constitutional law & civil litigation

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.

constitutional law & civil litigation
representative cases

Black et al. v. Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. The case argues that the statute authorizing the ST3 motor vehicle excise tax — a $1,000,000 a day levy — violates the state constitution. 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valuation schedule that Sound Transit was supposed to use for calculating taxes be temporarily displacing it with an unpublished, uncodified, repealed version from 1996.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. The Washington Supreme Court heard argument on September 10, 2019. A decision is imminent, and could result in overturning the entire 0.8% ST3 MVET and refunds of hundreds of millions of dollars to area taxpayers.

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.

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.