A King County judge will allow Tim Eyman to join the lawsuit over his car-tab initiative but won’t force the state to hire outside lawyers as Eyman has demanded.
Judge Marshall Ferguson issued several written rulings Friday allowing new parties, including Eyman, to join the case but rejecting a request for outside counsel which Eyman claimed would act as “adult supervision” over the state Attorney General’s Office.
Voters across Washington last month approved Initiative 976, which attempts to lower many vehicle registration fees to $30, roll back car-tab taxes that fund Sound Transit and do away with local car-tab fees. Local and state government agencies use car-tab tax revenues for road and transit projects.
Eyman, a longtime anti-tax activist, sponsored the initiative.
Soon after the measure passed, Seattle, King County, the Garfield County Transportation Authority and others sued and won an injunction temporarily stopping the tax cut from taking effect while the legal case is playing out.
Sound Transit is not a party to the case but also plans to continue collecting the car-tab taxes. Those higher fees charged in the Puget Sound region are calculated using a formula that overvalues many vehicles and have outraged some car and truck owners here.
As is standard with voter-approved measures, the state Attorney General’s Office is defending I-976.
Judge Ferguson’s decisions Friday capped off a week of tit-for-tat insults between Eyman and the Attorney General’s Office.
Eyman, who faces a long-running campaign finance lawsuit brought by the Attorney General’s Office, claims the state is botching its defense of the measure.
Eyman held at least three media events this week to criticize the state’s legal work. He repeated claims that Attorney General Bob Ferguson is conflicted, his office has failed to vigorously defend the measure and the case should have been moved out of King County.
Washington State Solicitor General Noah Purcell issued a lengthy statement about Eyman’s claims Wednesday.
“Mr. Eyman says we are sabotaging defense of the initiative because he sent us ideas for arguments to include in our briefing and we didn’t make them,” Purcell said. “But we researched every argument he sent us, and they were terrible arguments.”
Being an intervenor in the case will allow Eyman and others to make arguments and motions before the judge, but does not necessarily mean the Attorney General’s Office will coordinate with Eyman on the case.
Eyman on Friday slammed the judge’s decision as solidifying “Bob Ferguson’s sabotage of I-976” and a “kangaroo court.” The Attorney General’s Office said in a statement “we welcome” the other parties to the case.
Despite no scheduled in-person hearing on Friday’s orders, Eyman invited supporters and reporters to the hallway outside Judge Ferguson’s courtroom Friday, where Eyman said he had tried to get an in-person hearing.
The Attorney General’s Office pointed out on Twitter that Eyman’s lawyers had requested the judge consider the motions without oral argument, meaning there would be no hearing. An attorney for Eyman later said he didn’t believe they would get an in-person hearing until after the new year, so he sought the decision sooner.
Voters are frustrated the measure is on hold, Eyman said Friday. “The vote ought to get the job done,” he said.
The judge on Friday also allowed Pierce County to join the case in defense of I-976 and granted a request to intervene from Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier who was described as “a taxpayer, a vehicle owner, and a registered voter who voted in support of I-976.”
In the order denying outside counsel Friday, the judge did not explain why he refused Eyman’s request but dinged Eyman and his allies for filing the request before they were actually granted permission to join the case.
The judge went ahead and considered their request “in the interest of judicial economy,” he wrote before issuing a warning: “The Court will not permit parties or proposed intervenors to run roughshod over court rules and procedural requirements.”