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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Split decision on AG power from High Court

OLYMPIA -- It's a win some, lose some day for Attorney General Rob McKenna and his authority to join or not join various types of legal actions.

As noted elsewhere on the newspaper's website, the State Supreme Court ruled that it won't order McKenna out of the federal lawsuit over health care reform. But it did order him to take up the appeal of a case that State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark lost in summary judgment, and McKenna didn't think was worth taking to the next level.

As one might imagine, McKenna was happy about the former: “It’s important that the state’s constitutionally-established, independently-elected Attorney General – whomever it may be — have the authority to protect the legal rights of the state and its people in the years to come,” he said in a press release.

As for the latter, not so much. Narrow ruling on a rare disagreement based on a specific statute, he said. And they're studying the inconsistencies between this and the health care reform case.

Goldmark,  not surprisingly, saw the lands case as a much bigger deal. "Historic" was the word he used to describe it. "I applaud the Supreme Court for striking down what would be a dangerous precedent by the attorney general to dictate policy for another statewide official."

Fuse, a progressive group that is no fan of McKenna, used even stronger language, suggesting that the court said he "deserted  his duty under the law." To be clear, the court didn't really use that kind of language, and two dissenting judges said he should have the ability to decide when to stop handling a case.

If you want to read the decisions and decide for yourself, you can find them here.



Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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