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Washington State Court Holds Requester Has the Right to Joinder in Suit Seeking to Bar Disclosure of Public Records

Washington State Court Holds Requester Has the Right to Joinder in Suit Seeking
to Bar Disclosure of Public Records

The Division Three Court of Appeals for the State of Washington has vacated an injunction that barred the disclosure of records requested by a state prisoner related to Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) employees.

Allan Parmelee submitted a Public Records Act (PRA) request to the DOC for documents concerning several guards employed at the Washington State Penitentiary. Rather than honor Parmelee’s request, the DOC notified him that it would withhold the records pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the affected guards. Through their suit, the guards sought an injunction barring disclosure of the records.

Parmelee sought mandatory joinder to the guards’ suit under Civil Rule (CR) 19. The trial court, however, denied his joinder request and granted the injunction, and Parmelee appealed.

The Division Three Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, reversed the trial court. According to the appellate court, Parmelee’s request for joinder was controlled by the Washington Supreme Court’s decision in Burt v. Department of Corrections, 168 Wn.2d 828, 231 P.3d 191 (Wash. 2010).

In Burt, another PRA case involving Parmelee, the Court held that he was an indispensable party in a similar lawsuit filed by guards seeking to bar the disclosure of records in a PRA request.

Following Burt, the Court of Appeals found that “a requester in a PRA injunction has an interest in the subject of the action.” As such, the appellate court concluded, “Parmelee was a necessary party whose joinder was mandatory under CR 19(a).”

The injunction barring the disclosure of the public records sought by Parmelee was accordingly vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings. See: Parmelee v. Abbott, 161 Wash.App. 1015 (Wash.App. Div.3 2011); 2011 WL 1631722.

Parmelee has an extensive history of litigating PRA cases, although that history resulted in the state legislature introducing bills to restrict prisoners’ ability to obtain public records and collect damages in PRA cases. [See: PLN, April 2011, p.32; Nov. 2010, p.36; Oct. 2010, p.46].

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Related legal cases

Parmelee v. Abbott

Burt v. Department of Corrections