skip navigation

MRSC Insight Blog


Posts by Joe Levan

Washington Supreme Court Upholds Per Page Penalties Under the Public Records Act

Washington Supreme Court Upholds Per Page Penalties Under the Public Records Act

March 31, 2016 by Joe Levan
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Public Records Act

In a recently issued 5-4 decision, the Washington Supreme Court, in Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop, Inc. v. Department of Labor & Industries, interpreted the Public Records Act (PRA) in a manner that provides very broad discretion to courts to impose appropriate penalties for illegally withholding public records. According to the four dissenting justices (see below), that discretion is now so broad that it is, arguably, without limit. The Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s imposition of per page penalties against the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), which amounted to penalties of over a half a million dollars. This decision is likely to have far-reaching implications.

Read more


Some Public Records Act Insights from 2015

Some Public Records Act Insights from 2015

January 7, 2016 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

There were several highly significant court decisions and other developments in 2015 regarding the Public Records Act (PRA) (chapter 42.56 RCW). The following are six insights for local governments that I’ve gleaned from such developments, with a particular focus on electronic records and use of personal electronic devices by...

Read more


New Property Disclosure Requirements Will Impact Some Cities and Counties

New Property Disclosure Requirements Will Impact Some Cities and Counties

September 25, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: New Legislation and Regulations

This past legislative session, the Legislature enacted EHB 2122. Although EHB 2122 relates primarily to real estate excise tax (REET) authority, it includes new requirements that apply to any city or county in the state that has in place, or is contemplating enacting, regulations that require certain disclosures by landlords and sellers of real property to buyers and tenants regarding the property and the surrounding area.

Read more


The PRA Applies to Work-Related Texting on a Personal Cell Phone

The PRA Applies to Work-Related Texting on a Personal Cell Phone

August 28, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Public Records Act

In a highly anticipated decision on the Public Records Act (PRA), the Washington Supreme Court on August 27, 2015 issued its opinion in Nissen v. Pierce County. The court, in a unanimous decision that includes some revelations, held that “text messages sent and received by a public employee in the employee’s official capacity are public records of the employer, even if the employee uses a private cell phone.”

Read more


Court Clarifies How the PRA Can Apply to Contractor Records

Court Clarifies How the PRA Can Apply to Contractor Records

July 22, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Court Decisions and AGO Opinions , Public Records Act

A recent Washington State Court of Appeals decision, Cedar Grove Composting, Inc. v. City of Marysville clarified the extent to which contractor records can be subject to the Public Records Act (PRA).

Read more


PRA Employment Records Exemption Applies to Former Employees

PRA Employment Records Exemption Applies to Former Employees

June 3, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

What if someone makes a PRA request for records related to a former employee? Do these exemptions still apply? In a recent decision, the Washington State Court of Appeals held that these exemptions apply not only to current employees, but also to former employees.

Read more


Important New Guidance Issued Regarding Agency Text Messaging

Important New Guidance Issued Regarding Agency Text Messaging

April 24, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

If you’re an official or staff member for a local government in Washington State and you sometimes use text messaging to conduct agency business, or you’re thinking about doing so, there are unique legal considerations related to texting that you and your agency need to be aware of. These considerations include possible implications regarding records retention, as well as regar...

Read more


Are Personal Notes Public Records Under the Public Records Act?

Are Personal Notes Public Records Under the Public Records Act?

February 19, 2015 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

Here’s the scenario: You’re an official or employee of a local government in Washington State and sometimes, at agency meetings, you take notes for your personal use. Are those notes public records under the Public Records Act (PRA) (chapter 42.56 RCW)? The short answer is that it depends on how the notes are created, ...

Read more


Levan’s Lens on the Public Records Act – 2014

Levan’s Lens on the Public Records Act – 2014

December 23, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

The end of the year provides an opportunity to look back over Public Records Act (PRA) legislative and case law developments from 2014. Here are some key points that I think are noteworthy for Washington local governments.

Read more


Privacy Rights, the Public Records Act, and Unanswered Questions

September 19, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

In a highly anticipated court decision that was issued recently, the Washington State Court of Appeals had an opportunity to address important unanswered questions related to what privacy rights a public official has under the Public Records Act (PRA)...

Read more


Update: Washington Court of Appeals Publishes Important OPMA Decision Relating to Committees

June 13, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

[Update to update: the state Supreme Court has now issued its decision in this case. See State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA, 10/6/2015] On May 15, 2014, in my blog post (“When are Meetings of Committees of a Governing Body Subject to the Open Public Meetings Act?”) I wrote about an unpublished decision by the Washington State Court of Appeals, Citizens Alliance for Property Rights Legal Fund vs. San Juan County, that sheds light on a particularly important topic under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) (chapter 42.30...

Read more


When are Meetings of Committees of a Governing Body Subject to the Open Public Meetings Act?

May 15, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

[Update: the state Supreme Court has now issued its decision in this case. See State Supreme Court Says Advisory Committees Are Not Subject to the OPMA, 10/6/2015] A significant issue that can be challenging under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW, is determining what it means for a committee to “act on behalf of” the governing body. This is important because if, for example, a committee of a city council meets and “acts on behalf of” the council at such a meeting, that meeting is subject to the notice and other requirements of the...

Read more


Washington Supreme Court Narrows Public Records Act Investigative Records Exemption

Washington Supreme Court Narrows Public Records Act Investigative Records Exemption

January 22, 2014 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

As 2013 came to a close, the Washington Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Sargent v. Seattle Police Dep’t, __ Wn.2d __ (2013), that, for some, upends their long-held understand of how to apply the "investigative" exemption...

Read more


Is the Public Records Act Working? Can it Be Improved? Let’s Find Out.

September 25, 2013 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

An important effort is currently underway that I think merits the particular attention of local government officials and employees throughout Washington state. This collaborative effort relates to exploring improvements to our state’s Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW.

Read more


Washington Supreme Court Misses an Opportunity in Public Records Act Decision

May 30, 2013 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

The Washington Supreme Court on May 9, 2013 issued a decision in a Public Records Act (PRA) (chapter 42.56 RCW) matter that is particularly noteworthy for local government officials and employees. In that decision, Resident Action Council v. Seattle Housing Authority, the court held that the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) violated the PRA by applying exemptions under the PRA too broadly...

Read more


Email and the OPMA: Key Tips for Local Government Elected Officials

March 22, 2013 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

At the outset, I recognize that some issues under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) (chapter 42.30 RCW) can be especially challenging for local government elected officials who serve on a three-member governing body, since communications between any two such members can constitute a meeting under the OPMA. But what specific types of communications are we talking about here?

Read more


Employment Law Alert: Washington High Court Issues Important Decision on Rest Breaks and Overtime Pay

January 31, 2013 by Joe Levan
Category: Compensation

Are employees owed overtime pay if they work through rest periods that the employer is required by law to provide? The Washington Supreme Court’s decision in Wash. State Nurses Ass'n v. Sacred Heart Med. Ctr., 175 Wn.2d 822 (2012) addresses the issue.

Read more


2012 End of Year Public Records Alert

December 12, 2012 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

As 2012 draws to a close, I want to call to the attention of local government officials and staff members some recent developments related to public records law and requirements that I think are particularly significant.
In previous posts on this blog, I have written about a few key court decisions that I think provide useful guidance on public records issues that are commonly faced by...

Read more


What’s the Difference Between a Closed Session and an Executive Session?

October 25, 2012 by Joe Levan
Category: Open Public Meetings Act

Although the terms “closed session” and “executive session” are used by some to refer to the same thing, there is a significant distinction between the two types of sessions, and it’s important to understand that distinction to avoid confusion.

Read more


Recent Court Guidance on What Constitutes a Public Record under the Public Records Act

September 20, 2012 by Joe Levan
Category: Public Records Act

While it is often clear what is a public record under the PRA, the issue of what is not a public record is less clear and sometimes overlooked. The 2012 court decision West v. Thurston County provides a helpful analysis to help determine what is, and is not, a public record under the PRA.

Read more


Five Tips on Supporting a Ballot Proposition

July 30, 2012 by Joe Levan
Category: Elections

This blog post provides five tips to help guide elected officials and staff over the – at times – rocky shoals of state election and campaign law.

Read more


 more

Blog Archives

GO

Follow Our Blog