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Judge rules that defamation lawsuit against Rep. Matt Shea can continue

UPDATED: Fri., May 26, 2017

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane, speaks last year at the Capitol in Olympia. An amendment from the state representative stipulates that state money can’t be spent for planning or constructing a roundabout on Trent Avenue as part of the Barker Road grade separation project. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane, speaks last year at the Capitol in Olympia. An amendment from the state representative stipulates that state money can’t be spent for planning or constructing a roundabout on Trent Avenue as part of the Barker Road grade separation project. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

A Spokane County judge refused Rep. Matt Shea’s request to have a defamation lawsuit against him dismissed on the grounds that he can’t be sued while the Legislature is in session.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Pendell filed the lawsuit against Shea and Scott Maclay after both said publicly that Pendell provided the gun used by Roy Murry when he killed his former wife’s parents and brother. Maclay published the allegations on his Facebook page and Shea repeated them on his podcast.

The lawsuit Pendell filed alleges that Shea and Maclay conspired to spread “provably false, provocative and defamatory information” about him.

Shea’s attorney, Marshall Casey, argued in court documents that the lawsuit was unconstitutional and required Shea to devote time to it instead of doing his work as a legislator. Filing the lawsuit also “encouraged the media to contact Mr. Shea,” which was a “further interference with the legislative session,” he argued.

“Actions like Mr. Pendell’s must be discouraged,” Casey wrote. “Purposefully filing and serving a suit on a legislator during session is forbidden by our constitution.”

Superior Court Judge Maryanne Moreno ruled that the lawsuit will not be dismissed because there’s no case law to support a dismissal, said Pendell’s attorney, Michael Love. The lawsuit will instead by held in abeyance until the legislative session is over.

“We then have to re-serve Rep. Shea when the legislative session ends,” Love said. “The lawsuit will then continue.”

Shea also filed a motion to have two paragraphs with allegations against Shea and Maclay removed from the lawsuit, Love said. That motion was also denied.

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