Respect the state's open-records laws in DUI case of Seattle attorney
Do not allow creative arguments employed to evade the state's public-disclosure law, in a case of suspected drunken driving, be used to compromise its intent.
CREATIVE, aggressive lawyering intended to deny access to public records is an insult to citizens who have made open records and open government a priority in Washington.
Seattle attorney Anne Bremner, 52, is inventing arguments to stifle release of a deputy's report describing her June arrest on suspicion of drunken driving.
However mortified she might be by the events of early June 4, personal embarrassment is not an exemption under the state Public Disclosure Act.
A King County Superior Court judge cleared the report, and selected law-enforcement videos, for release, but the decision was immediately appealed by Bremner's lawyer to the state Court of Appeals in Seattle.
Another challenge is based on the apparently creative application of a King County District Court administrative rule procedure. Invocation of the rule comes out of the blue, especially for the King County Sheriff's Office, which releases 17,000 case reports a year under state law and has never heard that argument used.
The Sheriff's Office can withhold reports if release might compromise an investigation, but that is not a factor with Bremner.
Access to reports is couched in terms of release to the news media, but it fundamentally represents a conduit to the public and citizens with their own legal issues. Tamping down those rules serves no one, especially the philosophical and practical importance of transparency in government.
The court system showed an abundance of caution by shifting the judicial review to the Spokane appellate court, away from the professional and personal ties between the local bar and bench. The physical distance can be cut by teleconferencing, but an appropriate measure of detachment is maintained.
Release of the deputy's report is routine and should be treated that way.
Rules and procedures are created for orderly, uniform application of justice, not to allow their exploitation to hide things from the public.