Our Suit Against Governor’s Emergency Powers Reaches State Supreme Court
As Governor Jay Inslee prepares to end Washington's COVID state of emergency on Halloween, a lawsuit taken up by the state Supreme Court could have long-lasting impacts on how the state responds to future emergencies. The Washington Business Properties Association, along with the plaintiffs, Gene and Susan Gonzalez, filed suit against Gov. Inslee and Washington State. They argue that the governor lacked the authority to extend proclamations past 60 days.
“The Legislature was unable or unwilling to meaningfully address serious concerns we brought forward in our suit. We’re pleased the Court recognized that our case presents issues of significant public interest,” said Chester Baldwin, Executive Director and CEO of the Washington Business Properties Association. “The state’s COVID response was an overreach to say the least, and from our perspective, raise serious concerns about fundamental principles of justice and our democracy. We absolutely need the court to weigh in.”
In the Gonzalez case, the Washington Business Properties Association argues that emergency proclamations issued by Inslee during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic eroded basic constitutional rights. The suit’s main points are that the governor lacks the authority to issue Proclamation 20-19 through 20-19.4, and they:
- Create a ‘Delegation’ and ‘Separation of Powers’ issue;
- Interfere with the power of the judiciary and rights to petition for redress of grievances;
- Violate the Takings Clause of the state Constitution; and
- Impairs contracts;
“What the state demanded of housing providers is unprecedented and out of step with what other industries had to deal with,” Baldwin said. “Tenants and providers entered into contracts that exchange housing for compensation, but the governor’s proclamations unduly interfered with those agreements. Grocery stores were not forced to provide food to people for free or with the vague idea that they might get paid at some point in future.”
The Washington Business Properties Association is a statewide organization that focuses on education, advocacy, legislation and litigation for its commercial, retail and residential members. To date, their suit is the only remaining challenge to pandemic-related actions by the government. The WBPA has also filed suit earlier this year in Spokane over another state policy interfering with access to the courts for housing providers.