NPR Story
4:36 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Washington Supreme Court To Hold Contempt Hearing On Wednesday

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 3:56 pm

The state of Washington will go before the state Supreme Court Wednesday to explain why it should not be held in contempt.

The historic hearing stems from the ongoing McCleary case where the court found the state is not adequately funding public schools.

This is the legal equivalent of being hauled to the principal’s office and having to make the case for why you shouldn’t be suspended. In this case, the legislature is in trouble with the Supreme Court for submitting an incomplete plan in April for how it intends to fully fund public education by 2018.

The first question for the court is whether to hold the state in contempt. If the answer is “yes,” then the next question is whether to impose sanctions.

Sanctions could include ordering additional spending on education to prohibiting non-education-related spending. It’s also possible the court could ask legislators to impose a tax increase or adopting some sort of judicial line-item veto, although how those could options be enforced is a big question.

Tom Ahearne, the attorney who represents the coalition that sued the state over school funding, wants the Supreme Court to find the state in contempt and impose sanctions in January if the legislature doesn’t meet in special session this fall to address the school funding crisis.

“When the legislature wants to do something, they can,” Ahearne said. “I mean when somebody important like Boeing or the Mariners or something like that ask for something, the legislature will meet in special session to do what they want.”

In court filings, the state argued it should not be held in contempt and there should be no sanctions. But if there are, the state said the sanctions should be deferred until next spring to give the legislature more time to act in the 2015 regular session.

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