Attorneys for the Washington Legislature want the state Supreme Court to weigh in on lawmakers’ long-running exemption from the Public Records Act. A Thurston County judge recently ruled that legislative leaders violated the act by not responding to public-records requests.
OLYMPIA — The Washington Legislature wants to take its public-records lawsuit straight to the top.
Attorneys for the Legislature on Monday asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in on lawmakers’ long-running exemption from Washington’s Public Records Act, according to state records.
The appeal comes after a Thurston County judge Friday ruled that legislative leaders had violated Washington’s Public Records Act by declining requests for records.
For decades, lawmakers and the Legislature’s administrative offices have claimed they are exempt from the state Public Records Act.
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That exemption has allowed lawmakers and legislative officials to withhold work calendars, emails and harassment complaints against elected officials, among other documents.
Those are the types of documents that local governments, state agencies and the governor’s office routinely make public.
In Friday’s ruling, Judge Chris Lanese wrote that, “The plain and unambiguous language of the Public Records Act applies to the offices of senators and representatives …”
Lanese, however, ruled that Washington’s records act doesn’t apply to the Legislature’s administrative offices, such as those of the chief clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate.
Before the state Supreme Court hears the case, its justices must first decide to accept it, according to Wendy Ferrell, a spokeswoman for the courts.
The justices could instead transfer the case to an appeals court.
That decision will likely take several months, Ferrell wrote in an email.
In September, 10 news organizations, including The Seattle Times and The Associated Press, filed the legal challenge to the Legislature’s public-records exemption.