Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks has granted the state’s request to pause further proceedings in initiative activist Tim Eyman’s court challenge of the Secretary of State’s policy of releasing initiative petitions under terms of the Public Records Act.
Hicks agreed with a motion brought by a senior official of the Attorney General’s Office, Deputy Solicitor General James Pharris, to put a hold on the Thurston County lawsuit while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to review a federal lawsuit that raises a similar constitutional challenge to the disclosure policy.
The high court has been asked by foes of Referendum 71 to hear a challenge of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that recently upheld Washington’s practice of releasing petition sheets to comply with the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act. The foes, calling themselves Protect Marriage Washington, obtained a district court order in Tacoma in September that temporarily stopped the state from releasing the R-71 petitions; the appeals court reversed it, saying the practice was perfectly constitutional. In the meantime, Eyman and his partners got a similar order from Judge Hicks that temporarily expanded the ban to all initiatives and referenda. The full hearing hasn’t been set; it will probably take months to hear back from the Supreme Court on whether the R-71 petition case will be heard.
Eyman’s broad attack on the disclosure policy already was on hold, but his attorney had sought to interview Secretary Reed. Eyman has posted over 60 questions, most previously asked and publicly answered by the agency, or a matter of public record. On Friday, Hicks concurred with the state’s position that it makes good sense to hold up on “discovery,” including Eyman’s questions, since any ruling by the Supreme Court will have an impact on these proceedings.
R-71 was brought to the ballot by foes of Washington’s new “everything but marriage” expansion of domestic partnership benefits. Voters approved the new law by a margin of over 100,000 votes, or 6 percent. Eyman’s latest measure, I-1033, dealing with state and local revenue and property tax relief, was rejected 58-42.