lawsuit.
“We’ve raised a serious legal challenge to the attorney general’s authority to invoke the name of the state of Washington at his sole discretion,” Holmes says. “The governor is the supreme executive of the state and the notion that the attorney general could—without support anywhere else in the state, the executive, the legislature, or any other department—use his office in a way contrary to state policy is simply wrongheaded.”
Governor Chris Gregoire has famously denounced the lawsuit, saying, "I completely disagree with the Attorney General’s decision and he does not represent me."
In a petition filed in April, Holmes argues that McKenna has only the powers granted to him by the state legislature, which don't include making the autonomous decision to join a dozen states in a federal lawsuit. "None of the provisions of RCW 43.10.030 grant authority for the Attorney General to act unilaterally to make the State of Washington a plaintiff in the Florida lawsuit without the Governor's concurrence," the petition says.
McKenna filed a motion to dismiss the city's action and made an oral argument last week. But the Washington State Supreme Court found that the case should go before the justices.
“Arguably at stake is not the fate of the underlying federal lawsuit, but the role of the attorney general in state government,” the state Supreme Court wrote in granting permission for the case to proceed.
In summarizing its take on the conflict, today's ruling added that Holmes "argues that the attorney general lacks authority to independently institute federal litigation to assert his vision of state interests"; in contrast, McKenna “suggests that his authority to bring and defend actions in the name and interest of the state is discretionary.”
The justices scheduled oral arguments for November 18.