Supreme Court rules unanimously: Legislature is in contempt

In a unanimous ruling, the Washington State Supreme Court today found the Legislature in contempt for failing to heed numerous Court orders compelling lawmakers to show steady, real and measurable progress in fully funding K-12 education and to develop a plan to amply fund public schools by 2018. The Court accepted the State’s promise that the Legislature would comply in the upcoming 2015 session and, therefore, delayed issuing sanctions until after the session ends.

Rejecting the State’s argument that a contempt citation was unnecessary, the order noted that that the Court “has repeatedly emphasized that the State is engaged in an ongoing violation of its constitutional duty to K-12 children. The State, moreover, has known for decades that its funding of public education is constitutionally inadequate. This proceeding is therefore the culmination of along series of events, not merely the result of a single violation.”

“If by adjournment of the 2015 legislative session the State has not purged the contempt by complying with the court’s order, the court will reconvene to impose sanctions and other remedial measures as necessary,” the order added.

The Court also rejected arguments that it was overstepping its constitutional authority.

“As the court has repeatedly stated, it does not wish to dictate the means by which the legislature carries out its constitutional responsibility or otherwise directly involve itself in the choices and trade-offs that are uniquely within the legislature’s purview. Rather, the court has fulfilled its constitutional role to determine whether the State is violating constitutional commands, and having held that it is, the court has issued orders within its authority directing the State to remedy its violation, deferring to the legislature to determine the details.”

The Court went on to note that its orders “are not advisory or designed only to get the legislature’s ‘attention’; the court expects them to be obeyed.”

Read the Supreme Court ruling.