2020 Supreme Court Sends Citizen Case Against Employment Security To Trial Court For “Determination On The Merits”

September 9, 2020

Olympia, WA

Today the Supreme Court transferred the Unemployment Law Project’s case to Thurston County Superior Court for a “determination on the merits.”  SLF took this case pro bono to help alleviate the suffering of hundreds of unemployed workers who are not getting their unemployment checks.  Jack said, “we had hoped for Supreme Court oversight to get things moving and to get people paid. We don’t know at this point whether this will help or hurt in the long run.  We will continue working on behalf of these worthy citizens.” 

Click here to see Order transferring case


July 30, 2020

Olympia, WA

The Supreme Court doesn’t hear every case, but today the Washington State Supreme Court agreed to hear the Unemployment Law Project’s mandamus petition.  In the word’s of the Supreme Court:

Petitioners Unemployment Law Project and unemployed workers McKeezi Barraza and Marianne White, ask this court to issue a writ of mandamus directing respondent Suzan LeVine, Commissioner for the Washington State Employment Security Department, to take numerous actions, including immediate payment of unemployment benefits. For reasons explained below, this original action is retained in this court for a decision on the merits.

This matter arises from the rapid and staggering increase in unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the department, more than 2.2 million initial applications for unemployment benefits were filed since March 8, 2020. The sudden tidal wave of unemployment claims triggered by this public health crisis, accompanied by a massive and initially successful scheme by foreign actors to fraudulently obtain benefits, overwhelmed Washington’s unemployment benefits system, resulting in delays in processing claims and issuing payment of benefits to a significant number of unemployed workers. The numerous declarations of unemployed individuals submitted in this matter relate heartbreaking stories of frustration, despair, and stress arising from these delays.

The Court held: “Accordingly, this original action will be retained in this court for a decision on whether petitioners have made a sufficient showing that a writ of mandamus should issue against respondent.”

The Court also sent a letter outlining the briefing schedule.  These dates may change if the Court grants the petitioners’ pending motion to accelerate. 

Click here to see Supreme Court order Granting review

Click here to see Supreme Court letter setting dates


June 23, 2020

Olympia, WA

Today the Sheridan Law Firm filed a motion seeking accelerated review and immediate relief arguing that the Supreme Court should promptly enforce Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzan LeVine’s duty to ensure that unemployment compensation payments are made when due and to protect due process. ESD’s failure to make timely payments irreparably harms many unemployed workers statewide. Many unemployed workers are getting nothing back for their efforts at a time when they desperately need assistance. This is unacceptable and cannot persist. This Court is the appropriate forum to restore public trust and ensure that the unduly delayed payments are promptly processed.
The Court’s review of this matter cannot wait. Many claimants cannot meet their immediate, most basic needs and Commissioner LeVine has a clearly established duty to act in accordance with the law. Thus, the mandamus relief petitioners seek is warranted.

Click here to see ULP Motion for Accelerated Review and Immediate Relief

Click here to see WA State Psychological Association amicus motion

Click here to see Wash State Psychological Association amicus memo

Click here to see Court’s briefing schedule on motion to accelerate

Click here to see reply brief in motion to accelerate review

Click here to see Tirpak Reply Dec.

Click here to see Supp. Harrington Dec.

Click here to see KIRO 7 story

Click here to see 6/26 Seattle Times Story

Click here to see NY Times Story

Click here to see 7/2/20 KIRO 7 story

Click here for SLF Attorney Andra Kranzler radio interview

The motion to accelerate is supported by many sworn witness statements outlining the desperate status of Washington Citizens who have been improperly be denied benefits without a hearing.

062320 ULP – Supplemental Dec. of Tirpak FILED

062320 ULP – Amy Swanner Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Billie Abbit Affidavit_Declaration Filed

062320 ULP – Chelsea Altona Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Chrstine Mair Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Chynna Glenn Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – David Svoboda Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Fabian Paracuelles Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Flavia Feliciano Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Jeremy Bradford Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Jordan Jolma Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Kelli C. Ebert Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Marissa Riegert Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Michael DeMaddalena Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Miroslava Radovich Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Motion for Accelerated Review and Immediate Relief FILED

062320 ULP – Nadya Robinson Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Nicholas Petrish Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Randall Peters Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Shanyece Wake Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – Supplemental Dec. of Barraza FILED  

062320 ULP – Supplemental Dec. of White FILED

062320 ULP – Thomas Harrington Declaration FILED

062320 ULP – WIllam F. Burris Declaration FILED

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS Unemployment Law Project Sues Washington State Seeking Order Demanding That Employment Security Department Comply With The Law And Pay Eligible Workers Without Delay; SLF Representing Plaintiffs Pro Bono

June 5, 2020

Olympia, WA

Today the Unemployment Law Project, McKeezi Taylor Barraza, and Marianne White filed a lawsuit in the Washington State Supreme Court seeking an order directing the Employment Security Department (“ESD”) Commissioner Suzan “Suzi” LeVine to comply with her duty to process and provide prompt payment of benefits to Washington’s unemployed. The lawsuit alleges that the “Commissioner has forestalled and, in some cases, outright halted unemployment benefits to legitimate, qualified claimants to verify identities. The lawsuit asks the Court to Order the Commissioner:

  • To report to the Court all steps that have been taken and will be taken to ensure due process is protected and prompt payment of unemployment benefits is made;
  • To take all actions necessary to process and ensure prompt payment of unemployment benefits;
  • To provide claimants the required due process and refrain from cutting off benefits to claimants without providing notice and opportunity for hearing pre-termination of benefits.

The lawsuit also asks the Court to ensure timeliness of payments and appeals of denials, to make regular public reports, and provide legal assistance to applicants among other things.  The lawsuit does not seek money damages.

The lawsuit stems from the State’s slowing and halting unemployment benefit payments to honest, eligible citizens in response to fraudulent filings coming from oversees.  The lawsuit states that the “Court’s consideration is urgently needed because withholding unemployment benefits cuts off the only source of income and, thereby, sustenance for many across our state.”  The Sheridan Law Firm is representing the plaintiffs pro bono. 

Click here to see Petition

Click here to see Tirpak Dec

Click here to see Barraza Dec

Click here to see Hill Decl

Click here to see White Decl

Click here to see the NPR story on the filing

Click here to see the Seattle Times story of the filing

Click here to see NW News Network story

Click here to see KIRO news story

Click here to see King 5 news story

2022 Justice for Yakima Whistleblower Dawne Hyde: Yakima County Jury Finds DSHS Liable for Whistleblower Retaliation and Awards Ms. Hyde $1.9 million in Compensatory Damages.

December 20, 2022

Yakima, WA

Today, after a two and a half week trial, a Yakima County jury found that DSHS management at the Yakima Valley School, retaliated against Ms. Hyde beginning in 2015 because management believed that Ms. Hyde had filed a whistleblower claim against her supervisor for doing her tax business during work hours at work.  Under Washington law, a state employee is protected from whistleblower retaliation so long as the employer “perceives” that she is the whistleblower even if she is not. Ms. Hyde was not the whistleblower.

At trial, Ms. Hyde presented evidence that Superintendent Tammy Winegar was behind the negative treatment, which included negative performance evaluations, removal from her position and relocation to another building far from her co-workers with no assigned work. 

Ms. Hyde endured harassment on almost a daily basis until she could take it no more, and she quit in January 2019.  The jury awarded her lost wages of $101,260, lost retirement of $580,683, and emotional harm damages of $1,240,000. 

Jack Sheridan, Hyde’s attorney, stated, “Dawne suffered for years at work owing to the retaliation and the reality that no one in management would raise a finger to stop it, but at trial, the jury listened and understood and now she is vindicated.” 

Click here to see special jury verdict form

Click here to see judgment on jury verdict

Click here to see HYDE Complaint

Click here to see positive performance evaluation signed by Winegar before whistleblower anonymous filing

Click here to see State Auditor’s report

Click here to see letter pulling Hyde from job signed by Winegar after whistleblower anonymous filing is closed

Click here to see Judge Tutsch’s final jury instructions in Hyde v. State

Click here to see Yakima Herald article



Many Black plaintiffs suing in the civil forum for damages owing to negligence or discrimination, or malpractice find that their access to the justice is problematic.  Nationwide, Black civil plaintiffs just don’t get the same justice as white plaintiffs, especially if the defendant is white.  Our Supreme Court has addressed this disparity in criminal cases regarding Black defendants, but now the Supreme Court has broadened those protections to protect Black plaintiffs in civil cases so they may have the same access to justice as white plaintiffs.

On October 20, 2022, our Supreme Court issued its opinion in Henderson v. Thompson, 200 Wash. 2d 417, 421, 518 P.3d 1011, 1016 (2022), which is perhaps the most important Supreme Court decision in a decade for civil plaintiffs, because it addresses racism in the courtroom in a civil case: “[w]hether explicit or implicit, purposeful or unconscious, racial bias has no place in a system of justice. If racial bias is a factor in the decision of a judge or jury, that decision does not achieve substantial justice, and it must be reversed.” Id

In Henderson, the plaintiff was Black and the defendant was white. At the request of the the plaintiff, the Supreme Court overturned a jury verdict for plaintiff that was diminished by racism in the courtroom: the plaintiff received a small verdict in a civil case even though the evidence supported a larger verdict, and “because [of] defense counsel’s comments during cross-examination and closing arguments that  drew on racial stereotypes, along with the jury’s astonishingly small award and the request to remove Henderson from the courtroom, [which] support the conclusion that appeals to racial bias affected the verdict. Id. at 434. In addition, the trial judge was removed from presiding over the second trial upon remand based on their conduct. Id. at 440. 

Henderson speaks to judges and lawyers guiding them on  how to address, post-trial, racism that occurred in the courtroom during trial. “Henderson moved for a new trial or additur on the ground that the repeated appeals to racial bias affected the verdict, yet the trial court did not even grant an evidentiary hearing on that motion.” Id. at 422.

Relying on State v. Berhe, 193 Wash.2d 647, 665, 444 P.3d 1172 (2019), a criminal case, the Supreme Court announced procedures for the trial courts to use post-trial when race could have affected the jury’s verdict. They are: 

  • First, the plaintiff, post-trial, must present a prima facie case showing that an objective observer (one who is aware that implicit, institutional, and unconscious biases, in addition to purposeful discrimination, have influenced jury verdicts in Washington State) could view race as a factor in the verdict.
  • Second the trial court must hold a hearing on a new trial motion when the proponent makes a prima facie showing that this objective observer could view race as a factor in the verdict, regardless of whether intentional misconduct has been shown or the court believes there is another explanation.
  • Third, at that hearing, the party seeking to preserve the verdict bears the burden to prove that race was not a factor.
  • Fourth, if that burden is not met, the court must conclude that substantial justice has not been done and order a new trial. CR 59(a)(9).

Id. at 422–23 (quotation marks omitted).

Henderson also admonishes lawyers and judges to “actively work to prevent racism before it occurs.” Id. at 446.

There is hope for change.

Click here to see Henderson

Click here to see (State v. Bagby) a new criminal case addressing racism by prosecutor

In 2020, in an open letter to judges and lawyers, our Supreme Court faced racism in the courtroom and asked attorneys and judges to do better.

We must recognize that systemic racial injustice against black Americans is not an omnipresent specter that will inevitably persist. It is the collective product of each of our individual actions—every action, every day. It is only by carefully reflecting on our actions, taking individual responsibility for them, and constantly striving for better that we can address the shameful legacy we inherit. We call on every member of our legal community to reflect on this moment and ask ourselves how we may work together to eradicate racism.

The Court pointed a finger at attorneys and judges.

 The legal community must recognize that we all bear responsibility for this on-going injustice, and that we are capable of taking steps to address it, if only we have the courage and the will. The injustice still plaguing our country has its roots in the individual and collective actions of many, and it cannot be addressed without the individual and collective actions of us all.

As judges, we must recognize the role we have played in devaluing black lives.

In knowing that unrelenting racism exists today the Supreme Court is asking the judges and attorneys everywhere to do better.

In a straight line from this letter, the Supreme Court recently recognized in criminal cases addressing the issue of whether a police encounter with a person of color was in fact a seizure.  The Court noted:

an objective observer is aware that implicit, institutional, and unconscious biases, in addition to purposeful discrimination, have resulted in disproportionate police contacts, investigative seizures, and uses of force against Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) in Washington.

State v. Sum, No. 99730-6, 2022 WL 2071560, at *1 (Wash. June 9, 2022).

The Court faced head-on the reality of mistreatment in the courts. “Historically, many of this court’s opinions concerning the civil rights and lived experiences of BIPOC have been deplorable.” Id. at *5.

The Court recognized that race and ethnicity are always relevant in addressing seizure issues: “we hold that an allegedly seized person’s race and ethnicity are relevant to the question of whether they were seized by law enforcement for purposes of article I, section 7.”  Id.

The evolution of the judicial mind, must continue along that straight line and allow for introspection as to whether this forum will overcome that long history of discrimination in the courts or fail again.  Judges and attorneys must recognize that in every judicial decision race discrimination and the potential for unfair treatment of a Black and other litigant of color exists in every courthouse and affirm that this evil specter will not be allowed in this judicial process.

Click here to see State Supreme Court open letter

Click here to see State v. Sum

2022 TROOPER JAYSON CATON Earns $714,000 Judgment Against the State of Washington as Damages for Whistleblower Retaliation.

On September 1, 2022, the Honorable Ken Schubert signed a judgment against the State of Washington ending a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed in King County.  Trooper Caton was a witness in Trooper Ryan Santhuff’s whistleblower lawsuit, and he testified at the Santhuff trial and was driven out of the Aviation group as a result.  Had the State not offered a judgment, the case was set to go to trial on September 6, 2022. Trooper Caton continues to work as a trooper in the Washington State Patrol.

Click here to see Caton complaint;

Click here to see offer of judgment;

Click here to see Caton acceptance of CR 68 offer;

Click here to see Caton Signed Judgment for $714,000.

2022 Update: Rampant Race Discrimination at University of Washington (Tacoma Campus) Exposed in Tenure Denial Discrimination Lawsuit by Black American Assistant Professor Gillian Marshall Who was Denied Tenure Despite Having NIH Grants Worth Over $1 million, Outstanding Marks by External Evaluators on her research, and Excellent Peer Teaching Evaluations by Professors who watched her teach, some of Whom Have Expertise in Teaching Teachers How to Teach

UW-Tacoma Assistant Professor Gillian Marshall, a black woman, has been denied tenure by the white faculty in the Social Work and Criminal Justice unit (it’s now a school) at UW-Tacoma. The denial was allegedly based on the SWCJ faculty’s claim that her scholarship was adequate but not outstanding, and her teaching was poor. UW-Tacoma management rubber stamped their decision, most recently including Dean Keva Miller, who on September 16, 2021, denied Dr. Marshall a merit salary increase on the same basis.

On November 29, 2021, a Pierce County jury will be impaneled to decide Dr. Marshall’s claims of race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation under the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

As to evidence of racism at UW-Tacoma, see a 2016 report and a 2017 climate survey that were sent to Chancellor Mark Pagano, and the declarations of Dr. Chris Knaus, Investigator Kimi Ginn, and two declarations from Dr. Melissa Lavitt.  Also, there is a declaration from Expert witness Leah Hollis, EdD regarding bullying in academia. 

The Tenure Process

As to the process and procedures applied to those seeking tenure and promotion, Attorney/UW Professor Mike Townsend provided a good lay person explanation as to what should happen.  His testimony is summarized here.

Plaintiff’s witness on the ins and outs of the Faculty Code is attorney and professor Mike Townsend, who as Secretary of the Faculty Senate, provides advice to the faculty and to the administration, and acts as sort of a librarian chronicling past actions to help guide faculty and the administration with decision-making today. See Townsend Dep. at 1-14. He doesn’t represent individuals or the University in his job. Id. at 33-34.

Dr. Townsend states that the Faculty Code is treated as binding on faculty and administration. Id. at 14:4-18. When pointed to ¶ 24-32 of the Code, which provides that “In accord with the University’s expressed commitment to excellence and equity, any contributions in scholarship and research, teaching, and service that address diversity and equal opportunity shall be included and considered among the professional and scholarly qualifications for appointment and promotion outlined below.” He noted that this is an important section of the Code.  Id. at 18:6-20:20.

Dr. Marshall’s NIH research grant addressed issues of diversity.

Dr. Townsend also confirmed that appointment to the rank of associate professor requires a record of substantial success in teaching and/or research and that both teaching and research are required, “except that in unusual cases an outstanding record in one of these activities may be considered sufficient.” Id. at 23:3-18. See also, 09/24/21 Purdy SJ Dec., Ex. B at ¶ 24-34 (see below).


As to the quality of Dr. Marshall’s research, see the redacted opinions of four distinguished independent external evaluators (typically, and in this case, only the SWCJ voting faculty and management who are voting on tenure and promotion get to see these external evaluations so there is a risk that the content of the opinions will be misstated in public documents.

On September 8, 2020, External Reviewer No. 1 says it all: “The quality of her work is outstanding.” Id. at #12955. No. 1 also noted that she publishes at a high rate in “impactful journals, and states, “With unwavering certainty, Dr. Marshall will continue to be recognized for her research through publications and grants. She far exceeds other scholars who are broadly in aging and health at the same point in their careers.” Id. at #12959. No. 1 goes on to write:

What makes Dr. Marshall’s research trajectory even more impressive is the commitment that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has invested in her and her work. Any award by NIH indicates that Dr. Marshall is recognized as an excellent researcher with an agenda that is and will continue to make a difference, and in her case, in the lives of older adults. To receive a K0l award followed by a Loan Repayment Award followed by an Administrative Supplement is no small feat. It is quite extraordinary. It takes focus, commitment, critical thinking and a solid research plan to even be considered let alone be awarded funding . . . it is widely recognized and accepted that the research and training associated with the grant takes priority over all other responsibilities as evidenced by her scholarship record.

In addition to her impressive funding record, Dr. Marshall has disseminated her research broadly at 13 conferences in her time at the University of Washington Tacoma which demonstrates her interdisciplinary focus, at gerontological, public health, and social work conferences. Id. at #12955-56.

External Reviewer No. 2 also writes a glowing evaluation of Dr. Marshall’s work noting that, “Dr. Marshall’s program of research is noteworthy for highlighting personal, interpersonal, and structural factors that collectively influence health and well-being. Her focus on older Black adults is especially appropriate given their heightened and lifelong exposures to environmental circumstances and psychosocial stressors (e.g., higher rates of poverty, discrimination, reduced access to care) that are significant risks for poor physical and mental health outcomes.” Id. at #12957. No. 2 also notes that,

Dr. Marshall’s research is distinctive from typical research on health disparities in that her work seeks to understand both proximal and distal factors associated with adverse health outcomes and identify the causal pathways that link behavioral, social, and structural determinants of health. Doing so, effectively re-conceptualizes health disparities as health inequities (i.e., avoidable and unjust inequalities) and underscores the systemic and structural features and circumstances that produce and maintain poor health and adverse health outcomes among socially disadvantaged groups.

Id. at #12958. No. 2 writes, “It is particularly noteworthy that she stands out as one of few scholars from a school of social work to be awarded a K Award. In addition, she has been accorded the distinction of being selected an Early Career Reviewer for the Social Sciences and Population Study Section of the National Institute on Aging.” Id. at #12958.

On August 17, 2020, External Reviewer No. 3 wrote, “Dr. Marshall’s [] quantity and quality of work place her in the top 10-15% of Assistant Professors in gerontology across the social and behavioral sciences. Her record is similar to those of Assistant Professors at research intensive universities who are promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.”

On August 16, 2020, External Reviewer No. 4 wrote, “Dr. Marshall has advanced scholarship on the intersection between aging, ethnicity, financial equity, and mental health, an area that is contemporary and much needed in gerontological research I know many young scholars who have applied for K01 awards, Dr. Marshall . . . is the only one I am aware of who successfully obtained this prestigious award.” Id. at #12964. No. 4 also writes, “She is the sole author of a paper published in Social Work, the most widely-disseminated journal in social work that reaches thousands of practitioners and academicians. She also is the first author of nine publications. Her scholarship has been broadly distributed in well-known journals that should target those who can benefit most from her research.” Id. at #12964-5.


As to the quality of Dr. Marshall’s teaching, see the four reviews in her tenure and promotion file attesting to her teaching skill performed by UW-Tacoma qualified faculty.

The following are some of the documents submitted to the Court by Dr. Marshall in pre-trial proceedings. 

The lawsuit produced evidence that white management uses “collegiality” and “fit,” which is often code to support discrimination.  The following is from plaintiff’s response  (at pages 17-18) to defendants’ motion for summary judgment above.

Good Fit And Collegiality–taken from plaintiff’s response (see above)

Being a “good fit” and “collegiality” are codes for discrimination and are direct evidence of discriminatory intent. “Coded language includes statements about collegiality and fit; these are usually applied within a context of questioning whether a potential hire or candidate for tenure/promotion is a good ‘fit’ within a department.” Knaus Dec. at ¶ 10; 101120 Lavitt Dec. at ¶ 39 (“fit” is often code for policies that perpetuate bias and reduce the likelihood of hiring diverse faculty). “The UW, and UW-Tacoma . . . have instituted implicit bias training for faculty that specifically cautions faculty and administrators from using such coded language in considering candidates, but the use of such remains commonplace.” Knaus Dec. at ¶ 10.

In October 2018, during a special meeting called by Dr. Young and the SWCJ faculty, excluding Dr. Marshall, to discuss the reappointment policies and practice following Jill Purdy’s overruling of SWCJ faculty’s recommendation to not grant reappointment to Dr. Marshall. Jill Purdy suggested to the white faculty present that the SWCJ faculty should “create policies with criteria to assess collegiality. 10/11/20 Lavitt Dec. at ¶¶37-39; 10/7/21 Lavitt 1st Supp. Dec. at ¶¶ 2-3. Purdy admitted this to UCIRO Investigator Beth Louie that she told the white faculty it’s “important for the department to develop standards of collegiality so this doesn’t happen.”  Louie Dep. at 94-95:3.

SWCJ Tenured Faculty Rich Furman admitted to attending the October 2018 meeting [with Jill Purdy] but denied that Jill Purdy had talked about “collegiality” or “good fit.”  Furman Dep. at 10:5-13:17.  Similarly, SWCJ Full Professor Charles Emlet denied that Purdy had discussed “collegiality” or “good fit” with the SWCJ faculty. Emlet Dep. at 30:22-31:14 (no, not to my recollection).

Jill Purdy is not the only manager to make a statement showing her discriminatory predilections. In another discussion with Dr. Lavitt involving hiring more persons of color, Chancellor Pagano said to Vice Chancellor Lavitt, “why can’t we find a good one?”  Dr. Lavitt took that to mean a good person of color. 10/7/21 Lavitt 1st Supp. Dec., ¶ 6.

As to Diane Young, Purdy also told Louie that she had “not seen or heard anything from Diane Young that is overtly racist.”  Louie Dep. at 84:17-24. The implication being that Diane Young’s racism is not out in the open.


The following documents have been submitted by UW-Tacoma in pre-trial proceedings in an effort to have the case dismissed before trial. 

A jury trial is set to begin in this case on November 29, 2021, in Pierce County Superior Court. 

2021 FLYING WHILE BLACK—Despite Strong Evidence That An Elderly Black Tukwila Man Was Removed From A Jetblue Flight Owing To Race Discrimination, The 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals Rubber Stamped A District Court Dismissal Of His Civil Rights Lawsuit. The SLF Has Filed An Appeal To The U.S. Supreme Court Seeking To Reverse The Decision Of The 9th Circuit, Because It Mistakenly Applied An Anti-Terrorist Provision Of An Aviation Statute To The Civil Rights Case. That Provision Gives The Pilot Total Unfettered Discretion To Remove Any Passenger For Any Reason, Which When Applied To Acts Of Racial Discrimination, Means That When A Person Of Color Boards A Commercial Airplane In America, They Leave Their Civil Rights At The Airplane’s Door.

Today, Petitioner Abdikarim Karrani filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of his removal from a JetBlue flight after a white flight attendant pushed Mr. Karrani and then said he pushed her. 

After the plane landed, the pilot did no meaningful investigation even though other passengers said the flight attendant was lying, and even though a police officer, who interviewed Mr. Karrani, the flight crew, and other passengers testified he saw no evidence of assault.  The police officer removed Mr. Karrani at the request of the pilot and the flight attendant, because the flight attendant was afraid of Mr. Karrani. 

In another case in Los Angeles, the same flight attendant falsely claimed that a Black American woman pushed her.   The passenger was removed because the flight attendant said she would not fly unless the passenger was removed.   

Here are some of the holding by U.S. circuit courts in America:

  • An air carrier’s decisions to refuse transport are not subject to liability unless the decision is arbitrary or capricious (the law does not say this; judges made this up as a barrier to discrimination claims).
  • Review of a decision to refuse transport is restricted to what information was actually known by the decisionmaker at the time of the decision. The test is not what the Captain reasonably should have known (the law does not say this; judges made this up as a barrier to discrimination claims).
  • The Captain (or other decisionmaker) is entitled to accept at face value the representations made to him by other air carrier employees. Thus, even mistaken decisions are protected as long as they are not arbitrary or capricious (the law does not say this; judges made this up as a barrier to discrimination claims).
  • The biases of a non-decisionmaker may not be attributed to the decisionmakers (the law does not say this; judges made this up as a barrier to discrimination claims).
  • The jury must be instructed that the Captain has the power to refuse transport because transport of a passenger “might be inimical to safety” unless that decision was arbitrary or capricious (this is the language of the law, but it has nothing to do with claims of discrimination).

The circuit courts say that the pilots don’t have to investigate before removing a passenger—they just have to hear a lie from a crewmember—and even if a crew member is a bigot the court won’t look at the crewmember’s bias in the decision-making process.  Jack Sheridan said, “The Supreme Court needs to review this, because as it stands, Black Americans lose their civil rights once they board a plane, and they are unprotected against removal based on false statements by biased and racist crew members.”

Click here to see Karrani Petition

Click here to see Appendix to petition

2018 JetBlue Crew Orders Removal Of Elderly Black Tukwila Man From Plane After White Flight Attendant Pushes Him—Tukwila Man Sues for Civil Rights Violations

October 15, 2018

Seattle, WA

Today 81-year-old Abdikarim Karrani filed a federal lawsuit in Seattle for violation of his civil rights owing to his mistreatment on a January 2018 JetBlue flight from JFK to Seattle, which made an unscheduled landing in Billings Montana after another passenger became ill. In the air, a flight attendant pushed Mr. Karrani as he stood in front of a restroom door, and upon landing had him removed by police.

Click here to see complaint and police report in appendix

Click here to see King 5 news story

Click here to see Billings TV coverage


2021 BLACK LIVES MATTER SLF Attorney Andra Kranzler Authors Amicus Brief Opposing Racial Bias In Civil Cases Brought In Washington Courts

January 29, 2021

Olympia, WA

Today SLF Attorney Andra Kranzler filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the Loren Miller Bar Association in support of Appellant Janelle Henderson, a Black American woman with Tourette’s Syndrome, who prevailed at trial, but her victory was tainted by discrimination in the courtroom before, during and after trial.  The Supreme Court took direct review of her appeal.  Some of the facts raised on appeal by Ms. Henderson include:

  • The defense injected racially biased tropes in closing arguments;
  • The all white jury awarded an inadequate verdict in light of the evidence;
  • The jury asked and got the trial judge to remove Ms. Henderson from the courtroom before they exited;
  • Rulings by the trial court showed bias in the courtroom.

The Loren Miller Bar Association (“LMBA”) is a Washington statewide nonprofit organization and affiliate chapter of the National Bar Association. Its 500 current and past members are primarily African American judges, attorneys, law professors, and law students. From its inception, LMBA has adopted a vigorous platform of confronting institutionalized racism and the myriad of social and economic disparities affecting the African-American community. LMBA is submitting this amicus curiae brief to support Ms. Henderson’s position that the judiciary has a critical role in preventing racial bias from affecting jury verdicts and in providing litigants relief when it does. This issue is paramount for LMBA, as attorneys have a duty to ensure civil litigation, inside and outside the courtroom, is free from prejudice and bias in any form.

The friend of the court brief outlines the unfair playing field in Washington courts experienced by persons of color affected by:

  • Stereotypes that are ingrained and often unconscious, implicit biases that endure despite our best efforts to eliminate them;
  • Bias by jurors;
  • Bias by opposing counsel and colleagues:
  • Bias by parties and witnesses;
  • Bias by judges noting that the majority of judges are white and often blind to their own biases.

The brief asks the Supreme Court to exercise its inherent supervisory powers to mitigate the harm from implicit racial bias and systemic inequalities in all cases by:

  • Mandating jury instructions on implicit bias;
  • Addressing the makeup of the jury pools to ensure that they are diverse.

Click here to see Henderson Friend of the Court Brief

Click here to see Henderson Statement of Grounds for Direct Review

2021 DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Western Washington University Whistleblower Antonia Allen Files Retaliation Lawsuit Against Washington State

December 17, 2020

Bellingham, WA

Today, Antonia Allen, the former Director of the Office of Internal Auditor (OIA) at WWU filed a lawsuit in Whatcom County Superior Court seeking damages flowing from her termination on November 30, 2019, which she alleges was in retaliation for investigating and reporting to her  management (including WWU President Sabah Randhawa) and to federal and state authorities that WWU staff and faculty members in the Woodring College of Education offered and granted false academic credentials to students with the intent to bolster their credit loads for financial aid purposes–essentially, faculty were giving students credit for attending classes they did not in fact attend so they could obtain federal financial aid money.  Ms. Allen concluded that those acts constituted financial aid fraud against the United States and she reported that conclusion to management.

Jack Sheridan, her attorney, said, “as Director of WWU OIA, Ms. Allen’s job was to be the conscience of the university, which often made her the messenger bringing bad news to management. This is one of those cases where her management (figuratively) shot the messenger rather than face the problem.” Her lawsuit alleges that her management criticized her for going to the federal government and for asserting that the ghost courses amounted to “financial aid fraud.”  According to Sheridan, “by reporting this misconduct to the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, she was protecting WWU from fines and penalties, which may have been levied by the federal government, had she not reported those improprieties.”

Her lawsuit also alleges that Ms. Allen uncovered ethics violations in which faculty were using state property and resources for personal gain.  She reported this improper governmental action to the WWU management (including WWU President Sabah Randhawa), and management’s response was to seek an exception to the ethics law.  This ethics issue began in 2018 and was still not resolved at the time of Ms. Allen’s termination in November 2019. Ms. Allen’s complaint alleges that this was another reason for her wrongful termination.  A jury trial is expected to be set for late 2021 or early 2022. 

Click here to see Allen Complaint

Click here to see copy of Seattle Times article

Click here to see Seattle Times editorial

Click here to see Inside Higher Ed article

2020 JUSTICE FOR WHISTLEBLOWER RYAN SANTHUFF: King County Jury Finds Washington State Patrol Liable For Whistleblower Retaliation And Awards Detective Ryan Santhuff $1.2 million In Compensatory Damages

September 28, 2020

Kent, WA

Today, after a four-week trial, a King County jury found that the Washington State Patrol (“WSP”) retaliated against WSP Detective Ryan Santhuff for reporting sexual harassment involving Lieutenant Jim Nobach and Nobach’s office manager in February 2016.  Then and now, Nobach has been in charge of the Aviation Section of the WSP.  At any given time the Aviation Section has about seven pilots and seven planes, and they conduct missions including traffic enforcement, surveillance, and transporting WSP and State executives, including the governor.   Santhuff joined Aviation as a pilot in January 2014. 

Jack Sheridan, Santhuff’s attorney, stated, “until March 2016, Ryan was succeeding by all measures and on his way to becoming a command pilot, which means he could fly any of the WSP airplanes in any weather and carry any passengers.” That all changed after Santhuff reported Nobach’s misconduct. 

Santhuff testified at trial that in a meeting with Nobach in Nobach’s office, while both were seated at a table talking, Nobach’s office manager entered the room, and after exchanging some small talk with Nobach, the office manager said, “I know what you really want,” and walked behind Nobach and rubbed her breasts back and forth against the back of Nobach’s head.  Santhuff promptly exited the room and several days later reported the misconduct to his chain of command.  On March 30, 2016, Nobach and his office manager were disciplined in the form of written counselling called an 095.  According to Sheridan, “Two days later, beginning on April 1, 2016, Nobach began a campaign of retaliating against Santhuff that involved criticizing his flying, making false claims against Santhuff involving safety issues, and disciplining him with an 095 in September.  According to Sheridan, Nobach’s chain of command, although notified by Santhuff of the ongoing retaliation, did nothing to protect Santhuff, and Captain Johnny Alexander, in two different meetings with Santhuff, told him that he needed to stop complaining if he wanted to stay in Aviation. Alexander claimed for the first time at trial that Santhuff and his sergeant (who forwarded Santhuff’s harassment claim up the chain of command) confessed in 2016 to being a part of the hostile work environment–these new allegations are not in any written record and both Santhuff and his sergeant denied the allegations under oath.   Santhuff left Aviation in October after neither his chain of command nor Internal Affairs acted to protect him.  Santhuff is now working as a WSP detective.

The jury found that:

  • The WSP retaliated against Ryan Santhuff in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination; and
  • The WSP engaged in Whistleblower retaliation in violation of the Washington State Whistleblower Law (RCW 42.40)

During trial, Lt. Nobach was found in contempt of court for violating the judge’s order that witnesses be excluded from the courtroom.  Sheridan said, “it’s typical to exclude witnesses who have not testified from the courtroom so they cannot adjust their testimony to better fit with the testimony of witnesses testifying before them.”  Owing to precautions related to the coronavirus, spectators were permitted to watch the trial via Zoom.  Nobach encouraged one of his sergeants and his office manager to watch Santhuff’s testimony in violation of the judge’s order, which they did, and then testified with the benefit of having seen hours of Santhuff’s testimony.    

Click here to see Court’s contempt order to Nobach

Click here to see signed jury verdict form

Click here to see judgment and jury verdict

Click here to see Court’s Jury instructions

Click here to see Alexander September 2019 Deposition

Click here to see Matheson September 2019 Deposition

Click here to see Nobach July 2020 Deposition

Click here to see Saunders October 2019 Deposition

Click here to see trial transcript Day 1 opening statements Matheson Alexander

Click here to see trial transcript Day 2 Alexander

Click here to see trial transcript Day 3 Saunders Speckmaier

Click here to see trial transcript Day 4 Santhuff

Click here to see trial transcript Day 5 Santhuff Torelli Kaiser

Click here to see trial transcript Day 6 Randy Drake Santhuff_Redacted

Click here to see Santhuff Trial Brief

Remainder of Trial Not Transcribed

2019 STATE TROOPER Files Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit Against Washington State

February 20, 2019

Seattle, WA

Today Trooper Ryan Santhuff filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court against Washington State and Lieutenant David Nobach, the Chief Pilot assigned to the Washington State Patrol’s Aviation Section.  Trooper Santhuff alleges in the lawsuit that he was forced to resign from the WSP Aviation Section after he reported misconduct by Lt. Nobach, which included Lt. Nobach’s ordering the destruction of emails to prevent their production under the State’s Public Records Act which was ordered by Lt. Nobach, sexual misconduct involving Lt. Nobach, and Lt. Nobach’s refusal to fly the governor during a budget dispute on a false claim that the airplane was “down for maintenance.”

Trooper Santhuff alleges that after he reported Lt. Nobach’s misconduct, his chain of command whitewashed the misconduct and failed to prevent Nobach’s ongoing retaliation against Santhuff.

Jack Sheridan, his attorney, states that, “this lawsuit seeks damages, which will include judicial oversight of the State Patrol to force accountability and to create and implement systems to encourage state employees working in aviation to come forward to report improper governmental actions and to protect those employees from retaliation.”  A jury trial is set for 2020.

Click here to see copy of Santhuff complaint

Click here to see Nobach 095 Record of Counseling

Click here to see Santhuff interview transcript conducted by Investigator Larry McKnight

Click here to see Santhuff complaint to Maier

Click here to see 2018 News Tribune Article

2020 BLACK LIVES MATTER Open Letter to Wealthy Americans: Black Lives Should Matter To You

In American cities, business property has been torched and stores have been looted following marches against the murder of George Floyd by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for nine minutes while three other officers looked on and did nothing.  A few days before, Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the police falsely claiming that a Black man (Christian Cooper) was threatening her in Central Park.  Only the video taken by Mr. Cooper saved the day, but this is every Black man’s fear—it harkens back to the days of lynching. Today, Black Americans are in real danger of being murdered by police and being falsely accused of wrongs without evidence. In response, thousands have marched peacefully, but some have attacked business property.

Years ago, on a trip to the store with my son when he was young he asked me why we don’t have to be afraid that oncoming cars will cross the double-yellow line and crash into us.  I explained that we have an unspoken agreement between all drivers that I won’t cross the line and hurt you and you won’t cross the line and hurt me.  This is a social contract, and social contracts like this exist with and without laws. 

The fundamental social contract of Americans is in the Declaration of Independence.  

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [of us] are created equal, that [we] are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted . . .  deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

If you are Black in America, for you this social contract has been broken.   It’s obviously broken. Perhaps it’s always been broken.  According the Equal Justice Initiative, “more than 4,000 Black Americans were lynched across twenty states between 1877 and 1950.”  These lynchings by mobs were executions without trial and were done with the silent approval of elected officials and the police all in violation of our most important social contract.

Today, there is another kind of lynching in America in which the police use bullets or a knee on the neck instead of a rope. These are also executions without trial and they also are being done with the silent approval of elected officials and the police. Almost every week we see videos of Black Americans being killed or abused by the police.  We hear some of our elected officials openly trying to justify these lawless killings.  How is it that our elected officials allow this to happen?

One might blame at some level income inequality between rich and poor as contributing to the problem.  According to Forbes, “the top 1% of Americans pocketed 85% of total income growth, according to a study . . . from the Economic Policy Institute. As of 2013, the average family income of the top 1% was 25 times the average income for the other 99%.” Economic inequality like this perhaps has caused the wealthy to lose touch with the People much like French aristocrats lost touch with the People before the French Revolution, and thus tolerate and even support this inhumane treatment of Black Americans. 

One might also blame our U.S. Supreme Court as contributing to the problem since the Court has recently ruled it will not intervene to stop partisan gerrymandering, so power and money can virtually rig elections by redrawing election boundaries to favor certain candidates.  And our Supreme Court has approved the infusion of unlimited money into elections by corporations (as though corporations were living and voting citizens) so that those with money and power have a louder voice than the People. Money and power in politics can skew the national will and produce elected officials who think they are unaccountable.  

Or one might also blame institutional racism as being at the core of this problem, which lives in all of us, and which silently casts Black Americans as second class citizens, and limits empathy and action when those atrocities occur.

We don’t need a definitive answer as to causation to observe that once a social contract is broken, consequences follow.  It has been the case in history that destruction of business property follows a perception that government has broken an important social contract, perhaps because it’s not unreasonable to perceive that those with money and power can influence government action and inaction.  One example in our history is the Boston Tea Party in which the Sons of Liberty, fighting taxation without representation by the British government, which was a breach of a social contract, dumped tea into Boston Harbor—tea owned by the British East India Company. It was government that was breaching the social contract, but the Sons of Liberty reeled against the money and power of the day, perhaps because money and power influenced British policy, and perhaps if property owned by the money and power of the day were attacked, the leadership might become sensitized to the plight of the colonies or at least decide that the cost of breaching the social contract was higher than the benefit.  

As to the wealthy in America, they enjoy Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, but Black Americans do not.  Here and now, business property owned by those with money and power, who can influence government policy, has been damaged as a part of the protest. Whether the damage to property is a proper means to the end being sought is for historians to judge, and whether it is a politically effective strategy is not the subject of this piece. One need not decide those issues to agree that there has been a breach of the most important social contract in America: The Declaration of Independence.  

A stable democracy is the best protection for the wealthy, because the People share equality and enjoy Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and need not take to the streets to protest violence against Black Americans. Those with money and power should ensure that the breach of this social contract is mended.  In that world, Black American families don’t fear the police, their children are safe, and they have hope.  

When the rich lack wisdom, they allow the People to live without political or economic justice, without fairness, and without hope, and the first to be affected will be people of color and the poor, but the affect without change will reach into the middle class.  In that world, unrest boils over.  

Our government has broken the social contract that all of us are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  It’s not too late for those with money and power to use their wealth to support candidates who will make government accountable in every state for the ongoing abuses and killings of Black Americans, and ensure Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.       

Jack Sheridan


2020 BLACK LIVES MATTER Washington State Supreme Court Publishes Open Letter Saying Black Lives Matter; Sheridan Law Firm Responds: If You Want To Ensure Justice For Black Americans, Then Fix The Broken Jury Selection Process In Washington Which leads To All-White Juries Because Persons Of Color Are Not In The Jury Pool

June 4, 2020

Olympia, WA

Today in a hopeful expression of self-awareness, all nine justices of the Washington State Supreme Court signed an open letter recognizing that injustices against Black Americans are still present in the criminal justice system, and stating that, “The systemic oppression of black Americans is not merely incorrect and harmful; it is shameful and deadly.”  The Court goes on to write:

 We cannot undo this wrong–but we can recognize our ability to do better in the future. We can develop a greater awareness of our own conscious and unconscious biases in order to make just decisions in individual cases, and we can administer justice and support court rules in a way that brings greater racial justice to our system as a whole.

The Sheridan Law Firm responds.

The Court needs to do better not just in the criminal realm, but also in the civil realm. Race discrimination has not waned in Washington, it has simply gone underground.  Implicit bias is in every White American and the Court cannot continue to ignore the underlying unfairness in almost every trial litigating race discrimination in Washington, because of the utter failure of trial judges and appellate judges to ensure that persons of color are in the jury pool in a race case so that a fair trial may be had.  Justice Wiggins famously noted:

From a practical standpoint, studies suggest that compared to diverse juries, all-white juries tend to spend less time deliberating, make more errors, and consider fewer perspectives. Equal Justice Initiative Report, supra, at 6, 40–41. In contrast, diverse juries were significantly more able to assess reliability and credibility, avoid presumptions of guilt, and fairly judge a criminally accused. Id. at 41. “By every deliberation measure, … heterogeneous groups outperformed homogeneous groups.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Samuel R. Sommers, On Racial Diversity and Group Decision Making: Identifying Multiple Effects of Racial Composition in Jury Deliberation, 90 J. Personality & Soc. Psychol. 597, 608 (2006)). These studies confirm what seems obvious from reflection: more diverse juries result in fairer trials.

State v. Saintcalle, 178 Wash. 2d 34, 50, 309 P.3d 326, 337 (2013), abrogated by City of Seattle v. Erickson, 188 Wash. 2d 721, 398 P.3d 1124 (2017).

In 2018, the Sheridan Law Firm brought two related cases to the Supreme Court, but were denied review.  In Johnson v. City, the plaintiffs were mostly black, and the jury pool was white.  The trial judge denied plaintiffs’ request to pick a new group of potential jurors to ensure some diversity, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The Supreme Court denied review and ignored this serious problem. 

In Monroe v. City, the one Black American juror on the panel left for a break, and he testified that while he was out of the jury deliberation room, deliberations continued (which was contrary to the Court’s direction) and a White American juror changed her vote upon his return.  No further deliberation occurred and the case was over.  The trial judge did nothing, the Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Supreme Court denied the petition for review and ignored this serious problem. 

The wheels of justice turn slowly when it comes to change.  Hopefully, in 2020, this Court will take cases involving juror diversity and examined the inequities in the environment they now accept is flawed.  We wish them well, and we hope to see more change and enlightenment in the opinions that will be written in the future.    

Click here to see State Supreme Court open letter

*In March 2020, the Washington State Supreme Court granted direct review of a case addressing these issues in the civil realm. In Henderson v. Thompson, a Black American plaintiff received an inadequate verdict from the jury (well under the damages the insurance company advocated for in defense). The court below denied a new trial and evidentiary hearing even though racial bias was injected into the trial in closing argument and the jurors wanted the Black American plaintiff out of the courtroom before they exited. Attorneys at the Sheridan Law Firm will be writing an amicus (friend of the court) brief on behalf of the Loren Miller Bar Association in support of reversal and encouraging the Court to exercise its inherent authority by requiring a jury instruction on implicit bias in all cases.

Black Lives Matter: SLF Takes Two Cases to The Supreme Court: 1. Seven Former Seattle Public Utilities Employees Ask For New Trial Owing To A Lack of Diversity in the King County Jury Pool 2. Former Seattle Department of Transportation Employee alleges Jury Misconduct and Errors of Constitutional Magnitude at Trial and Appellate Courts

Johnson Plaintiffs2

First Row (left to right): Carmelia Davis-Raines, Luisa Johnson, Toni Williamson, Cheryl Muskelly
Second row: Pauline Robinson, Elaine Seay-Davis, (Lynda Jones not present)

July 6, 2018

Seattle, WA

Johnson et.al. v. City of Seattle

Today one Asian American and six African-American former employees at SPU filed a petition with the Washington State Supreme Court asking the justices to grant them a new trial because the jury panel for their race and age discrimination trial lacked racial and economic diversity.  At trial in the King County Superior Court,  the plaintiffs objected to the venire (the juror pool) and asked the Honorable Suzanne Parisien to dismiss that venire and bring in another panel of potential jurors that contained some black persons.  Judge Parisien denied the request. They also asked Judge Parisien to reconstitute the venire because after Judge Parisien granted requests for hardship dismissals based on financial concerns of lower wage earners whose employers would not pay them to sit on the jury for three weeks, those not dismissed constituted an elite cross-section of the citizenry, including non-working retirees and persons who worked for big companies in higher paying salaried jobs who would be paid through a three-week trial. The plaintiffs argued that Judge Parisien should create a trial schedule which may permit more economic diversity in the panel, such as holding court fewer days in a work week. Judge Parisien denied that request as well.  The petitioners consider these rulings to be denials of their constitutional rights to equal protection and to a jury trial.

As to the economic diversity issue, if review is granted by the Supreme Court, petitioners will suggest possible solutions include paying jurors at least the minimum wage to enable low-income workers to be jurors, or to have court fewer days each week so hourly workers can still work and earn a living wage. Jack Sheridan said, “we have to find a way to allow all citizens, regardless of their income levels, the right to participate in jury service.  It’s the only time that the average citizen has a chance to fight back against abuses by big companies and big government, and we have to make sure that the jury is a jury of our peers.  We can’t let the right to a fair trial be diluted.”

As to the racial diversity issue, the petitioners rely on the results of the 2016 juror survey done for the courts showing that white jurors in King County are systematically “overrepresented” in the juror pool, while black jurors are systematically “underrepresented.”  See petition at A-50.  Supreme Court Justice Wiggins has written that in the criminal context, studies suggest that when comparing a diverse jury to an all-white jury:

All-white jurors tend to spend less time deliberating, make more errors and consider fewer perspectives. . . . In contrast, diverse juries were significantly more able to access reliability and credibility and avoid presumptions of guilt and fairly judge criminally accused in a criminal case. By every deliberation measure heterogenous groups outperformed homogenous groups. These studies seem to confirm what seems obvious from reflection: A more diverse group of juries has a result of fairer trials.

Jack said, “What good is the right to a jury trial if the deck is stacked against you at the start, and the deck is stacked against black plaintiffs in King County and in most counties in the state. The Supreme Court needs to step in and create rules to ensure the juror pool is diverse racially and economically.”

Click here to see copy of Supreme Court Petition

Click here to see Supreme Court letter

Below is a video on race and juries in America

Click below for link to Court of Appeals website to hear Johnson v. City of Seattle oral argument


September 5, 2018

Seattle WA

Monroe v. City of Seattle

Today, Cita Monroe filed a petition for review with the State Supreme Court.  This is from the introduction of the Supreme Court Petition.  See if you feel differently about your own views after reading this.  We all have implicit bias, and these two petitions seek to address that issue head on, and other important issues so that black plaintiffs can get a fair trial.

At the recommendation of a City retained doctor, a disabled white woman with a documented history of anxiety and depression, was transferred from one City of Seattle department to another as an accommodation, because the City’s doctor opined that in her then current assignment, “her increase in anxiety and depression symptoms would limit her ability to adequately concentrate, withstand day-to-day usual work stresses and interact appropriately with supervisors and coworkers.” So the disabled white woman was transferred to the City’s Department of Transportation, and was assigned to work under the supervision of a six foot two, 305-pound black male supervisor with a history of aggressive behavior at work.

One day her black supervisor cornered the disabled white woman in a women’s restroom at work. He stood outside the restroom door pounding with his fist and yelling for her to get out. He wanted her to take a fitness for duty exam off site, and she said she would go, but she wanted her sister, also an employee, to accompany her, because the disabled white woman was afraid to be alone with this large, black man. Her anxiety peeked in the women’s restroom; she had soiled herself in fear; she called her shop steward from inside the restroom. Through the telephone, the white shop steward heard the yelling and banging, and after the disabled white woman handed the black manager the phone through a partially opened restroom door, she proposed having a third party join them. The black manager yelled at the shop steward saying, “It’s too late” [for the disabled white woman to get the fitness for duty exam now]. The disabled white woman left the workplace after her security badge was taken.

The disabled white woman was then terminated for leaving her work place and for refusing the fitness for duty exam despite testimony to the contrary.

The facts stated above describe the case of the petitioner with one vital exception—Petitioner Aloncita Monroe is not white; she is black.

Many white readers of these paragraphs may have been horrified and outraged by the black manager’s treatment of the disabled white woman in the workplace. Yet for reasons they may not be able to explain, they may find that the effect of knowing now that the female employee is actually black, has somewhat diminished the outrage and horror felt in hearing the facts.[1] This is the nature of implicit bias: bias held by all of us including by the jury, the judge, and all persons present at trial.

In recent history, in some states, lesser conduct by a black man, if directed against a white woman, could have led to a lynching.[2] In those same states, this author knows of no instance in which the same alleged conduct by a black or white man against a black woman, ever led to a lynching. It may be that white society discounts the significance of violence against black women.[3]

A means of fighting against such bias in the courtroom is through the use of an implicit bias jury instruction. The petitioner proposed two, but the Respondent City of Seattle vehemently objected to their use, and the Honorable John Erlick agreed with the respondent. He also excluded a pretext instruction proposed by the petitioner, a continuing duty to accommodate instruction proposed by the petitioner, and included an essential functions element in the disability discrimination instruction even though the trial court admitted its inclusion made little sense and was confusing.

During deliberations, Mr. Willie J. Neal, Jr., the only black juror out of the twelve deliberating jurors, left the deliberations to visit the restroom. Judge Erlick had cautioned the jury not to deliberate unless everyone was in the room. At the time of his departure, he and two white jurors had voted in favor of plaintiff’s failure to accommodate claim.  While in the restroom, he could hear talking. When he came out, without further discussion, a new vote was taken, and without explanation or discussion, one of the two white jurors changed her vote now voting against liability. Immediately, the Asian American foreperson pressed the button to summon the clerk and to present their decision. The jury was polled and confirmed a 10-2 verdict for the City on the failure to accommodate claim and 11-1 verdicts on the other claims. Two days later, Mr. Neal completed a sworn statement outlining these troubling facts.  He concluded that improper deliberations occurred while he was in the restroom. CP 972-74 (Appendix at 1-3).

The Neal Declaration became the focus of plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, but the uncontradicted sworn statement by Mr. Neal, the only black juror, was not enough to overturn the verdict. The City submitted no contradictory evidence from any other juror or any other source. Judge Erlick denied the motion and asked, “How do we know that it wasn’t the African American juror’s implicit bias towards your client?” See RP (1/27 Albino) 17 (emphasis added). The following exchange followed:

SHERIDAN: Well, that is the difficulty, Your Honor, is that we — we have to be mindful that our own implicit biases don’t infect the proceedings here today. And the whole purpose — the whole purpose of the implicit bias jury instruction and the whole purpose of the ABA’s . . . 2016 guidance[4] on how we should conduct jury trials is that this exists in everything we do, and it exists in whites against blacks. That’s what the studies say. And the terrible part about not giving that instruction, given the fact that the ABA says to give it, is that it’s not like, you know, the global warming argument where you an find 1 percent of the scientific community say, ‘There’s no evidence.’ We have a situation where every single scholarly article — including Judge Doyle’s article, which I just happened to see yesterday — they all say that it is helpful to address implicit bias head-on. And — and —

THE COURT: And you did.

SHERIDAN: — yes.

THE COURT: You addressed it in voir dire. You addressed in the opening — your opening statement. You addressed it in your closing argument. You raised it throughout this entire trial.

. . . .

SHERIDAN: … [S]ometime in our lives, Judge, it is going to be a no-brainer that implicit bias is examined, and maybe those — maybe that test is going to be given during jury — during — you know, during jury orientation to sensitize people. But also, to get back to what you said, which is the idea of Sheridan got to argue it; what’s the harm? Well, we have extensive citation in our briefs where courts have said there’s a big difference between having an instruction and having a defense — a plaintiff’s or defense lawyer argue something. The instruction is — carries the weight. The lawyers arguments — remember the first thing out of [defense counsel] Mr. Johnson’s mouth when he — when he stood up was — in closing was, ‘Well, good thing this is argument. You don’t have to believe what Sheridan said.’ And that’s the difference between you saying it and me saying it. And, basically, the cases that – you’ll see them in our reply brief and other places — but it’s — basically says that, you know — the Townsend case, it says, ‘It’s unreasonable to expect jurors, aided only by arguments of counsel, will intuitively grasp a point of law until recently eluded by both judge . . . — ’

RP (1/27 Albino) 17; see also RP (12/19 Moll) 1916.

This exchange with this highly respected white trial judge demonstrates that implicit bias infects us all, and that failure to give an implicit bias jury instruction in this case is a constitutional violation and an abuse of discretion, because an implicit bias jury instruction promotes consciousness and introspection, which are methods of fighting those biases.[5]  The uncontested sworn statement of the only black juror should have been enough to support a new trial. His sworn factual testimony was strong circumstantial evidence of juror misconduct in violation of the Washington State Constitution and the failure to grant a new trial was an abuse of discretion.

Today more than ever, we need a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles because—today more than ever—it is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government. Const. art. I, § 32.  The overarching issue is, what Supreme Court actions are needed to ensure that a black person gets a fair trial in Washington State? If this Court does nothing, injustice will prevail and discontent will ferment in all affected communities.

This petition for review should be accepted by the Supreme Court because the petition raises significant questions of law under the Constitution of the State of Washington; and involves issues of substantial public interest that should be determined by the Supreme Court. RAP 13.4(b) (3) and (4). Additionally, once the juror misconduct is confirmed, the petition demonstrates that the Court of Appeals decision is in conflict with Supreme Court precedent. RAP 13.4(b) (1). Upon review, the jury verdict should be set aside and a new trial granted with new rules requiring an implicit bias instruction when requested and for evaluating juror misconduct.

[1] According to prominent scholar and expert witness Dr. Anthony Greenwald, “seventy percent of Americans hold implicit prejudiced views based on race, color, national origin and ethnicity.”  Samaha v. Washington State Dep’t of Transp., No. CV-10-175-RMP, 2012 WL 11091843, at *1 (E.D. Wash. Jan. 3, 2012).

[2] See Equal Justice Initiative, “Lynching In America: Confronting The Legacy Of Racial Terror,” Third Edition, available at: https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/.

[3] “The legal and social double standard that allowed white men to commit sexual violence against black women with impunity, while the most baseless fear of sexual contact between a black man and white woman resulted in deadly violence, continued after emancipation. Nearly one in four black people lynched from 1877 to 1945 were accused of improper contact with a disabled white woman.” Equal Justice Initiative, available at https://eji.org/history-racial-injustice-sexual-exploitation-black-women.

[4] See American Bar Association, Principles for Juries and Jury Trials, Principle 6(c) (2016), filed at CP 1127 (Appendix at 26).

[5] “Research on the role of attention in weakening the effects of implicit cognition . . . supports consciousness raising as a strategy for avoiding unintended discrimination. That is, when a decision maker is aware of the source and nature of a bias in judgment, that bias may effectively be anticipated and avoided. Consciousness raising may also have some value in attenuating implicit bias when the source of implicit bias is not properly identified, as suggested by findings that attentional effort reduces effects of weak cues.” Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). “Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem, and Stereotypes.” Psychological Review, page 16. Available at: http://faculty.washington.edu/agg/pdf/Greenwald_Banaji_PsychRev_1995.OCR.pdf.

Click here to see a copy of the Monroe Supreme Court Petition

Click below for link to Court of Appeals website to hear related case of Monroe v. City of Seattle oral argument



State Court judges are elected by the people at every level.  They campaign for election and reelection.  Attend forums where the candidates speak and ask:

  • What will you do to ensure that juries are diverse, since our Supreme Court recognizes that diverse juries do a better job?
  • Will you adopt the American Bar Association’s recommendation on instructing juries about implicit bias and if not, why not?

That’s a good start.  Dialogue is the first step toward change.  The Sheridan Law Firm and other law firms throughout the State that focus on civil rights will continue to bring these issues to the attention of trial judges and judges at the appellate level until our judiciary recognizes that black civil rights matter, and until they do something about it.

Click here to see ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials

Click here for a copy of State-v-Saintcalle (West)

Click here for copy of State v. Valentine (West)