UPDATE: Minutes after I posted, word came through that the Washington State Court of Appeals has ordered SeaTac Prop 1 back onto the ballot. So that's that.
UPDATE, UPDATE: The decision of the three-judge appellate panel (pdf), reversing the trial court, was unanimous; the full written opinion "will follow in due course." Minutes later, King County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Prochnau declined to order Prop 1 onto the ballot, without comment, but presumably for the procedural reasons I outlined after this morning's hearing. Not that it matters, what with appeals court decision.
Well, that was great theater. Twenty seconds into attorney Dmitri Iglitzin's opening remarks, Washington State Court of Appeals Judge Stephen J. Dwyer cut him off and started peppering him with questions, setting the stage for an entertaining half-hour of appellate attorney ass-whooping. It was a tough start for Iglitzin, the attorney representing the sponsors of SeaTac Prop 1, the "Good Jobs Initiative" that would raise the minimum wage for some airport workers to $15 an hour. But it was nothing compared to the legal assault aimed at the attorneys representing Alaska Airlines/WRA and the City of SeaTac respectively.
"What is up with that goofy ordinance?" Judge Dwyer demanded before SeaTac's attorney could barely open his mouth. The attorney fumbled around in defense of the city's peculiar petition review board before Judge Dwyer tore it a new hole: "So we don't take the auditor's conclusion, we take that of the mayor, sheriff and the city manager?" Judge Dwyer asked rhetorically. "How does that make any sense?"
Combine this skepticism with Judge Dwyer's readings from US Supreme Court Justice John Roberts affirming that the act of affixing one's signature to an initiative is protected by the First Amendment, and you get a clear idea of which way this case is going.
That is, assuming there isn't some procedural impediment to the judges ruling on the underlying issue. I'm not an attorney, and the procedural stuff is my weak point. So I can't confidently say. (But I'm guessing not.)
The problem for Harry Korrell, the attorney representing Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association, is that, as the judges teased out of him. There is no dispute on the facts either now, or in the proceedings before King County Superior Court Andrea Darvas. And if there is no factual dispute, then the appellate judges are ruling purely on points of law. And the law really isn't on Korrell's side.
For example, when it came to the issue of the 61 signatures Judge Darvas eliminated (the original signatures of registered voters who had signed more than once), Judge Dwyer made the point that there is a difference between regulating—insisting that a registered voter can only be counted once—and quashing the intent of these voters. "What would be the city's legitimate interest in quashing the speech right by eliminating all signatures," Judge Dwyer asked? Well, there isn't any. Judge Darvas simply applied the "plain language" of the statute, Korrell explained, despite the fact that other courts have repeatedly ruled this statute to be unconstitutional.
Anyway, an order, but no written opinion, is expected later this afternoon. Stay tuned.