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Friday, September 6, 2013

No Ruling (Yet) in SeaTac $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Initiative Court Battle

Posted by on Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 12:38 PM

The first of two last-minute court hearings today to determine whether SeaTac Proposition 1 will appear on the November ballot, ended without King County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Prochnau issuing a ruling from bench. She promised, however, to issue a summary ruling before the end of the day, the deadline King County Elections (KCE) has given for adding the measure to the fall ballot.

Prop 1, the "Good Jobs Initiative" that would guarantee certain SeaTac Airport and related workers a $15 minimum wage plus benefits, has been caught in a legal limbo thanks to the legal machinations of Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association, not mention some questionable rulings from King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas. Nobody in court today disputed KCE's determination that the petitions contain signatures from 1,780 registered SeaTac voters, a comfortable margin above the 1,536 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. If the decision was simply one of voter intent (which legally, it should be in Washington State) the plaintiff's attorney, Knoll Lowney, would have clearly won the day. Contrary to standard elections procedures, a special SeaTac review board struck an additional 201 signatures for missing things like a complete address or complete date. Judge Darvas later struck an additional 61 signatures—the original signatures from voters who mistakenly signed the petitions more than once.

Established procedures and legal precedent clearly err on the side of determining voter intent rather than slavishly adhering to the statue, so this should really be a no-brainer in favor of the plaintiffs. Furthermore, there is established precedent that the statutes defining the required elements of an initiative petition do not actually require that all these elements be properly filled in by the signers. But Harry Korrell, the attorney representing Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association, strenuously argued that Judge Prochnau does not have the authority to rule on the issues before her, contending that they had already been considered and dismissed by Judge Darvas.

It's yet another slimy legal technicality that Korrell (the former lead attorney in Dino Rossi's futile gubernatorial election contest) is arguing in defense of his clients' well-funded effort to deny SeaTac voters their constitutional rights, but it may work. While this suit was brought by different parties than the suit before Judge Darvas (voters who signed the initiative, rather than initiative sponsors), and the issues raised are somewhat different, courts often don't make that distinction. You can't just shop your case to a different judge if you don't like the results you got from the first one—that's what the appeals process is for. So while I came away from todays arguments confident that Judge Prochnau would side with the plaintiffs if she believes she has the authority to rule on the matter before her, I'm not convinced she'll determine that she has that authority.

We'll know later this afternoon.

In the meanwhile, I'm off to see a three-judge state appellate panel consider the initiative sponsors' appeal of Judge Darvas's rulings. These arguments will likely be much more narrow, possibly focusing exclusively on the rejection of the 61 duplicate signatures. State law does say that these original signatures should be stricken. But other courts have repeatedly determined that this statute is unconstitutional.

"In any other city in the state, we know that Prop 1 would be on the ballot," Lowney told the judge, "because King County followed the procedures that are in use throughout the rest of the case."

Whether the appeals court panel finds that argument persuasive remains to be seen.


Comments (9) RSS

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Kinison 1
Losing my checked luggage is totally worth 15$ an hour.

When will the stranger start paying their interns? Will you fire them all when they start talking about forming a union?
Posted by Kinison on September 6, 2013 at 1:15 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 2
@1, Bethany reported in an old threat that the Stranger no longer has an unpaid intern program, they now have paid apprenticeships. You might want to get one of your spare dead horses ready for beating.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on September 6, 2013 at 1:20 PM · Report this
rob! 3
Bethany reported in an old threat...
First prize, a week as an unpaid intern; second prize, three months as a paid apprentice...
Posted by rob! on September 6, 2013 at 1:39 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 4
@3 ha!! Third prize, five years as a registered commenter...
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on September 6, 2013 at 1:45 PM · Report this
rob! 5
dear god has it been that long already #masochismtango
Posted by rob! on September 6, 2013 at 2:17 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 6
@5, my first appearance I can find, two handles ago, was 2007 in a thread on a post written by then-intern Jonah Spangenthal-Lee!
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on September 6, 2013 at 2:27 PM · Report this
rob! 7
Omigod. FIVE HOURS I have been wandering the dark moors of Gyrobase (j/k).

I can easily go back four years and four months, and exactly 5600 comments, to the first days of registered profiles, but before that rob-without-exclamation-point makes a lousy search string (worse still in Slog's anemic search function). There's some isolated claptrap I spewed in 2008, but pretty sure you've got me beat.

Guessing you were tt (abbrev.) before gg and TTJr?
Posted by rob! on September 6, 2013 at 7:37 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 8
Eh, you're both novices.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on September 6, 2013 at 8:21 PM · Report this
rob! 9
Come on now, 5280, I know you've seen the passing of many moons (me too) and a few stars to boot, but you can't just throw out an empty boast like that—you've got to root around and come up with a credible early reference.
Posted by rob! on September 6, 2013 at 9:01 PM · Report this

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