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

2024 Whatcom County Jury Awards Former Western Washington Auditor Antonia Allen $2.99 Million For Whistleblower Retaliation

May 14, 2024


Today, a Whatcom County jury awarded former Director of the WWU Office of Internal Auditor Antonia Allen more than $2.9 million in damages for whistleblower retaliation. At the trial, Antonia proved that she was terminated 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 and staff were giving students credit for attending classes they did not in fact attend so they could obtain federal financial aid money.  As a part of the investigation, Ms. Allen met with a federal investigator from the U.S. Department of Education who told her those acts constituted fraud against the United States.  Ms. Allen reported the agent’s statement to WWU management, and in response, she was pressured to remove the word “fraud” from the report.  When she would not remove that language, President Randhawa fired her. 

At trial, President Randhawa stated under oath that Ms. Allen had several deficiencies as the reasons she was fired.  He admitted that her refusal to remove the offending language as a reason for the termination.  At trial, the State was unable to produce any evidence that showed deficiencies. 

The jury deliberated more than five days before reaching their verdict.

Click here to see Allen – Complaint

Click here to see OIA Charter; its purpose was to protect the auditor from management

Allen – Allen v State of WA Verdict Form

Click here to see Woodring Internship Irregularities Investigation Report

Click here to see OIA contacts the OIG to request clarification

Click here to see email with committee head attaching notes of talk with DOE

2024 Justice For Electrical Inspector John Boespflug: Thurston County Jury Finds Washington State Department Of Labor And Industries (“L&I”) Liable For Whistleblower Retaliation And Awards Mr. Boespflug $262,000 In Compensatory Damages.

April 10, 2024

Olympia, WA

After a protracted appeal to the Division 2 Washington Court of Appeals following the trial court’s dismissal of his case before trial, John Boespflug finally got his day in Court.  

Click here to see court’s opinion

Today a Thurston County jury found that L&I managers retaliated against Mr. Boespflug (“Booz-floog”) after he reported that his manager was favoring his manager’s  friends by shielding them from having to pay penalties.

The Court of Appeals listed four instances in which Mr. Boespflug is a whistleblower under RCW 42.40. Here is the first one.

On April 20, 2016, Boespflug filed an “ethics complaint” with Nancy Kellogg regarding Ault’s handling of the citations [Boespflug] issued to Pacific Air and Kraft Electric. Kellogg is an assistant attorney general in the labor and industries division of the state attorney general’s office who is designated to receive whistleblower reports. Because Boespflug filed a complaint of “improper governmental action” to an attorney general “designee,” he is a whistleblower as to his first complaint.

Click here to see BOESPFLUG Complaint –

Click here to see Jury Verdict Form

Click here to see Boespflug – Judgment on Verdict

Click here to see Ticket Cancelled by Supervisor


2023 Black Professor Gillian Marshall Wins Appeal; She Did Not Get Tenure from the Mostly White Social Work Faculty and Management at UW Tacoma, But Now She Gets Her Day In Court

May 2, 2023 Tacoma WA

Today The Washington State Division II Court of Appeals rejected Judge Karena Kirkendoll’s October 2021 dismissal of Dr. Marshall’s lawsuit against UW Tacoma for race discrimination and creating a hostile work environment owing to race.  Their 50-page opinion provides a detailed walk through of a mountain of facts supporting Dr. Marshall’s claims.  The Court’s opinion also recounts  decisions by the UW management that supports white privilege and institutional discrimination at UW Tacoma including testimony by experts, witnesses, and internal reports finding discrimination.

Click here to see Court of Appeals opinion

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.

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 will be set in Pierce County Superior Court. 

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 C. 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 C. 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 C. continues to work as a trooper in the Washington State Patrol.

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