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Update on Washington Money Seizure Suit

In the August, 1996, issue of PLN we reported the history and then current status of Wright v. Riveland, the class action suit challenging the constitutionality of Washington statute RCW 72.09.480, which allows the DOC to seize 35% of all funds sent to prisoners. For more details refer to the June and August, 1996, issues of PLN.

Developments since the August update are that on September 14, 1996, magistrate Arnold issued a report recommending that the free citizens challenging the constitutionality of the seizure statute should not be allowed to participate as co-plaintiffs in Wright. The magistrate reasoned that the claims raised by the non prisoners were significantly different than those raised by the prisoners. Judge Burgess later adopted the report and recommendation.

Rather than get bogged down in an extensive argument over the non prisoner class, plaintiff's counsel will simply file a separate class action suit, in state court, with only the non prisoners as plaintiffs. PLN will report the specifics of that suit once it is filed.

An amended compliant was filed in October, 1996, after the non prisoner class was denied certification. The amended complaint, filed on behalf of the prisoner class in Wright, claims the statute violates their rights to equal protection and due process of law and constitutes a violation of the bill of attainder, ex post facto, double jeopardy, excessive fines and takings clause of the U.S. constitution, as well as the supremacy clause of the U.S. constitution by allowing the seizure of funds from federally protected sources.

On November 8, 1996, the attorney general's office filed a motion to dismiss the suit for failing to state a claim. The motion has been opposed by plaintiff's counsel and is set to be heard on December 6, 1996. The attorney general's office is refusing to comply with the plaintiffs' discovery requests in the case, so there will be additional proceedings to compel production of discovery.

The attorneys representing the plaintiffs need any information that can be provided by Washington state prisoners as to how the 35% statute is being applied in terms of money being seized from prisoners, whether any hearings are being provided and prison rules requiring items to be purchased solely from prisoner trust accounts, funds from federal sources and lawsuits being seized, etc. The information should be sent to: Sirianni & Youtz, Attn: 35% Suit, 1601 Fifth Ave., 1700 Westlake Center, Seattle, WA 98101-1425.

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Related legal case

Wright v. Riveland