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Saturday, August 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Washington Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit over Spokane immigration initiative

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 6, 2019, 5:55 p.m.

The Spokane County Courthouse is set against a brilliant sunset on June 4, 2018. The state Supreme Court has declined to review a lawsuit over a proposed ballot initiative that would have empowered city employees to help enforce immigration laws. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane County Courthouse is set against a brilliant sunset on June 4, 2018. The state Supreme Court has declined to review a lawsuit over a proposed ballot initiative that would have empowered city employees to help enforce immigration laws. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane’s Center for Justice has celebrated the state Supreme Court’s decision not to review a lawsuit over a proposed ballot initiative that would have empowered city employees to help enforce immigration laws.

The high court’s refusal to hear the case ends two years of litigation and permanently precludes the immigration measure from appearing on voter ballots.

“No person living in Spokane should be subject to harassment or should be treated poorly,” Dainen Penta, executive director of the Center for Justice, said in a statement. “This is absolutely the correct decision – our state’s highest court has confirmed that basic human and civil rights are not subject to a public vote.”

The measure, known as Proposition 1, was first suggested in 2014 but lost a local sponsor and has been promoted since then by Craig Keller, a Western Washington anti-immigration activist who leads a group called Respect Washington.

The initiative would have allowed city employees, including police officers, to ask about a person’s citizenship or immigration status and share that information with federal authorities. It would have repealed a law passed by the Spokane City Council, which council members say is aimed at reducing racial profiling.

A Spokane County judge tossed the measure from the ballot in the weeks leading up to the 2017 election, a decision upheld by a three-judge appellate court in January. Judges determined administrative policies of the police department are outside the purview of the initiative process.

In an email Monday, Keller accused state Supreme Court justices of seeking “to protect Spokane’s ‘sanctuary’ deep state” and said his group “has been soliciting citizen support toward appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

“ ‘Blind’ justice will be restored once a court restores Spokane Prop. 1 to a ballot and/or voters remediate the bad actors from Council,” Keller wrote.

The lawsuit against the initiative was brought by attorney Rick Eichstaedt, a former director of the Center for Justice, on behalf of Global Neighborhood and other nonprofits in the region.

In his statement, Penta, the current director, said the state Supreme Court declined to review the case last month because the initiative didn’t address a problem of “substantial public interest.”

“The Supreme Court as well as the appeals courts have ruled on many local initiatives, and have on many occasions confirmed that there is no absolute right to have an initiative placed on the ballot, especially where it exceeds the scope of the local initiative power,” Penta said. “Initiatives that conflict with local or state law will be quickly struck down.”

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