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Thursday, January 31, 2008

UW Gets Kudos for Fulfilling Records Request

Og-blog passes along news of agencies being open and transparent whenever possible.

Here is a blog posting from Mike Fancher, executive editor of the Seattle Times, giving kudos to the UW for seeming to fully comply with the Times' recent public records request for emails.

Grays Harbor County Proposed Ordinance on Electronic Records

The (Aberdeen) Daily World reports on Gray Harbor County's proposed new ordinance on electronic records. The story describes the all-too-familiar run-around dished out to a citizen.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Editorial on Seattle Teacher Union Email Case

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin writes this editorial questioning why a court ruled that teacher union emails on Seattle School District computers are somehow not a "public record."

The editorial quotes Allied Law Group attorney Michele Earl-Hubbard. It says:

"We are not alone in our concern. 'I think the order is just wrong,' Michele Earl-Hubbard, an attorney who specializes in open-records law, told The Seattle Times. 'They're using work computers; they're discussing things on public computers, presumably on public time. I can't see why they would be exempt.' Earl-Hubbard believes, as we do, that the fact that the e-mails were written on taxpayer-funded computers made them public. Further, she said, the e-mails were saved by Seattle school officials making it apparent they were the public's business."

State-Spending Searchable Database Legislation--Update

This story from The Olympian reports that just about everyone in the Legislature supports the bill to create a searchable database of state spending to allow the public to track how their money is being spent--but they don't want to spend the $1.4 million start-up cost.

Update: the Washington Policy Center, a propenent of the searchable database, responds here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"What's Wrong With This Picture?"

Mike Fancher, executive editor of the Seattle Times, writes his blog about the Seattle teachers union email case. The school district and the teachers union--both of which presumably did not want the public to be able to see these emails--had a quick and tidy little law suit to "resolve" the matter. The school district said it had no "active position" on whether to release the records and would not object to a court order prohibiting their release. (Wink, wink.) Of course neither the records requestor nor any other member of the public were allowed to participate--it's just the public's right to public records so why would the public have any stake? Nope. The two parties who might have something to lose from release of the records got to monopolize the law suit.

This "friendly law suit" stuff happens all the time, it's just rare for people to notice. And notice they have.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pierce County Expected To Support Recording Bill

The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that the Pierce County Council is expected to pass a resolution supporting the bill to require governing bodies (like the County Council) to record executive sessions.

It's getting harder and harder for municipal lobbyists to say this bill will cause forest fires and childhood obesity.

"Hey, Lay Off Dat Open Records Bunk - Or Else"

Tom Henderson of the Lewiston Tribune (Clarkston, WA and Lewsiton, ID) wrote a fabulous editorial on House Bill 3251, a proposal to prohibit government insurers from dictating public records matters. (Here is more information on the bill and the news story that showed the need for it.) The editorial is reprinted below in its entirety (with permission):

Hey, lay off dat open records bunk - or else

Tom Henderson
January 29, 2008

Do you enjoy pushing people around? Do you like to threaten people
who have done nothing wrong because it makes you feel big and
important? Do you scoff at the law? Does the will of the people mean
nothing to you?

Apply today at the Washington Cities Insurance Authority. The agency
has immediate openings for goons and thugs. No experience necessary.
Guys with no necks preferred.

The agency is supposed to provide liability insurance for local
governments, but it decided to branch out into the goon business when
it threatened the city of Monroe. City officials did nothing wrong.
They just wanted the public to have easier access to, of all things,
public records.

This included records of their conversations with the city attorney,
provided the attorney agreed releasing the records wouldn't cause the
city legal hassles down the road.

City officials deserve some kind of medal. It is rare - to the point
of being bizarre - for custodians of government to be so open with
the people who pay the bills. Secrecy seems to be an almost
involuntary reflex from local school boards to the federal

Rather than praise, however, Monroe received threats. The Washington
Cities Insurance Authority threatened to cut off the city's liability
insurance if it continued this strange obsession with open
government. What is truly scary about this is that the insurance
authority is also a public agency.

If its leaders don't understand public records law, they certainly
have access to people who do.

To refresh the insurance authority's memory, Washington voters passed
the Public Records Act in 1972. "The people of this state do not
yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them," the act
reads. "The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public
servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and
what is not good for them to know."

Government bodies are supposed to release public records unless there
is a compelling reason to keep them locked up.

State Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, understands that. The day
after the Seattle Times reported on the insurance authority's strong-
arm tactics in Monroe, Williams introduced a bill to prohibit it from
dictating policy on public records.

Good. If the insurance authority is going to snarl at people for no
reason, someone needs to snap its leash. - T.H.

Seattle Times Article on Seattle Teachers Union Email Case

This story describes the recent ruling that emails on the Seattle School District's computers are not "public records" because they are communications among teacher union members.

The story quotes Allied Law Group attorney Michele Earl-Hubbard.

More information on this case is available here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Seattle Times Editorial on Public Records Insurance Bill

The Seattle Times editorializes about Rep. Brendan Williams' bill to prohibit municipal insurance companies from dictating agencies' public-records decisions and from insuring against public records and open public meetings violations. Says the Times:

"Last week, Seattle Times reporter Lynn Thompson wrote about the Washington Cities Insurance Authority's threat to terminate the city of Monroe's liability insurance. The city's crime? Its council members were trying to provide citizens with easier access to its public records, even waiving attorney-client privilege to release records their attorney agreed would not cause them legal problems. But now the city has backed off under WCIA's appallingly heavy-handed tactics — which is just the latest assault on the public's right to know. ...

"The day after The Times' story ran, Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, introduced House Bill 3251, which would amend the law that created the WCIA. The proposal would prohibit the insurance pool from dictating public-records practices and cities from using insurance money to defend public-records violations.

"Williams' quick response is laudable, and the Legislature should embrace this solution."

Here is the text of HB 3251 and background information.

Public Records Show ... Alleged Husky Football Team Crimes and Cover Ups

The Seattle Times reports that several members of the 2000 Rose Bowl-winning UW Husky football team were allegedly involved in crimes--and the UW and others swept the activities under the rug so the star athletes could continue to play. This piece describes how public records allowed the story to be reported.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Seattle Times Article on Police Information Exemption Bill

The Seattle Times writes this story on the bill to exempt many items of police officers' information (such as date of birth) from public disclosure.

The article quotes Allied Law Group attorney Michele Earl-Hubbard.

Friday, January 25, 2008

(Everett) Herald Story on Open-Gov't Legislation

This (Everett) Herald story describes the open-government community's legislative agenda for 2008.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Two More Good Public Records Bills Introduced

Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia) is on fire.

Today he introduced House Bill 3231 to repeal the pre-litigation attorney work-product part of the Soter decision.

He also introduced House Bill 3251 to prohibit agencies from using insurance to pay off Public Records Act or Open Public Meetings Act judgments and litigation costs. He says, "Citizens should not have to insure against their own right to know.”

Here is more information on the two bills.

Yakima Herald Republic Editorial on Bill to Exempt Police Records

This Yakima Herald-Republic editorial describes why a bill to exempt police officers' dates of birth, etc., from public disclosure is a bad idea.

Bill to Raise Open Meetings Penalties Moving Along

House Bill 2567 would increase the penalty for an intentional violation of the Open Public Meetings Act from the current $100 to $1000. (By the way, current law provides that these fines must be paid by the guilty party with personal money, not tax money. That would not change under the bill.)

This story by Chris Mulick reports that the question is how much the penalty will be raised, apparently not whether it will be raised.

HB 2567 has many more hurdles to cross so contact your legislator about it to get it over the finish line.

DOC to Hold Public Hearing on Electronic Records Rules

The state Department of Corrections will hold a public forum to gather comments on proposed regulations governing that agency's rules for providing electronic records in electronic formats. This is an important rulemaking for the open-government community.

The hearing will be on January 29, 2008 from 9:00 am to 10:30 a.m. in Room 1028 B-C, Edna Lucille Goodrich Building (DOC Headquarters), 7345 Linderson Way SW, Tumwater. You should go.

Through Feb. 15, public comments on the rulemaking effort can also be submitted by e-mail at, or by writing to the Department of Corrections Public Disclosure Unit, P. O. Box 41118, Olympia, WA 98504. Questions regarding the Department’s rulemaking process can be directing to Gary Banning, Contracts and Regulations Administrator, Department of Corrections Public Disclosure Unit, P.O. Box 41114, Olympia, WA, 98504-1114, or

Olympian Editorial on Opening Up State Collective Bargaining Records

The Olympian writes this on a bill to open up collective bargaining records between the state and the unions representing state employees. The Olympian makes this point:

"Later this year, at the same time Gov. Chris Gregoire is campaigning for re-election, her representatives will enter into contract negotiations with the leaders of multiple state employee unions. Two years worth of salary increases for thousands of state employees in this and other communities will hinge on the outcome of those negotiations. We believe the public has a right to know what's being negotiated on their behalf.

"Let's play devil's advocate, here, for a moment. What if the governor instructed her negotiating team to 'give the unions everything they want,' in exchange, say, for pledges of union support in the upcoming election against Republican Dino Rossi. We're not saying that Gov. Gregoire would ever sell out the citizens of this state for political expediency, but an unscrupulous governor might — and the laws of this state apply to all, the good and the bad."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

City Faces Cancellation of Insurance For ... Wanting to Disclose Public Records

This is totally out of control.

The City of Monroe wants to waive attorney-client privilege and release some public records. However, in this Seattle Times story, the city's insurer says it would cancel the city's insurance for doing so.

Now insurance companies are dictating whether elected officials can provide public records or not. Who works for whom?

Emails on Seattle School District Server Not "Public Records"

A King County Superior Court judge ruled that emails on a school district email server about union activities are not "public records." For good measure, the judge sealed the emails in the court files forever. This link explains it all.

This case also illustrates the common problem of an agency not really wanting to release the records and getting sued by a third party adamantly opposing disclosure (here, a teacher union). This creates a "friendly" law suit in which the agency doesn't put up much of a fight for disclosure. Who is left to protect the public interest in disclosure?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Seattle Times Editorial Urges Passage of Soter-Fix Bill

This Seattle Times editorial describes why the Legislature should pass Rep. Brendan Williams' bill to fix the part of the Soter decision allowing agencies to sue requestors. Here, from the editorial, is a description of what the bill would fix:

"Imagine, you are a middle-class parent wanting documents related to a controversial school board decision and instead of the document, you get hauled into court. Are you going to drop your request or tap your kids' college fund to pay a lawyer?"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Guide To Hiding Records"

Here is the "Guide To Hiding Records" written by a records requestor in another state describing some of the things he's experienced. The road blocks thrown up at him sure seem familiar to us.

Feel free to email us to tell us which of these tricks have been used on you.

Article on Bill to Exempt Police Information

The Yakima Herald-Republic writes this story about a bill to exempt police information such as date of birth from disclosure. Both sides of the debate are comprehensively presented.

Here is the bill in question. But the chair of the relevant legislative committee says it's not going anywhere this year.

"We Can Be Sued for Silence" Editorial

This Wenatchee World editorial demolishes the Soter decision and lauds Rep. Brendan Williams' bill to fix it. A little excerpt of the editorial:

"There's a new technique in the never-ending quest for government secrecy. If you request a government record, a document you believe is rightfully public information, the government in question can refuse. You then file a written request, after which the agency desiring the public know less about it can file a lawsuit ... against you. Then, there's a chance a judge could declare the records a secret, maybe because they are potential evidence in litigation.

"The irony here is rich — government maintains secrets by suing the people who ask to see public records. Of course, they will use public funds to finance legal action to keep records away from the public. And don't ask for anything the government attorneys consider their 'work product.' Those are secrets, too."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Spokesman-Review Editorial on Bill to Prevent Agencies From Suing Requestors

The Spokesman-Review editorializes (registration required) on Rep. Brendan Williams' bill (HB 2839) to prevent agencies from suing public records requestors.

This editorial compares Washington state and local governments suing requestors to intimidation against citizens in the Soviet Union:

"The Inland Northwest is home to more than 20,000 men and women who once lived in the former Soviet Union. Many came to escape religious persecution. They lived under governments that often ruled by intimidation. Step out of line and face consequences in your job, your family, your well-being. Some people, especially those active in underground religious organizations, knew the government was keeping extensive files on their activities.

"Then these former residents of the Soviet Union moved to America, the land of freedom, where most government files belong to the people, not to elected leaders or the agencies that maintain public records. Washington state's Public Records Act makes it clear that 'the people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them … the people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created.'

"It all sounds great – on public paper. But a form of intimidation has arisen in recent years concerning the Public Records Act. While the majority of record requests are quickly fulfilled, some get stalled. One of the stall tactics? Sue the person or organization seeking the record. This is as potentially corrosive to freedom as some of the intimidation tactics once employed in the Soviet Union."

The editorial then goes on to describe HB 2839.

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Searchable State-Spending Database

The Tri-City Herald joins the many editorials lauding Senate Bill 6387, the proposed state legislation to create a searchable database of state spending.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

P-I Editorial on Soter

The Seattle P-I editorializes about the Soter decision:

"Washington courts have expanded the ability of schools and governments to hide public business from the people under the guise of working with their attorneys on possible litigation. It's up to the Legislature to ease the increasing stranglehold on government actions."

Story on Bill Relating to Prisoners' Public Records Act Penalties

This Spokesman-Review story (registration required) describes the debate on a bill proposed by Attorney General Rob McKenna to make prisoners' Public Records Act penalty awards payable to the state crime victims fund instead of the prisoner. Attorneys fee awards would be unaffected by the bill.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

White House Admits Destroying Emails

The Associated Press reports the White House admits recycling backup tapes of emails and thereby destroying them. Looks like the White House took a page out of Pierce County's play book.

Proposed Legislation to Allow AG to Provide Model Rules on Open Meetings

House Bill 2721 would allow the Attorney General to adopt model rules on the Open Public Meetings Act much like the already-existing model rules on public records.

The bill was requested by Attorney General Rob McKenna (R). The sponsors of the bill are Reps. Miloscia (D), Rodne (R), Chandler (R), Upthegrove (R), Morrell (D), Sullivan (D), and Haler (R). These legislators span the political spectrum and are from all over the state--a very good sign for open government.

Spokesman-Review Story on Bill to Prohibit Agencies from Suing Requestors

The Spokesman-Review writes this story about Rep. Brendan Williams' bill (HB 2839) to prevent agencies from suing requestors. More background on the bill is available here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We Couldn't Have Said It Any Better

The State Sunshine and Open Records blog, which looks at open government issues all over the nation, succinctly summarized the phenomenon of government spending tax money to defend against public records lawsuits. When describing a city in Georgia ordered to pay a hefty amount to the requestor's attorney, the blog wrote:

"[The city] joins the storied ranks of cities who tax the public to pay attorneys to unsuccessfully defend their non-right to withhold documents from the public they are taxing."

Extremely well put.

Searchable State-Spending Database Legislation Introduced

It's Senate Bill 6387.

Bill to Prevent Agencies From Suing Requestors Introduced

In reaction to the horrible Soter decision, Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia) introduced House Bill 2839 to prohibit agencies from suing requestors.

Rep. Williams says "It’s outrageous for governments to sue the governed in order to maintain secrecy." Addressing what he sees as a "pattern of local governments avoiding the state’s Public Records Act," Williams adds "It feels like walls are going up faster than we can tear them down."

Joining as sponsors are Reps. Rodne (R), Hunt (D), Wood (D), and Sells (D).

Bellingham Herald Editorial on Legislative Priorities--Including Overturning Soter

This Bellingham Herald editorial urges the Legislature to focus on key issues and adds:

"We also hope that legislators quickly react to a recent court decision [Soter] that could significantly damage citizens' rights to access public documents. The state Supreme Court recently gave governments broad rights to withhold documents citing the potential for 'attorney-client privilege.' Under the court’s interpretation, governments could withhold documents from citizens just in case the documents may be part of court proceedings in the future. The Legislature must undo this horrible move toward secrecy immediately. Our state must not move toward secrecy over public access. If governments no longer have to answer to citizens, our state is in serious danger of ethics violations, malfeasance and mistreatment of citizens by the people who work for them."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Skagit Valley Herald Editorial on Taping Executive Sessions

This Skagit Valley Herald editorial makes the point that the Legislature needs to stick to key issues during the upcoming legislative session--the taping bill being one of those issues.

Friday, January 11, 2008

(Everett) Herald Editorial For Searchable State-Spending Database

The (Everett) Herald joins the many other editorials urging the state to pass legislation to create a searchable database on state spending.

The federal government and several other states have done this. Isn't Washington state the center of technology in the world? Why can't we do it?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

DSHS and Attorney General's Office Sued For Not Providing Records of Alleged Foster Child Abuse

KING 5 TV reports that DSHS and the Attorney General's Office have been sued under the Public Records Act for not providing records showing alleged abuse of foster children. KING 5 says this "could be one of the biggest public disclosure lawsuits ever filed in Washington."

Public Records Show ... Wealthy Donor Tried to Get UW Football Coach Fired

How does access to government records allow the public to know if their institutions are functioning properly? One example would be finding out that a wealthy donor offered a big donation to the UW in exchange for the university firing the football coach and athletic director, reports the Seattle Times. And then seeing if the donor was successful--that is, does money get its way all the time at the UW.

This Tacoma News-Tribune editorial discusses the link between the Public Records Act and finding out what was going on at the UW.

Openness Shows ... Some Gov'ts Doing a Good Job

Open government is a two-edged sword: it allows the public to see both the good and the bad in its government.

This Anacortes American editorial describes a recent state audit of the Port of Anacortes showing that the port is doing a good job--actually, a superb job--of accounting for the public money entrusted to it. Access to information about the performance of government allows the public to know this. Well-functioning government agencies have nothing to fear from open-government laws.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

(Vancouver) Columbian Editorial on Searchable State-Spending Database

The buzz about a legislative proposal to create searchable database of state spending increases. The (Vancouver) Columbian writes this editorial. They say, in part:

"When Republican State Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democratic State Auditor Brian Sonntag agree on an idea, Washingtonians would do well to pay attention. Both leaders feverishly pursue policies over politics. Both men have powerful reputations as independent problem solvers. McKenna and Sonntag support a proposed budget database that would allow taxpayers to research state spending on the Internet. It's a superb idea, and Washingtonians should feel slightly embarrassed that Congress beat our state to the punch. ..."

Seattle P-I Op-Ed Piece on Fixing Soter in the Legislature

Toby Nixon and Jonathan Bechtle write this op-ed in the Seattle P-I on the damage done by the Soter decision.

"This decision is the latest brick in a wall being built between the public and public documents. In 2004 the wall's foundation was laid with the court's decision in the case of Hangartner v. City of Seattle, in which the traditional attorney-client privilege was applied to the Public Records Act, shielding communications between Seattle and its attorneys despite no anticipated litigation. Since then a trend has developed of government bodies having attorneys prepare documents and sit in on meetings, just to claim attorney-client privilege. Keeping all communication between agencies and their attorneys secret is a recipe for bad and unaccountable decision-making and for potential corruption."

Toby Nixon is from the Washington Coalition for Open Government and Jonathan Bechtle is from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Delete At Your Own Risk"

Governing Magazine has a fascinating article on email entitled "Delete At Your Own Risk."

Tip of the hat to Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center for pointing out this article.

Open Gov't Forum In Monroe Wednesday Night

This story in The (Everett) Herald describes an open government forum in Monroe on Wednesday night. The story has some good quotes framing the issues.

How appropriate that the forum will take place in Monroe, a city with a history of open-government problems.

Seattle Times Editorial on Recording Executive Sessions

This Seattle Times editorial is pretty pointed.

"What do your local government officials have to hide? Apparently something; otherwise, why would their lobbyists in Olympia be opposing a bill to require government councils, boards and commissions merely to keep a recording of their closed, executive sessions?"

Monday, January 7, 2008

Proposed Legislation to Increase Open Meetings Fine to $1000

The Tri-City Herald reports that Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland) will introduce a bill in the upcoming 2008 legislative session to increase the penalty for violating the Open Public Meetings Act from the current $100 to $1000.

The article quotes an Allied Law Group attorney:

"'I think the Open Public Meetings Act in many ways has ceased to function as a practical law,' said Greg Overstreet, an attorney specializing in the state's sunshine laws. He said 'there's no meaningful deterrent' for violating the law and that the threat of a $1,000 fine would get officials' attention. 'One hundred dollars might have been a lot of money in 1971 when this law was written but it isn't any more,' he said. 'I think this bill will change behavior. I think it would deter a number of violations.'"

This is a great bill. You should send Rep. Haler a quick email and let him know that you appreciate his work on this. He will be taking a lot of abuse from the local government lobby so he needs to hear positive thoughts from you.

State Auditor and Attorney General Support Searchable State-Spending Database

The Washington Policy Center's excellent idea to create a searchable database of state spending--something which is being done at the federal level and in many other states--gets a boost from State Auditor Brian Sonntag (D) and Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), both of whom support the plan.

(Longview) Daily News Editorial on Recording Executive Sessions

The (Longview) Daily News editorializes in support of the McKenna/Sonntag proposed legislation to require the recording of executive sessions. After describing a clear open-meetings violation last year by the Port of Longview, the editorial ends with this:

"An audio tape of the session would have provided a detailed record. Such records would be helpful to both those who have reason to suspect a public board had abused the executive-session exemption to the open meetings law and members of public boards in recalling exactly what was said in an executive session. Mostly, requiring audio recordings of these sessions would do much to reduce the instances in which the state open meetings law is violated. That's something lawmakers ought to agree is worth doing."

The Olympian Editorializes Against the Soter Decision

Add The Olympian to the long list of newspapers editorializing against the Soter decision.

After describing the facts of the case involving the death of Nathan Walters at a school, The Olympian writes: "The five justices involved in this decision have abandoned 9-year-old Nathan Walters and other potential victims of wrongdoing by allowing government entities to hide records. They should be ashamed."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Openness Is For Every Kind of Gov't

The Bellingham Herald reports on two candidates' efforts to bring transparency to the Nooksack Tribal Council. Apparently the Tribe will not show members financial records from its casino.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Public Records Show ... Police Officer Accused of "Abusing Authority to Meet Women"

KING 5 TV reports that a Poulsbo police detective was accused of abusing his authority in various ways and then resigned.

How can we know about this and how the police department handled the situation? "KING 5 received the 61 page [internal affairs] report after filing a public disclosure request into the activities of the detective."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Add the Tri-City Herald to the List of Anti-Soter Editorials

The Tri-City Herald editorializes about the Soter decision. They say:

"As designed, the exemption protects the public, which ultimately bears the cost of and judgments against their government. But the Supreme Court's ruling extends that reasonable measure to absurdity. The very things that are most important for the public to know about their government -- evidence of public corruption, malfeasance, incompetence and the like -- is the very stuff than can hurt a lawsuit."

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorializes Against Soter Decision

Add the Yakima Herald-Republic to the long list of newspapers editorializing against the recent Soter decision. Here's a snippet:

"With its ruling, the state Supreme Court has now provided two more areas of concern that must now be addressed by lawmakers. The trend in local and state government these days must be toward more openness, not further movement in the opposite direction. That's how we got 300 exemptions over the years -- a trend that must be reversed in the spirit of the public's right to know about its public agencies."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Editorial on Soter

Yet another paper writes a stinging editorial against the Soter decision.

Addressing the concurrence by Justices Madsen and Fairhurst saying it's up to the Legislature to prevent agency-initiated suits against requestors, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin writes:

"Justices Barbara Madsen and Mary Fairhurst tried to shift the blame and say it is up to the Legislature, not the courts, to deal with this. Nice try. On many issues this would be a valid point, but the justices are there because they are supposed to have good judgment and are able to make reasoned decisions. This ruling fails that standard."