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2016 – Top 5 Legal Fails in Washington




In 2013 Snohomish County Government, under the leadership of the now departed John Lovick, decided the County needed a colosseum of a court house to glorify his regime.  The first courthouse proposal was rejected (because it was not affordable) and then after an election, one Council member (after being re-elected) changed his vote and the County moved forward with the $176 million-dollar courthouse (because it was now affordable). Dave Somers, the now Snohomish Council Executive, was the famous flip flopper of a Council member.  In 2016, Executive Dave Somers (the flip flopper), decided the courthouse was a bad idea (because it was not affordable) and stopped the development leaving in its wake a devastated, crime and drug infested blight of a city block.  The problem of a dangerous and outdated courthouse remains unresolved.  Nicely done.


The Draeger Alcotest 9510 replaced the BAC Datamaster as the State’s go-to breath testing device in 2014.  The machine is run by software.  The software source code is shrouded in mystery, so a group of enterprising attorneys requested to see it. The Snohomish County prosecutor’s office said, “we don’t have it.”  The Washington State Patrol said “we don’t have it.’  The US distributor, Draeger, said “we don’t have it.”  The Court finally, after a year or more of litigation, said:  “No Draeger breath tests will be admitted into evidence over objection of the non-­moving party until the moving party has established the accuracy and reliability of the instrument.”  This Order was signed by ALL Snohomish County District Court Judges and Commissioners.  However, there was a problem – the Judges would not sign any documents confirming their own Order.  Some Judges even said that they weren’t even sure what they signed.  The Prosecutors did not agree with the Order and filed 95 page motions immediately before trial.  Long story short, all Governmental entities should be massively ashamed of themselves. The issue, meanwhile, remains unresolved.

Moral of the Story:  For those young people considering growing up to be a politician or lawyer, don’t!


The Work Release program affords those who receive longer jail sentences to keep working, while still serving their jail term.  The Snohomish County website, as of December 30, 2016, states:  “The use of jail alternatives not only helps the taxpayers of Snohomish County by reducing jail costs, but also gives low risk offenders the opportunity to repay the community while continuing to work and support families financially.”  Unfortunately, the County has stopped the program and everyone in the program is now, not in the program.  It’s too bad Snohomish County didn’t tell anyone about this - evidenced by their website stating the program still exists.  Unfortunately, the program would probably still exist if the County didn’t waste money on a courthouse they couldn’t afford, then could afford, then couldn’t afford.


The Snohomish County prosecuting attorney’s office likes to take their time.  They also enjoy a little bit of fun – sometimes they file a DUI immediately after the arrest, sometimes a couple of months after an arrest and sometimes 6 or more months after the arrest.  What is really funny is when some of these charges are finally filed – perhaps 6 months later – and the prosecutor requests significant bail because the defendant is a “risk to the community.”  Why is he a risk now and not for the preceding several months when the County was not filing the case.  This fun little game is no fun for those who are affected and who are unable to make any future plans because the government is busy taking things slowly.


We still hear of DUI emphasis patrols, still see the signs and hear the media propaganda. However, the proof is not in the pudding.  Seemingly, DUI emphasis patrols are now in name only.  A little blue birdy recently told me that the DUI emphasis patrols are “not like they used to be.”  Budget cuts and politics have diminished this once useful law enforcement tool.  Thus, more drunk and drugged drivers are not getting caught and fewer defendants are in local courts. 

Honorable MentionWashington Department of Licensing.  They didn’t do anything special this year, and that is kind of the point.  The status quo prevailed – letters sent to clients with wrong information, letters suspending licenses when no suspension occurred, wrong dates of suspension, no notices when licenses needed renewing (thank you – by the way), and DOL hearings that seemed like a convention of prosecuting attorneys, not neutral hearing officers.  The DOL would probably be the number one legal fail every year, except I'm bored with them.


As we near the end of 2016 it seems appropriate to reflect on the past year and the law. I spent many hours thinking about all the wonderful things that happened in law courts in Washington State and unfortunately, I could not think of any.  However, the list of “legal fails” from this year was long, and limiting the list to only five, proved mighty hard indeed.

The champion of legal fails in Washington is clearly Snohomish County.  They did so well being bad that they should be given some award.  Unfortunately, we could not trust giving an actual award to Snohomish County as they would probably destroy it or sell it for some magic beans.

Let’s start out, for fun, by listing the last three Snohomish County Executives:  Aaron Reardon, John Lovick and now Dave Somers.  Stop laughing and let’s get on with the winner of the most incompetent legal related decisions in 2016.

2016 Legal Summary Blog