Washingon State Governor, Attorney General lead legal response to Supreme Court psychiatric boarding decision

On Friday Attorney General Bob Ferguson, in conjunction with a broad coalition of organizations, filed a motion in the Washington State Supreme Court to address the impacts of the court’s recent decision on psychiatric boarding. The motion asks the court to delay the effect of its decision so that the state can implement Governor Jay Inslee’s plan to make sure alternative care is available.

A broad coalition of hospitals, healthcare organizations and disability rights groups joined today’s motion. All of these groups had earlier asked the court to end psychiatric boarding. They nonetheless joined this request to ensure that the practice can be ended in a responsible manner, through implementation of a plan developed by the state Department of Social and Health Services. As the first step in that plan, Inslee today approved the immediate expenditure of $30 million for DSHS to purchase mental health services for some of the patients currently involuntarily detained.

The state respects the court’s ruling, but is aware that immediate implementation without alternatives in place could cause severe negative consequences. As a result the state, healthcare providers, hospitals and disability rights organizations are asking the court to delay the effective date of its ruling by 120 days to give the system time to adapt.

“My office wants to ensure the state is able to implement the court’s decision in a way that protects vulnerable individuals, public safety and healthcare providers,” said Ferguson. “No one would benefit from the release of people in mental health crisis without treatment. We hope the court will see the broad consensus in support of this motion and grant it.”

“I appreciate that so many parties have come together to agree on this plan,” Inslee said. “We are not challenging the Supreme Court ruling. We all want to implement the decision but we need to make sure patients receive the treatment they need and that the community is protected.”

Under state law, counties may detain individuals with “a mental disorder” for evaluation and treatment who are a threat to themselves or others. In recent years, counties have often relied on psychiatric boarding in hospital emergency rooms for such individuals because of a lack of space in certified evaluation and treatment facilities. On August 7, the Supreme Court held in the case In re Detention of D.W. that state law does not allow psychiatric boarding.

Under the court’s normal rules, its decision would become effective 20 days after being issued, i.e., on August 27.  As has been widely reported, ending psychiatric boarding so quickly could lead to serious problems for people in mental crisis, counties, hospitals and the general public. Without sufficient certified-treatment facilities available, many people who present a threat to themselves or others will be released without treatment.

To avoid this result, the AGO, governor and the Department of Social and Health Services have worked closely with healthcare organizations, hospitals, and disability rights advocates to come up with an interim solution.

In the motion filed today, the parties detail the plan they have developed, and ask the court to delay the effect of its ruling for 120 days to allow the plan to be put into place. The plan calls for the state to make available 145 additional certified evaluation and treatment beds over the next 120 days. Additionally, the governor and DSHS intend to work with legislative leaders to develop a longer-term solution.

The motion, available here, is being filed on behalf of DSHS, Multi Care Health System, Franciscan Health System, the Washington State Hospital Association, Disability Rights Washington, the Washington State Medical Association, the ACLU of Washington, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington, the Washington Association of Public Hospital Districts, the NW Organization of Nurse Executives, the Washington Chapter of American College of Emergency Physicians, the Washington Council of Emergency Nurse Executives, Washington State Nurses Association and SEIU 1199NW (which represents nurses).

Superior Court Judge Gordon Godfrey stepping down, local attorney stepping up

On August 4, 2014, Hon. Gordon L. Godfrey announced his resignation from the bench effective October 1, 2014. Governor Jay Inslee is now seeking interested and qualified members of the Washington State Bar Association to submit applications to fill this position. The Governor’s application for judicial appointment, the Uniform Judicial Evaluation Questionnaire, is accepted by several minority bar associations for evaluation purposes. It can be downloaded below.

Nicholas W. Brown, General Counsel
Office of the Governor
Legislative Building
P.O. Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504

http://www.governor.wa.gov/office/judicial/default.aspx
To be considered for this vacancy, applicants are strongly encouraged to promptly submit complete applications, along with a short resume and the Waiver and Authorization to Release Information, and schedule judicial evaluations with the statewide minority bar associations. All applications must be completed and submitted to the Governor’s Office by August 25, 2014, with all judicial evaluation ratings submitted to the Governor’s Office of General Counsel as soon as possible.

 

Jean Cotton

Local attorney and Elma native, Jean Cotton, has announced that she is seeking appointment to the vacancy. A press release from Cotton Wednesday said it will require closing her private practice in Elma to pursue full-time the work she has come to love since she began working in the Superior Courts as a Commissioner Pro Tem and Judge Pro Tem more than 15 years ago. Ms. Cotton has taken her judicial service seriously as she is cognizant that decisions made by Superior Court judges affect the very fabric of our lives. She appreciates being from a family with a long history of judicial service in Grays Harbor.
According to Ms. Cotton, our county has been well served by Superior Court Judges who have held their elected positions for extended periods of time and who have been actively involved in their community and judicial stewardship.
Judge Gordon Godfrey announced his resignation after serving as a Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge since 1992. The vacancy created by the announced resignation of Hon. Gordon L. Godfrey will be filled with an appointment made by Governor Jay Inslee. Jean has submitted her application to the Governor for the appointment and looks forward to the opportunity to serve the citizens of Grays Harbor County as its next Superior Court Judge.
Jean is a solo practitioner and owner of Cotton Law Offices, in Elma, Washington. She obtained her JD from the University of Puget Sound School of Law, now Seattle University School of Law.
Jean has been a member of the Washington State bar Association Family Law Section Executive Committee since 2001 having served as Chair in 2007-2008. She has on many occasions acted as a faculty member training and informing practicing attorneys at the Family Law Midyear Section and/or the Skills Training programs as well as for the Solo and Small Practitioner Midyear, various Court Facilitator training, and other programs for Continuing Legal Education requirements for attorneys in Washington. She is currently a member of the WSBA Local Court Rules Task Force and has also served on the Washington Supreme Court Dissolution Task Force and as a Washington Delegate to the Family Law Council of Community Property States. Jean was the recipient of the WSBA Family Law Section Attorney of the Year award in 2008.

2014 WA Primary: Your vote, your voice

by Brian Zylstra

Ten years after Washington voters adopted the Top 2 Primary system by initiative, it’s time for the 2014 edition.

Check your mail over the next few days for your Primary ballot.  Although it’s a mid-term election, there are races and propositions that are significant for your community, and we’re hoping for an excellent turnout, state Elections Director Lori Augino said this week.

The 2014 Primary actually got under way last month when county election officials sent ballots by mail and electronically to about 65,000 military and overseas voters.  Now it’s time for the rest of us.

This year’s Primary, which ends Aug. 5, will be dominated by races in all 10 congressional districts, including the competitive race in Eastern Washington’s open 4th Congressional District to replace retiring U.S. Rep. “Doc” Hastings. The Primary also includes all 98 state House seats and 25 of the 49 state Senate seats. Among the state Senate battles is the crowded race in the 37th Legislative District to replace retiring Sen. Adam Kline.

There are no races for U.S. Senate or statewide offices this year. None of the four state Supreme Court races will be on the Primary ballot.

The top two vote-getters in each partisan race advance to the General Election, regardless of party preference. Go here to view our online Primary Voters’ Guide on the congressional and legislative primary races.

Voters in many counties also will see many local races and ballot measures on their Primary ballot. Among the most publicized in King County is Proposition 1, which would create the Seattle Park District.

Secretary of State Wyman predicts that Primary voter turnout will be about 40 percent, which is in the same range as the 2010 Primary (41 percent) and 2006 Primary (38.8 percent).

Wyman, Washington’s chief elections official, encourages voters to take part in the Primary by filling out and returning their ballot in time for their vote to count.

“Several important local ballot measures will be decided in this Primary, and congressional, legislative and county races will be pared down to two candidates for the General Election, so I encourage voters to study the races and measures and take a few minutes to fill out and return their ballot by Election Day,” Wyman said.

Ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 5 or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots can also be returned to accessible voting centers during business hours.

If you aren’t registered to vote in Washington, you have until July 28 to do so. You need to visit your county elections office to register in person.

Candidate filing week begins with 21 openings in Grays Harbor

Candidate filing week begins today, and closes at 4:30 p.m., Friday, May 16, 2014. Elections Supervisor Katy Moore tells us candidates wishing to file in person can do so at the Grays Harbor County Auditor’s Office, 100 W Broadway, Suite 2, Montesano, WA. Mail in candidate declarations can also be sent to the above address. On-line, candidates can go to www.vote.wa.gov/graysharbor for a list of open offices and how to file.

There are 21 Offices up for election in Grays Harbor including Herb Welch’s County Commissioner seat, and Rus Sholrood’s PUD Commissioner seat, as well as County Assessor, Auditor, Clerk, Coroner, Presecutor, Sheriff, Treasurer, 2 District Court Judges, and 4 Supreme Court Justice positions.
Also open for election is U.S. Rep Dereck Kilmer’s seat, along with State Reps Dean TakkKo Brian Blake, Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger.

Filing week closes at 4:30 p.m., Friday, the Primary is August 5, 2014. The General Election is November 4, 2014.

Senate Democrats sign Cost of Living bill for teachers

OLYMPIA – Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, today released the following statement on their co-sponsorship of a Senate bill signed by all 22 members of the Democratic caucus allowing cost of living allowance (COLA) raises for Washington state teachers:

 

“For the past two years, we have been talking about the importance of our education system and the need to meet our obligation to fully fund K-12 education.  With the recent Supreme Court decision, it’s time we meet our obligation to our citizens and fulfill their desire to see our teachers paid like the hardworking professionals that they are.

 

“With the economy turning around and the positive news of the 777X contract it’s time now to give the teachers a COLA increase.

 

“Teachers are some of the hardest workers in our state.  Yet increasingly, they are being asked to do more with less or, in this case, do more for less.  It’s time we reverse this trend, listen to the people of Washington, and pay the men and women charged with broadening and enlightening our children’s minds the salaries they deserve.

 

“We are grateful that this bill has received the support of all 22 members of the Democratic Caucus and invite all members of the Senate to join us in showing Washington’s teachers that we appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

Nurses Celebrate National Nurses Week by Uniting to Protect Patient Care

The Supreme Court heard arguments in March from those who oppose the law as well as those who uphold it, and a ruling is expected in June. Nurses across the country are educating patients and the communities they serve on the facts about the law, its benefits and how it’s been implemented. 

National Nurses Week is a recognition and celebration of the importance of nurses to their patients and their communities. RN Linda Boch of Maryland comes from a long line of nurses. She says nurses are the voice for their patients when they can’t speak up for themselves.

“Nurses Week reminds us that together we can advocate stronger and more unified on behalf of our patients, and that includes fighting for the Affordable Care Act to make sure that it stays in place and even gets better.”

Denise Glass also works in Miami as a nurse and says that, in just two years since its passage, the Affordable Care Act is improving care, improving patient’s lives, and making it easier for nurses to give their patients the care they need.

“It’s going to help make our jobs much easier, so nurses are going to actually be able to get back to the bedside and do the hands-on care that we love to do.”

National Nurses Week is celebrated each year from May 6 through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Molina, Boch and Glass are all members of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU.

State Supreme Court and FCC Side With Phone Customers

These added fees can amount to a tremendous amount of money. In one of the earlier cases that we had, the Universal Connectivity charge that involved AT&T Wireless, the company made over $200 million, easily, on that charge.

In the most recent case, Peck v. AT&T Mobility, he says the estimate is between $15 million and $20 million. There’s no word yet on whether AT&T Mobility will refund the charges. The company contended that it is regulated by federal law, not state, but in an earlier decision, the 9th Circuit Court said that doesn’t apply to billing practices. A similar lawsuit against Sprint is pending.

Critics say the FCC rules are at least a decade too late. Breskin says he’s seeing less federal oversight to protect consumers – and all manner of businesses, including banks and airlines, pushing the same types of limits as the phone companies.

“These different industries have become very aggressive about trying to recoup overhead through added charges. I mean, they like to present seemingly-low costs for their service, but then tack on these added charges after the fact, which just drives up the cost to the consumer.”

The lesson, he adds, is to read the fine print on your bills, at least periodically, and request explanations of what you don’t understand.

Hot Coffee Documentary Comes to Coffee Capital

A former attorney, Saladoff contends the judicial system is being influenced by money and power just as much as the other branches of government – and believes it’s becoming harder to get a fair trial. 

The film also makes a powerful case about corporate influence in elections. Attorney Michael Withey with the Washington State Assn. for Justice says it’s something Washingtonians have experienced, with a couple of high-profile cases in recent years involving business organizations working to unseat judges and a state insurance commissioner.

“You’re not allowed to lobby judges, you know, and you shouldn’t be allowed to lobby judges. Yet, if big corporate interests put millions and millions of dollars into campaigns for elections and judicial elections, there’s the appearance, at least, of influence. We just can’t have that.”

Withey sees “Hot Coffee” as a wake-up call for Americans to protect their constitutional rights, including the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial.

The film sparks lively discussions wherever it is shown, Saladoff says. 

“People say, ‘I vote, I’m smart, I read the newspaper – and I had no idea about these issues. I was completely wrong in my perception, I will never think that way again and I will never vote that way again.’ It has really been extraordinary, the response.”

She will attend the Seattle screening on April 11, along with former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, whose case is part of the movie. The evening begins with a 5:30 p.m. reception, followed by the film at 6:30 p.m. and a discussion afterward. It will be at the downtown Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave. 

The movie can also be seen on HBO. The screening schedule in Washington state is available online at washingtonjustice.org.


- Chris Thomas

Keep The Change Signs Previewed

Anti Panhandling signs headed for downtown AberdeenABERDEEN, Wash. – The City Council got a preview of the new panhandling signs that will soon be posted in hotspots downtown. Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson presented the new sign at the council meeting last night, they cost the city between 32 and 53 dollars depending on size, and were inspired by signs found in Spokane.

 

Police Chief Bob Torgerson said the city has no ordinance against the panhandlers “we’re not saying they can’t panhandle or anything else, we’re just trying to inform people that the best choice is to give it to a charity that can  really help people in need.”  The Supreme court has ruled that panhandling is a form of free speech protected under the first amendment of the US Constitution.

Keep The Change in Aberdeen

City Signs Deter PanhandlingABERDEEN, Wash. – The Downtown Parking and Business Improvement District agreed today to order signs to discourage panhandling. Police Chief Bob Torgerson said Aberdeen has no ordinance against the panhandlers “we’re not saying they can’t panhandle or anything else, we’re just trying to inform people that the best choice is to give it to a charity that can  really help people in need.”
In at least one case the committee will have to approach WalMart to place a sign on their property, one of the hotspots for panhandlers in Aberdeen. The signs will cost the city between 32 and 53 dollars depending on size. Mayor Bill Simpson said the issue of panhandling seems to be getting worse in Aberdeen “You get them downtown, a little more on the aggressive side.”
The Supreme court has ruled that panhandling is a form of free speech protected under the first amendment of the US Constitution.
The signs were inspired by signs found in Spokane, and say “Keep The Change, don’t support panhandling.” Then state under a ‘no change’ symbol that the majority of change given goes to drugs and alcohol. and says you can help more by giving to charity.