constitutional law

Joel defends the constitutional rights of individuals against government overreach. He is recognized as Washington’s premier litigator for seeking vigorous judicial protection of the many individual liberties given specific enumerated protection under Washington State’s unique Progressive constitution. He also litigates individual rights cases arising under the United States constitution, and seeks to vindicate the rights of individuals and small businesses under Washington’s privacy and consumer protection laws. Joel routinely assists candidates, initiative sponsors, and other interested citizens in working to ensure free, open, and fair access to the ballot. He has often been asked to provide formal legal opinions on the constitutionality of initiatives, to assist people in determining where to focus efforts on ballot access.

civil rights cases

Black et al. v. Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. The case argued that the statute authorizing the ST3 motor vehicle excise tax — a $1,000,000 a day levy — violate the state constitution’s requirements for clearly demonstrating amendments to existing law. The authorizing legislation amended an existing vehicle valuation schedule that Sound Transit was supposed to use for calculating taxes be temporarily displacing it with an unpublished, uncodified, repealed version from 1996. Worse yet, Sound Transit didn’t even use the 1996 schedule that the statute claimed to require, but instead implemented a related, 1999 version.

Mitchell v. Atkins. Joel leads the challenge under the Second Amendment and Commerce Clause of the United States constitution to age- and domicile-based bans on sales of certain long rifles.

Washington v. United States Department of State. In a related case in Texas, the Department of State agreed that it could not ban Americans from posting files to the internet merely because a foreigner might access them. The State of Washington sued, seeking a court order requiring the U.S. government to continue banning that speech from the internet. Joel is co-counsel defending the First Amendment rights of speakers to post on the internet the same information they are allowed to distribute on paper, CD-ROM, or thumb drive.

elections & campaigns cases

Eyman v. Wyman, 191 Wash. 2d 581, 424 P.3d 1183 (2018). Sen. Mike Padden joined Tim Eyman to challenge the legislature’s attempt to amend and then enact a citizen initiative. The Washington Constitution only allows the legislature to adopt or reject an initiative, but not alter it when adopting it. While the Supreme Court split on the appropriate treatment of the legislature’s amended version, it agreed 9-0 with Joel and his co-counsel David DeWolf that the initiative was not adopted by the Legislature. The Court ordered Secretary of State Wyman to print the initiative on the November ballot.

In re Initiative No. 1639 (Ball v. Wyman). Joel raised the first-ever challenge under the statute governing citizen initiatives which requires each signature petition to have a complete, correct, and readable copy of the proposed initiative on the back. While the trial court agreed that none of the petitions complied, the Supreme Court decided 9-0 that the statutory requirement was unenforceable by either the Secretary of State or the Courts, leaving it to the good faith of initiative sponsors to decide whether to comply.

In re Initiative No. 1000 (Qiu v. Wyman). Joel challenged the sampling procedure the Secretary of State uses to select an “unrestricted random sample” of proffered signatures to determine whether it is probable that the sponsors collected enough signatures to qualify. Despite expert evidence that the Secretary’s procedure does not actually sample randomly, and therefore cannot reliably predict whether petitions have sufficient qualified non-duplicate signatures, the Supreme Court agreed (again 9-0) that the Secretary had sufficient statutory discretion that no person could challenge her methods.

In re Referendum No. 88. For the first referendum ever to seek to put an adopted initiative back on the ballot, Joel successfully defended the Secretary’s decision to issue a ballot title substantially mimicking the earlier initiative ballot title.

United States v. Missouri. Joel brought the first-even statewide challenge under the so-called “motor voter” law, challenging the Missouri Secretary of State’s procedures for creating and maintaining a statewide voter registration database.

United States v. San Diego County; United States v. Berks County. Joel monitored compliance by both San Diego County, CA and Berks County PA with the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Those provisions require jurisdictions that have certain numbers of voting age citizens whose primary language is not English to ensure free and fair access to the ballot for all citizens by providing ballots in citizens’ native languages.