Olympia Dispatch

Judge Says Legislators Violated Constitution in the Way It Passed Deadly Force Initiative

"I got more than I asked for," Eyman said.

By Hayat Norimine April 20, 2018

Conservative initiative activist Tim Eyman had a big win today.

In a lawsuit against the state, The Seattle Times reported a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled in Eyman's favor on Friday—Judge Christine Schaller said state legislators violated the state Constitution by passing an amendment to a deadly force initiative before the measure took effect. 

"I got more than I asked for," Eyman said. 

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De-Escalate Washington announces its initiative campaign on police deadly force initiative. 

Lawmakers in March passed Initiative 940 in the final hours of the short legislative session, after a last-minute compromise with police unions that included changes to the measure's language. Representatives then approved I-940, then the amendment to the measure immediately afterward.

According to state law, and an attorney general memo from the 1970s, state legislators can only approve a ballot measure if they accept the initiative as is. With any changes to the ballot measure, lawmakers then need to approve an alternative and voters would face rival measures. 

Unless a higher court reverses the decision, voters will face just one deadly force initiative on the November ballot. Attorneys for the Legislature appealed the ruling. 

When asked what motivated him to file the lawsuit, Eyman told PubliCola it set a dangerous precedent for future ballot measures and demotivated citizens from seeking initiatives through state legislators. 

"I want to make sure that they don't do this to any future initiatives. The Legislature, if they get away with it this time, is going to be darn tempted to say, 'You know what? Let's do this again,'" Eyman said. "Nobody wants their initiative treated like that." 

The deal—which included removing the need to prove "malice" to prosecute officers—was unprecedented and hailed by supportive legislators as an example for the country on finding middle ground.

"In my opinion, the Legislature acted appropriately," representative Roger Goodman, who helped negotiate the amendment, told Seattle Met in an earlier interview. "The initiative backers, our law enforcement groups...everybody has communicated that we're on the right page. ... No matter what happens, we are together in supporting House Bill 3003."

Updated 5:15pm on April 26, 2018, to clarify the appeal.

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