In 2010 the Court decided 130 cases. 62 were decided by unanimous decision while 25 were decided by a bare majority 5-4 vote. Among the Court’s most noteworthy decisions, it considered a constitutional challenge to state policies relating to the funding of special education in School Districts’ Alliance for Adequate Funding of Special Education v. Washington, declared in Waples v. Yi that restrictions imposed by the legislature upon the filing of medical malpractice claims unconstitutionally infringe upon the judiciary’s exclusive right to set court procedures, and decided in Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library District that although the right to free speech created by the Washington State Constitution is broader in certain respects than that created by the United States Constitution, the use of internet filtering software in public libraries is not inconsistent with that right.
1. Washington v. Rhone – Theodore Rhone appealed his convictions for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, unlawful possession of a firearm, and bail jumping, asserting that the sole potential African American juror in the jury pool had been unconstitutionally dismissed on the basis of race. The Court, by a vote of 5 to 4 (with Justice Charles Johnson writing for the Court), disagreed, ruling that neither the United States Constitution nor the Washington State Constitution grants defendants a right to a jury comprised in whole or in part of members of their own race, only a right to a jury whose members are selected according to race neutral criteria. Thus, more than the mere fact that a dismissed juror is the only member of a racial group in a jury pool is required to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and as no other evidence that would raise an inference of racial discrimination was presented, the Court held that there was no basis for finding that the trial court erred when it ruled that the prosecutor had not acted with a racially discriminatory purpose. Chief Justice Madsen authored a concurring opinion. Justice Alexander, joined by Justices Chambers, Fairhurst, and Sanders, dissented.
2. Service Employees International Union v. Gregoire – The Service Employees International Union, the bargaining representative of the in home personal care service providers contracted by the state of Washington to serve Medicaid recipients, petitioned the Court for a writ of mandamus compelling Governor Christine Gregoire to revise the budget she submitted to the legislature so as to include funding for pay increases for personal care service providers that had previously been awarded by an arbitrator but had subsequently been excluded from the governor’s proposed budget. The Court, by a vote of 5 to 4 (with Justice James Johnson writing the majority opinion), refused to intervene, concluding that a writ of mandamus would be an inappropriate remedy as the inclusion or non-inclusion of spending items in a budget is a discretionary function that is inherently political and committed to the judgment of the governor. Moreover, the Court also held that the case was in any event moot as the relief sought was no longer available given the fact that the legislature had adopted the governor’s proposed budget and adjourned and the governor had signed the budget into law. Chief Justice Madsen, joined by Justices Fairhurst, Owens, and Sanders, dissented.
3. Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library District – The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington certified to the Court the question of whether the North Central Regional Library District’s policies of installing filtering software on its public computers to bar internet access to adult-oriented websites harmful to minors and of refusing to unblock properly blocked websites upon request by an adult infringe upon the right to free speech conferred by Article I §5 of the Washington State Constitution. The Court, by a vote of 6 to 3 (with Chief Justice Madsen writing the majority opinion), decided that it did not, holding that the policies are analogous to a collection decision and do not represent a prior restraint as they do not prevent or attempt to prevent speech and as libraries are accorded considerable discretion in selecting appropriate material and are not obligated to include all constitutionally protected speech. Justice James Johnson wrote a concurring opinion. Justice Chambers, joined by Justices Sanders and Stephens, dissented.
4. Waples v. Yi – Nancy Waples filed a medical malpractice action against her dentist, Peter Yi, without complying with Washington Revised Code §7.70.100(1)’s requirement that plaintiffs give healthcare providers 90 days notice of their intention to file a medical malpractice action, resulting in her claim being dismissed. Waples appealed the dismissal, asserting that §7.70.100(1) is unconstitutional insofar as it infringes upon the exclusive power of the judiciary to set court rules. The Court, by a vote of 6 to 3 (with Justice Charles Johnson writing for the Court), agreed, finding that as §7.70.100(1) conflicts with the requirements for commencing a civil action established by Washington Court Rules 8 and 11 and as these rules are rules relating to procedural rather than substantive rights, the conflict infringes upon the judiciary’s exclusive power to set court rules and renders §7.70.100(1) unconstitutional. Justice James Johnson, joined by Chief Justice Madsen and Justice Fairhurst, dissented.
5. In re detention of McCuistion – David McCuistion appealed his continued indefinite commitment as a sexually violent predator, asserting that Washington Revised Code §71.09.090, which establishes procedures for proceedings reviewing the status of those committed as sexually violent predators, violates the constitutional right to due process of those committed by unduly limiting the bases for challenging their continued commitment. The Court, by a vote of 5 to 4 (with Justice Debra Stephens writing the majority opinion), agreed, concluding that as §71.09.090 directs courts to consider only whether an individual committed as a sexually violent predator has undergone specific physiological or treatment-based changes in determining whether they should continue to be committed, it could potentially permit the continued commitment of a person who is no longer dangerous and therefore is not sufficiently narrowly tailored to the state’s compelling interest in committing sexually violent predators. Justice Sanders authored a concurring opinion. Justice Owens, joined by Chief Justice Madsen and Justices Fairhurst and James Johnson, dissented.
6. Port Angeles v. Our Water Our Choice – The city council of Port Angeles sought a declaratory judgment that a ballot initiative filed by Our Water Our Choice that would bar the city from fluoridating its water is beyond the scope of the local initiative power as its subject matter is administrative rather than legislative in nature. The Court, by a vote of 5 to 4 (with Justice Chambers writing for the Court), granted the declaratory relief sought, ruling that decisions regarding water fluoridation are administrative in nature and therefore not subject to reversal via local initiative as the city of Port Angeles and other municipalities enacted their water fluoridation programs pursuant to an existing regulatory scheme established under Washington Revised Code §57.08.12, which, subject to specific limitations, vests the power to decide whether or not to fluoridate drinking water with municipal water suppliers without any provision for local oversight. Justice Sanders, joined by Justices Alexander, Fairhurst, and James Johnson, dissented.
7. Aberdeen v. Regan – Francis Regan’s probation was revoked on grounds that he had violated the condition of his probation requiring that he commit no criminal violations of the law after Regan was charged with, but ultimately acquitted of, assault and trespass. Regan appealed the revocation, asserting that his probation could not be revoked on grounds that he had committed a criminal violation of the law by committing assault and trespass as he had been acquitted of the charges. The Court, by a vote of 8 to 1 (with Justice Fairhurst writing the majority opinion), disagreed, holding that language in probation agreements referring to criminal violations of the law is not limited to criminal violations of the law that are proven beyond a reasonable doubt and result in conviction and that a court’s reasonable satisfaction on the basis of a preponderance of the evidence that Regan had violated the law was sufficient to revoke his probation regardless of the outcome of his trial. Justice Alexander wrote a concurring opinion joined by Justices Chambers and James Johnson. Justice Sanders dissented.
8. Washington v. Stubbs – Following Troy Stubbs’ conviction for a first degree assault that left the victim permanently paralyzed, an exceptional sentence was imposed on grounds that the injury inflicted substantially exceeded the level of bodily harm necessary to establish, as required for first degree assault, the element of great bodily harm. Stubbs appealed his sentence, asserting that exceptional sentences premised upon the gravity of the injury inflicted cannot be imposed in first degree assault cases as no injury can substantially exceed great bodily harm. The Court, by a vote of 8 to 1 (with Justice Alexander writing for the Court), agreed, concluding that the injury inflicted by Stubbs was not greater than that contemplated by the legislature in setting the standard sentencing range for the offense of first degree assault as nothing short of death can substantially exceed great bodily harm. Justice James Johnson dissented.
9. Seattle Times Company v. Serko – The Seattle Times Company petitioned the Court for a writ of mandamus compelling Judge Susan Serko to order, pursuant to Washington’s Public Records Act (Washington Revised Code §42.56), the release by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office of documents relating to the fatal shootings of four police officers. The Court, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Stephens, granted the writ, holding that Judge Serko’s order sequestering the requested documents on grounds that their release would impair the right of the alleged accomplices to the shooting to a fair trial was improper insofar as the exception to §42.56’s disclosure requirements for investigative records does not apply to records related to investigations that have resulted in charges being brought and are therefore no longer ongoing. The Court also announced that any order withholding public records on grounds that their release would jeopardize a defendant’s right to a fair trial must be based upon a specific finding that unfairness and/or prejudice will result and must consider alternatives.
10. School Districts’ Alliance for Adequate Funding of Special Education v. Washington – The School Districts’ Alliance for Adequate Funding of Special Education sought a declaratory judgment that the state’s procedures for funding special education violate the state’s duty under Article IX §1 of the Washington State Constitution to provide for public education insofar as they include basic education allotments directed toward special education students in calculating total special education expenditures. The Court, by a vote of 8 to 1 (with Justice Owens writing the majority opinion), disagreed, ruling that in appropriating basic education allotments the legislature had not stated that the allotments were to be used solely to fund basic education to the exclusion of special education and that as special education students also receive basic education services, basic education allotments were properly included in calculating the amount of funding directed toward special education. Justice Chambers authored a concurring opinion joined by Justice James Johnson and Justice Stephens authored a concurring opinion joined by Justice Fairhurst. Justice Sanders dissented.
2010 Opinions by Author
|Majority Opinions||Concurring Opinions||Dissenting Opinions|
|Debra Stephens||22||16.9%||Barbara Madsen||14||31.8%||Richard Sanders||23||31.5%|
|Charles Johnson||17||13.1%||Richard Sanders||9||20.5%||Gerry Alexander||11||15.1%|
|Richard Sanders||16||12.3%||Tom Chambers||6||13.6%||James Johnson||9||12.3%|
|Tom Chambers||14||10.8%||Debra Stephens||5||11.4%||Mary Fairhurst||8||11.0%|
|Mary Fairhurst||14||10.8%||James Johnson||4||9.1%||Barbara Madsen||8||11.0%|
|Gerry Alexander||12||9.2%||Mary Fairhurst||3||6.8%||Tom Chambers||7||9.6%|
|James Johnson||12||9.2%||Gerry Alexander||2||4.5%||Charles Johnson||3||4.1%|
|Susan Owens||12||9.2%||Susan Owens||1||2.3%||Susan Owens||2||2.7%|
|Barbara Madsen||10||7.7%||Charles Johnson||0||0.0%||Debra Stephens||2||2.7%|
|J. Dean Morgan||1||0.8%|
2010 Inter-Justice Agreement
|Gerry Alexander||Tom Chambers||Mary Fairhurst||Charles Johnson||James Johnson||Barbara Madsen||Susan Owens||Richard Sanders||Debra Stephens|
|Gerry Alexander||95 (73%)||94 (72%)||102 (78%)||97 (75%)||99 (76%)||93 (72%)||90 (69%)||96 (74%)|
|Tom Chambers||95 (73%)||96 (74%)||108 (83%)||88 (68%)||93 (72%)||102 (78%)||100 (77%)||107 (82%)|
|Mary Fairhurst||94 (72%)||96 (74%)||101 (78%)||97 (75%)||108 (83%)||106 (82%)||81 (62%)||98 (75%)|
|Charles Johnson||102 (78%)||108 (83%)||101 (78%)||96 (74%)||104 (80%)||113 (87%)||90 (69%)||106 (82%)|
|James Johnson||97 (75%)||88 (68%)||97 (75%)||96 (74%)||103 (79%)||96 (74%)||79 (61%)||85 (65%)|
|Barbara Madsen||99 (76%)||93 (72%)||108 (83%)||104 (80%)||103 (79%)||105 (82%)||78 (60%)||100 (77%)|
|Susan Owens||93 (72%)||102 (78%)||106 (82%)||113 (87%)||96 (74%)||105 (82%)||83 (64%)||100 (77%)|
|Richard Sanders||90 (69%)||100 (77%)||81 (62%)||90 (69%)||79 (61%)||78 (60%)||83 (64%)||93 (72%)|
|Debra Stephens||96 (74%)||107 (82%)||98 (75%)||106 (82%)||85 (65%)||100 (77%)||100 (77%)||93 (72%)|
2010 Most Frequent Decision Coalitions
|Majority/Concurring Coalition||Dissenting Coalition||# of Cases|
|Alexander, Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Sanders, Stephens||None||56|
|Alexander, Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Stephens||Sanders||10|
|Alexander, Chambers, C. Johnson, Owens, Sanders, Stephens||Fairhurst, J. Johnson, Madsen||3|
|Alexander, Chambers, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, Owens, Sanders||Fairhurst, Madsen, Stephens||2|
|Alexander, Chambers, C. Johnson, Sanders, Stephens||Fairhurst, J. Johnson, Madsen, Owens||2|
|Alexander, Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Sanders||None||2|
|Alexander, Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Sanders, Stephens||J. Johnson||2|
|Alexander, Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, Owens, Sanders, Stephens||J. Johnson, Madsen||2|
|Alexander, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Stephens||Chambers, Sanders||2|
|Chambers, C. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Stephens||Alexander, Fairhurst, J. Johnson, Sanders||2|
|Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Sanders, Stephens||None||2|
|Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, Madsen, Owens, Stephens||Alexander, Sanders||2|
|Chambers, Fairhurst, C. Johnson, Owens, Sanders, Stephens||Alexander, J. Johnson, Madsen||2|