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)

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

2020 JUSTICE IS DELAYED FOR ANOTHER YEAR FOR MSA WHISTLEBLOWER JULIE ATWOOD–she is heading to the Supreme Court asking it to reject a Two-Judge Decision Overturning the 2017 Jury Verdict Against MSA for whistleblower retaliation and Remanding the Case for another Trial

October 26, 2020

Spokane, WA

Today, Julie Atwood filed a petition asking the Washington State Supreme Court to review and overturn the decision of two judges at the Court of Appeals in Spokane–Judges Laurel Siddoway and Kevin Korsmo–who overturned the 2017 unanimous decision of the jury in Julie Atwood’s case.  The third judge, Robert Lawrence-Berrey, dissented from the majority’s opinion. 

Judges Siddoway and Korsmo wrote a 61-page opinion second guessing the jury, criticizing Julie Atwood as though she were a problem employee (which was MSA’s failed argument at trial), criticizing the trial judge for his thoughtful, often conservative, rulings on the admission of evidence, and criticizing Julie’s attorney for presenting admissible evidence.  Jack said, “This is a shocking ruling that shows the majority may have had its own agenda.”  See footnote 2 of petition below.  In the month-long trial, the jurors reviewed over 100 exhibits and heard the testimony of 41 witnesses. Jack said, “Judges Siddoway’s and Korsmo’s version of the facts are unrecognizable to me and certainly would be unrecognizable to the jury. Reading their opinion was like reading MSA’s appellate brief.”  Jack said, “Judges Siddoway and Korsmo did what is almost never done–they viewed the evidence on appeal in the light most favorable to MSA–the loser at trial–and not in the light most favorable to Julie Atwood, as is usually done on appeal.  If allowed to stand, this approach to reviewing jury decisions threatens our democracy and essentially eviscerates our constitutional right to a jury.”   The following is an excerpt from the petition:

The role of the jury is to be held ‘inviolate’ under Washington’s constitution.” State v.Montgomery, 163 Wn.2d 577, 590, 183 P.3d 267 (2008) (citing WASH. CONST. art. I § 21). “To the jury is consigned under the constitution ‘the ultimate power to weigh the evidence and determine the facts.’” Id.; RAP 13.4(b)(3).

Judges Siddoway’s and Korsmo’s decision delays justice for Julie for another year, but she will get justice once our Supreme Court clarifies the law to ensure that jury verdicts are respected and protected. 

Click here to see 2017 Judgment and Special Verdict Form

Click here to see 2018 Judge’s order on MSA’s Post-Trial Motions

Click here to see 2020 Atwood v MSA Div 3 opinion

Click here to see 2020 Atwood Petition to the Supreme Court

Click here to see 7/20/17 sanctions order against MSA for willful discovery abuses–not mentioned by Court of Appeals in opinion


2020 MSA WHISTLEBLOWER Julie Atwood Is Waiting For Justice To Be Done

January 28, 2020

Spokane, WA

The wheels of justice turn slowly.  In August 2015, former MSA Manager Julie Atwood filed a lawsuit against Mission Support Alliance (“MSA”) and MSA Vice President Steve Young for damages flowing from her wrongful termination for whistleblowing.   The trial in this matter began on September 11, 2017, and on October 10, 2017, a Benton County jury awarded Ms. Atwood $8.1 million in damages caused by MSA’s wrongful termination of Ms. Atwood only days after she blew the whistle on MSA’s misconduct.  On liability, the jury unanimously found that:

  • MSA engaged in retaliation against Ms. Atwood;
  • MSA Vice President Steve Young aided and abetted in MSA’s retaliation against Ms. Atwood;
  • MSA wrongfully discharged Ms. Atwood for whistleblowing;
  • MSA engaged in gender discrimination against Ms. Atwood;
  • MSA Vice President Steve Young aided and abetted in MSA’s gender discrimination.

Click here to see complaint filed in Benton County Superior Court.

Click here to see jury verdict and judgment.

Click here to see Court’s jury instructions.

See website “Trials” section under Atwood for details.  In addition, she was awarded $1.5 million in attorney fees and legal costs, but she has not been paid. In February 2018, MSA appealed the jury’s verdict to the Court of Appeals in Spokane, and simultaneously attacked Trial Judge Federspeil’s rulings in the media.

Mission Support Alliance is actually a partnership between billion dollar companies Leidos and Centerra Group.  Together, they have responsibility for the Mission Support Contract with the United States Department of Energy at the Hanford Site.

Click here to link to Leidos website.

Click here to link to Centerra Group website.

The briefing to the Court of Appeals has been in for some time.  The oral argument on the case occurred on January 28, 2020.  By most accounts, it did not go well for MSA.  Click below to hear Court of Appeals oral argument

Click here to see Masters Law Group brief on behalf of MSA and Young

Click here to see Julie Atwood’s responsive brief to Court of Appeals

Now Ms. Atwood waits for the three-judge panel to issue their ruling either affirming the jury’s verdict or finding fault with the verdict.  Either way, there is a likelihood that the losing party will petition for review by the State Supreme Court. We expect a ruling by the Court Appeals in April or May 2020. But if a petition is filed with the Supreme Court, it may another year or two before the case gets resolved.  Jack Sheridan commented, “persons not involved in the litigation process find it hard to believe that justice can take so long, but we are happy to wait as long as it takes so that the Court of Appeals gets it right, and if need be, so the Supreme Court can say the final words: ‘jury verdict affirmed.’”

2019 SLF WELCOMES NEW ATTORNEYS Andra Kranzler and Justin Abbasi

September 23, 2019
Seattle, WA

Today, the Sheridan Law Firm doubled in size.  Jack has owned this law firm since 1992.  Mark Rose has been an associate attorney here since 2014.  On Monday, associate attorneys Andra Kranzler and Justin Abbasi joined the firm.  Andra has spent her adult life advocating on behalf of workers and the poor most recently at the Fair Work Center.  Justin has been a law librarian, a research assistant, and judicial assistant at the Washington State Supreme Court.  Both are passionate about seeking justice for whistleblowers and victims of discrimination, and they will add their voices and their talents to help our clients prevail against companies that skirt the law and retaliate against those who stand up for justice and fairness. Welcome!

What a great team.

Ours is David and Goliath litigation against giant companies with unlimited resources.  With this team, there is no company too big or too powerful to escape accountability.

2019 JUSTICE FOR WHISTLEBLOWER LINDA ROBB: Walla Walla County Jury Awards Former Benton/Franklin County Human Services Administrator Linda Robb $1.5 Million In Compensatory Damages Caused By Whistleblower Retaliation And Discrimination

Ms. Robb proved that she was retaliated against and wrongfully terminated for opposing efforts to privatize the Crisis Response Unit in 2015, because twenty years before, it was privatized and became a monopoly, requiring the counties to intervene to protect the citizens from high costs and poor service. 

The jury found:

  • The Counties wrongfully discharged Ms. Robb for reporting improper governmental actions; and
  • The Counties retaliated against Ms. Robb by terminating her for reporting sexual harassment

Click here to see Robb civil complaint

Click here to see Robb jury verdict and judgment

Click here for Court’s jury instructions

For detailed facts about the case, go to “Trials and Settlements” and click on Robb.

In Addition To The $1.5 Million Already Awarded By The Jury, Court Awards Linda Robb An Additional $965,100.75 For Attorney Fees And Costs In Wrongful Discharge Case Against Benton And Franklin Counties Total Recovery: $2,526,420.75

March 4, 2019

Walla Walla, WA

Today Superior Court Judge the Honorable John Lohrmann signed a stipulated judgment awarding Linda Robb $965,100.75 in attorney fees and costs in her wrongful discharge case against Benton and Franklin Counties.  This is in addition to the $1.56 million jury award she received from the jury in January.  Jack Sheridan said, “by agreeing to our hourly rates and hours worked on this case, the Counties saved themselves thousands of dollars that would have been incurred by the Sheridan Law Firm (and thus paid by the defendants) in any motion practice related to plaintiff’s petition for attorney fees and costs, which are awarded by law in cases like this. Ms. Robb is pleased that she can now put all of this behind her and move on with her life.”

Click here to see stipulated judgment on attorney fees and costs

Click here to see jury verdict and judgment on jury verdict

Linda Robb Vindicated—Jury Awards Former Human Services Administrator $1.5 Million In Damages For Retaliation And Wrongful Discharge In Whistleblower Case Against Benton And Franklin Counties


January 31, 2019

Walla Walla, WA

Today a twelve-member Walla Walla jury awarded Linda Robb, the former Human Services Administrator for the Benton and Franklin Counties Department of Human Services, $1,561,320 in damages for whistleblower retaliation.

The evidence produced at trial showed that through the winter of 2014, Benton County Commissioner Shon Small was in talks with Barbara Mead, the then head of Lourdes, about giving the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) to Lourdes.  At the time, the CRU was a county department under Human Services, that provided assistance to persons in need of mental health services, and made referrals to inpatient facilities for those who need that level of care.  Ms. Robb, as head of Human Services, was in charge of the CRU and was responsible for guiding its future.  Commissioner Small kept those discussions with Ms. Mead from Ms. Robb, and ordered her subordinates and the Benton County administration to not tell Ms. Robb what he was doing.

In March, 2015, Ms. Robb learned from two subordinates that Small was working to give the CRU to Lourdes.  Upon learning this, she gave two presentations to the Commissioners and another to the public outlining the potential for a conflict of interest if the same company that has the CRU also has the inpatient beds.  The risk would be that the company would funnel patients, not for medical reasons, from the CRU to fill empty inpatient beds.

At trial, Mr. Robb testified that from that point forward, Small retaliated against her.  At one point Small said to her:

“you don’t need to explain anything to me… as far as I am concerned you are a pathetic liar and human being and I will never trust anything you say. You are a miserable liar and person and I do not want to ever see or listen to you again.”

Small then bragged about his statement to the other commissioners and to Ms. Mead (in an email).

Ms. Robb reported Small’s conduct to Janet Taylor, who was the Franklin County Human Resources Director at the time.  She began a hostile work environment investigation focused on Small.  At trial, plaintiff argued that once Benton County found out about the Taylor investigation they worked to fire Ms. Robb.  She was sent home on administrative leave and then fired.  Both actions were covered in the local media.  No investigation into Small’s conduct was ever completed.  Ms. Taylor was removed from her position by the Franklin County Board before she could complete the investigation.  Ms. Taylor testified that she was told that she was removed because Benton County wanted her removed.  When Ms. Robb was terminated and Ms. Taylor was removed from her position, Ms. Taylor testified that she gave Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant 600 pages of documents and a timeline (as an electronic file) outlining the facts related to the Robb harassment complaint against Small and in rebuttal to Benton County’s decision to terminate Ms. Robb.  Mr. Sant testified that he never got it.  The 600-page document was never used to complete the investigation into Small’s alleged misconduct. The document was produced by Franklin County during the litigation and was admitted as an exhibit at trial.

Ms. Robb testified that she brought her concerns about Small to Benton County Commissioner Beaver, who initially suggested that Small, who was the Benton County Commissioner assigned to oversee Human Services, could be reassigned to another task to solve the problem, but he quickly withdrew that suggestion in an email.  Beaver voted to send Ms. Robb on administrative leave for alleged “misconducts,” which were never identified, and he also voted for Ms. Robb’s termination.

Benton County Commissioner Delvin also voted to send Ms. Robb on administrative leave for alleged “misconducts,” and he also voted for Ms. Robb’s termination. Delvin became the Commissioners’ spokesperson in newspaper articles that covered Ms. Robb’s being sent on administrative leave and covered her termination.  Ms. Robb and Commissioner Delvin were named in both articles.

Franklin County Commissioners Koch and Miller voted in favor of Ms. Robb’s termination (they were not consulted by Benton County regarding sending Ms. Robb on administrative leave). Only Commissioner Peck voted against her termination.

Jack Sheridan, the attorney representing Ms. Robb said, “Justice was done.  This case revealed the terrible reality that the county commissioners are not accountable for their actions. Small can say or do anything to the Benton County staff and can have them terminated on a whim, but unlike a corporate executive, he can’t be fired.  He can’t be counseled, and he can’t be suspended.”  “Ms. Robb’s staff betrayed her because Small told them to do so, and because they feared for their jobs.”

He said, “Linda Robb has been vindicated. The courthouse and the ballot box are the only two places the People can hold these commissioners accountable.”

Click here to see Robb jury verdict form

Click here to see Robb – Trial Brief

Click here to see Taylor outline

Click here to see “Linda found out” email

Click here to see Robb report to Taylor of Small comments

Click here to see Sant email to Benton County seeking evidence re Robb admin leave

Click here to see Small email to Mead bragging about liar comment to Robb

Click here to see Beaver email declining to help Ms. Robb by reassigning Small

Click here to see admin leave letter signed by Benton County Administrator David Sparks

Click here to see newspaper accounts of Small’s work to send the CRU to Lourdes and Delvin’s quotes regarding sending Mr. Robb on administrative leave and firing

Click here to see Robb termination letter

Click here to see Tri-City Herald article

Former Benton And Franklin County Human Services Administrator Files Discrimination And Whistleblower Lawsuit In Walla Walla County

June 13, 2016

Walla Walla, WA

Today, Linda Robb, the former Human Services Administrator for the Benton and Franklin Counties Department of Human Services, filed a discrimination and whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against her former employers after the defendants failed to seek more information or talk settlement.

Jack Sheridan, the attorney representing Ms. Robb said, “You can’t sue government unless you first file a claim and wait sixty days, to give the defendant time to investigate the case and to discuss settlement. Ms. Robb filed in March, and mo one from either county contacted us to learn more about the case or to talk settlement, so today we filed the lawsuit.” The complaint alleges that Ms. Robb and other women were mistreated by Benton County Commissioner Small, who she claims created a hostile work environment, and that she was fired for opposing the privatization of the Crisis Response Unit, because it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. A jury trial will take place sometime next year.

According to Sheridan, under Washington law, lawsuits against a county may be filed in an adjacent county to avoid possible bias by judges in the county being sued.

Click here to 6/13/16 Robb Complaint

Click here to see June 2016 Tri-City Herald article

Former County Human Services Administrator Files Whistleblower And Discrimination Claims Against Benton And Franklin CountiesMarch 4, 2016

Tri-Cities, WA

Today Linda Robb, the former Human Services Administrator for the Benton and Franklin County Department of Human Services, filed administrative claims with both counties seeking damages for terminating her employment on August 6, 2015.

Ms. Robb alleges that she was retaliated against and wrongfully terminated for opposing efforts to privatize the Crisis Response Unit in 2015, because twenty years before, it was privatized and became a monopoly, requiring the counties to intervene to protect the citizens from high costs and poor service. Her attorney, Jack Sheridan, said, “the commissioners seem to have forgotten the lessons from before, and are about to repeat the earlier mistakes.”

Ms. Robb also alleges that she was discriminated and harassed by Benton County Commissioner Shon Small, who mistreated her owing to her gender, and that the county boards failed to protect her from Small.

Ms. Robb seek damages for lost wages and emotional harm.

Under Washington law, Ms. Robb now must wait sixty-days before filing a lawsuit. Her attorney, Jack Sheridan, said, “this case shows some examples of government at its worst. We look forward to bringing these claims in front of a jury.”

Click here to see Tri-City Herald Article

030416 Robb Benton County Tort Claim_Redacted Appendix 1-61

030416 Robb Benton County Tort Claim_Redacted Appendix 62-100

030416 Robb Benton County Tort Claim_Redacted Appendix 101-end

030416 Robb Franklin County Tort Claim_Redacted Appendix 1-74

030416 Robb Franklin County Tort Claim_Redacted appendix A75 to end

2018 JUSTICE FOR WSDOT WHISTLEBLOWER Stacy Trussler: King County Jury Awards WSDOT Director $1.2 million in Compensatory Damages for Disability Retaliation

Ms. Trussler was a top manager at the Washington Department of Transportation.  Following a head injury, her management sought to move her out of the position and finally terminated her claiming she could not do her job or any job after she complained of disability discrimination.  The jury found that Ms. Trussler proved her case of retaliation in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination and awarded her $1.2 million in compensatory damages, and recommended that she be reinstated to her position.     

Click here to see Trussler Complaint

Click here to see the Trussler $1.2 million jury verdict

Click here to see Court’s Jury Instructions

June 26, 2018

Seattle, WA

Today a King County jury found that managers at the Washington State Department of Transportation are guilty of retaliation against Stacy Trussler, a former director who was “disability separated” by WSDOT management in 2016.  The jury awarded Ms. Trussler $1.2 million in damages and recommended that she be reinstated to a comparable position at WSDOT with protections against further retaliation.

Ms. Trussler is an experienced civil engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Washington State University (1993).  She joined WSDOT in 1995, and in 2010 she was promoted to Director of the WSDOT Urban Planning Office (UPO).  The UPO was responsible for representing the Transportation Secretary at regional boards and county-wide forums, and as the Director of UPO, Ms. Trussler did so and led three technical teams: travel demand modeling, corridor planning studies, and transportation systems analysis.

In October 2012, Ms. Trussler suffered a head injury in a motorcycle accident, and after she returned to work she was informally accommodated by her then manger, Brian Smith, who permitted Ms. Trussler to telecommute, rest as needed, and to have a flex schedule until he retired in February 2014.  Under Mr. Smith, Ms. Trussler had positive performance evaluations before and after her accident.

Ms. Trussler alleged in her complaint and at trial that after Mr. Smith retired, the newly hired Assistant Secretary for Economy and Community, Amy Scarton (who is currently the assistant secretary for the Washington State Ferries Division), harassed, retaliated, and discriminated against her owing to her disability, and that Kerry Woehler, Mr. Smith’s replacement (who is currently the WSDOT planning manager), also engaged in harassment, retaliation, and discrimination, which included cutting off Ms. Trussler’s telecommuting rights after Ms. Trussler reported discrimination against her and another employee, both of whom were disabled and telecommuting as accommodations long before Ms. Scarton was hired.  The jury found for Ms. Trussler on her retaliation claim.

The Honorable Jim Rogers presided over the three-week jury trial.  The jury deliberated for a total of two days before reaching its verdict, which included lost wages totaling $600,000.00 and emotional harm damages totaling $600,000.00.  The jury also recommended that Ms. Trussler be reinstated.  Jack Sheridan, the attorney representing Ms. Trussler, said, “The decision as to whether reinstatement is appropriate will be decided by Judge Rogers at a later date.”

Mr. Sheridan said, “This has been a terrible ordeal for Stacy.  She is so grateful for the jury’s verdict.  After trying for years to get someone at WSDOT to listen to her complaints, the jury’s attention and understanding are everything to her.”

Mr. Sheridan said, Ms. Trussler testified that by October 2014, she was so upset with the conduct of Ms. Scarton, Ms. Woehler, and Human Resources, that she called the WSDOT Assistant Secretary of Strategic, Enterprise Services, Katy Taylor, and reported what she believed to be misconduct amounting to discrimination and fraud.

At trial, Ms. Taylor could not recall most of the facts, so most of her written statement was read to the jury (see below).  She admitted that she did not follow up on Ms. Trussler’s report, and that she told the substance of the report to the persons identified by Ms. Trussler as having engaged in misconduct.

Mr. Sheridan said, “Beginning in January 2015, Ms. Trussler was sent home on what plaintiff alleged were trumped up charges of time card fraud, and while she was gone with orders not to communicate with anyone other than WSDOT Director of Human Resources Jeff Pelton, the management team dismantled the UPO, so when she returned in June, after it became obvious that she would be vindicated, she was subject to a “lay-off” of just one person (Ms. Trussler ) and all of her direct reports were assigned elsewhere.  She was then placed in another job that would soon also be eliminated and after that placement she was told she could not perform the job owing to her disability.  She was later “disability separated” in February 2016.  Except for a brief homework assignment in June, from June 2015 to February 2016, she was never placed in a job.”


Click here to see Trussler Complaint

Click here to see the Trussler $1.2 million jury verdict

Click here to see stipulated judgment on attorney fees

Click here to see a copy of Katy Taylor’s witness statement

Click here to see a copy of Heidi Mabbott’s witness statement

Click here to see Heidi Mabbott’s trial testimony

Click here to see a copy of Kerri Woehler’s December 2014 memo denying telecommuting

Click here to see Amy Scarton’s letter sending Ms. Trussler home for “investigation”

Click here to see HR Manager Todd Dowler’s letter to Jack on return issues

Click here to see article on Ms. Trussler–“Women in Industry Leadership”

Click here to see Ms. Trussler’s 2011 performance review

Click here to see Ms. Trussler’s performance review (signed in 2013)

2017 JULIE ATWOOD VINDICATED—Benton County Jury Awards $8.1 Million In Compensatory Damages For MSA’s Retaliation And Discrimination–MSA VP Steve Young found to have Aided and Abetted

October 10, 2017

Kennewick, WA

Today a jury awarded Julie Atwood damages in the amount of $8.1 million against Hanford contractor Mission Support Alliance (MSA) for retaliation and discrimination.  The jury also found that MSA Vice President and Kennewick Mayor Steve Young aided and abetted in MSA’s wrongful actions.

Ms. Atwood had a thirty-year career working as a manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology and later for private companies involved in waste management. She was an Ecology regulator at Hanford, and had experience working there going back to the days when Hanford was still producing plutonium.  After Ecology, she worked for Hanford, and non-Hanford companies. Her employment track was a record of promotions and increased job responsibilities.  She joined MSA in 2010 as a program manager and was evaluated as a top performer by her MSA managers and her customer, which is the Department of Energy (DOE).

For most of his career, Steve Young worked as a small business owner providing consulting services in a one-person office.  But after he became Mayor of Kennewick, he was recruited by MSA CEO Frank Armijo to be a Vice President reporting directly to Armijo.  For years, MSA billed the DOE for Young’s time based on his working a 40-hour week.  At trial, Young admitted that he worked 16-20 hours a week every week on mayor-related business, and denied that he ever worked less than a 40-hour week for MSA.  However, Young admitted he used his DOE office, his DOE computer, and his DOE email address for mayor business—all during the work day.

At trial, Young testified that being mayor advantaged MSA and DOE:

  • “The biggest return on me being a mayor is the Department of Energy.  I’m able to do what the Department of Energy can’t do because I’m an elected official.”
  • “My job, one of my jobs as mayor, is the ability to go back, meet with the [U.S.] Senate, meet with the House.”
  • “I can actually bump a regular citizen and testify before a committee about an issue because I’m an elected official.”
  • “I use my vacation to go back and lobby — and I’ll use the word lobby — for the local [DOE] offices for the needs that they have to try to get the money they need for the Hanford site.”

Julie was fired three days after she was interviewed by two internal investigators, who reported to MSA vice presidents that Julie had stated that Young had created a hostile work environment, that he treated her differently, and that he used work time to do mayor-related business.  Julie was humiliated by having to bring her belongings from her office to her car during the work day using a wheelchair as a carrier under escort by MSA attorney Steve Cherry.

Jack said, “At trial we contended that Young was so valuable to MSA and to the DOE that when they perceived that Julie has focused a spotlight on him with her report to the investigators, MSA took immediate action to terminate her.”

There was also evidence that under Armijo, women were treated differently, and that men who engaged in improper acts were not fired.  This raised the question: if MSA and Young thought she did something wrong, why was there no counseling, progressive discipline, or use of a performance improvement plan before her termination (there was evidence that Julie was investigated in 2013 without her knowledge). Why did MSA fire Julie, but not fire men who actually engaged in serious misconduct?

The jury found that Julie was fired in retaliation for her statements made to investigators and that her gender was a substantial factor in her termination.  Jack said, “Julie was a model employee and her integrity, and the fact that she is a woman, got her fired.  MSA hurt her and humiliated her, and the jury held MSA accountable.  The system worked.  Hopefully, MSA management will learn from this verdict.”

The jury awarded $2.1 million in lost wages, which is the amount of loss calculated by labor economist Paul Torelli, Ph.D., and $6 million in emotional harm damages, which was supported by the expert testimony of Laura Brown, Ph.D.

Click here to see Tri-City Herald article

Click here to see US News and World Report article

Click here to see the jury’s verdict

Click here to see Steve Young first day testimony

Click here to see Steve Young second day testimony

Click here to see $10,000,000.00 bond posted by MSA to cover costs, fees, and interest on appeal

2017 BLACK LIVES MATTER More on Johnson v. City of Seattle–Plaintiffs File Appellate Brief Alleging Errors by Judge Parisien

May 19, 2017

Today, plaintiffs filed a brief with the Court of Appeals outlining alleged errors committed by Trial Court Judge, the Honorable Suzanne Parisien, which justify a new trial. Jack said, “In this appeal, we are hoping to change the way trials are conducted in Washington, because Washington trial courts currently ignore the impacts of implicit bias (the tendency to automatically favor one race over another), even though many federal and state courts have addressed the issue in jury selection and in the conduct of the litigation.  We need to catch up.  We also need to ensure that juries are diverse. This appeal, if successful, with go a long way to obtaining those goals and to ensuring equal justice in Washington.”

Click here to see a copy of the brief.

Black Civil Rights Matter—Washington Courts Need To Instruct Juries That Implicit Bias Is Real And Has To Be Considered In Jury Deliberations And That Management’s Lies At Trial May Be Evidence Of Discrimination

Implicit Bias Jury Instruction

As a general rule, in whistleblower and discrimination cases involving white plaintiffs brought by the Sheridan Law Firm, Jack has observed that the plaintiff’s credibility has been on an equal footing with white managers who testify at trial, but in cases involving black plaintiffs, Jack has seen mostly white Washington juries ignore and explain away the lies told by white managers in open court, and magnify minor inconsistencies in the testimonies of the black plaintiffs—concluding that the black plaintiffs are not credible or are at least less credible than their white managers—regardless of the level of contradictory testimony by the white managers. This is implicit bias, and Washington attorneys need to address it with jury instructions that link management’s lies to discrimination and admonish juries to reflect on their automatic tendencies to believe or disbelieve a witness owing to race. Washington courts need to address it by instructing juries on the dangers of implicit bias in deliberations, and by finding ways to make juries more diverse.

In a criminal case, the Washington State Supreme Court recognized the need for diverse juries:

  • 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. In contrast, diverse juries were significantly more able to assess reliability and credibility, avoid presumptions of guilt, and fairly judge a criminally accused. “By every deliberation measure, … heterogeneous groups outperformed homogeneous groups.” These studies confirm what seems obvious from reflection: more diverse juries result in fairer trials.

State v. Saintcalle, 178 Wn.2d 34, 50, 309 P.3d 326 (2013).

On the issue of implicit bias in the workplace, renowned University of Washington Psychologist Anthony G. Greenwald, Ph.D. has opined that, “There is now little doubt that implicit bias, in the form of unconscious attitudes and stereotypes, is a cause of discrimination.” He has found:

  • Implicit biases are pervasive and are often observed in more than 70% of Americans, most of whom genuinely and sincerely regard themselves as lacking in biases. Research using IAT measures finds that persons are often unaware of discrepancies between (on the one hand) their explicitly expressed—and often genuinely endorsed—egalitarian beliefs and attitudes and (on the other hand) the implicit stereotypes and attitudes that are revealed by their IAT measures. Research studies consistently find that a majority of persons who display implicitly biased associations on Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures are unaware of possessing those biases.

Click here to see example of federal case supporting Dr. Greenwald’s expert testimony under tougher federal standard for admitting such testimony (Samaha v. Washington State Dept. of Transportation (West))

Implicit bias also exists on jury panels, so in 2016, the American Bar Association adopted “Principles for Juries and Jury Trials,” which recognizes the implications of implicit bias in the deliberations of juries and recommended the following remedial practices:

The court should:

  1. Instruct the jury on implicit bias and how such bias may impact the decision-making process without the juror being aware of it; and
  1. Encourage the jurors to resist making decisions based on personal likes or dislikes or gut feelings that may be based on attitudes toward race, national origin, gender, age, religious belief, income, occupation, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

ABA Principle Six. “The American Bar Association recognizes the legal community’s ongoing need to refine and improve jury practice so that the right to jury trial is preserved and juror participation enhanced.”

Washington judges are ignoring the ABA’s recommendations—Washington judges do not presently require or give implicit bias jury instructions. Jurors need such instructions to check themselves and other jurors to ensure that they are not making credibility and trustworthiness decisions based on automatic views of parties and witnesses.

Click here to see ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials

Click here to see Dr. Greenwald’s report in Johnson v. City of Seattle

In post-verdict interviews of jurors by Jack, some non-black jurors explained away the lies told by white managers with phrases like, “we thought they just didn’t remember.”  In one case, a juror said that, had the plaintiffs had other witnesses to support their position, the seven plaintiffs would have seemed more believable (six African Americans and one Asian American).  Had the plaintiffs all been white, would this view have been articulated? Jack suggests that implicit bias instructions should be given in every case, because the court cannot know when a juror is using automatic responses to evaluate persons who are different.

Pretext Jury Instruction

The Sheridan Law Firm recently brought three discrimination cases to trial in King County (Seattle) representing black employees as plaintiffs.  In each case, there was solid testimony showing that managers lied about key facts and failed to follow procedures.  In each case, Jack asked the court for a jury instruction, which is given in other jurisdictions, to instruct the jury on pretext:

  • You may find that the plaintiff’s [race or other protected status] was a substantial factor in the defendant’s decision to terminate the plaintiff if it has been proved that the defendant’s stated reasons for the decision are not the real reasons, but a pretext to hide discrimination.

This is a critical instruction to show the jury that lying matters, and that proving that the defendant lied about the reason for doing what it did (termination, suspension, demotion) is evidence of discrimination. Jack stated, “without a pretext jury instruction to connect the dots, the long list of lies proves nothing more than the managers are liars.  The pretext instruction would have connected the dots in each case.”  This jury instruction would also benefit white plaintiffs who bring gender, age, sexual preference, military service, and disability discrimination cases, because they also have to prove that discrimination was a substantial factor in an adverse employment action (like termination), and in most cases must rely on evidence of pretext as circumstantial evidence of discrimination.

Monroe v. City of Seattle

This case involves an African American plaintiff claiming disability discrimination.  The mostly white and Asian American jury deliberated only 2 hours, and according to the sworn statement of the one black juror, did not review trial exhibits before reaching a decision against the plaintiff.  The trial judge refused to give either an implicit bias or pretext jury instruction. Oral argument on Ms. Monroe’s motion for a new trial will be heard on January 27, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. in the Honorable John Erlick’s courtroom (10th floor, room W-1060). The courthouse address is:

King County Superior Court
Third and James
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

Click here to see trial brief in Monroe v. City of Seattle

Click here to see Monroe v. City of Seattle motion for a new trial

Click here to see Exhibits 1-26 in Monroe v. City of Seattle

Click here to see Juror Declaration in Monroe v. City of Seattle

Click here to read Caucasian Manager Jensen’s trial testimony in Monroe v. City of Seattle

Trial Ex. 5 (procedures for fitness for duty)

Trial Ex. 71 (employee acknowledgement-form)

Trial Ex.-102 (observation form)

Trial Ex. 108 (email)

Trial Ex. 328 (Jensen notes )

Trial Ex. 332 (Jenson timeline)

Click here to read Jensen’s contradictory sworn statement (compare par. 15 to pages 107-110 of Jensen trial transcript; then look at pages 111-112 in which Seattle City Attorney offers to take blame for contradictory testimony by Jensen)

Farah v. Hertz Transporting, Inc

This is a religious discrimination case involving twenty-six Muslim African Americans, who are Somali refugees.  They were fired for praying at work without clocking out—after being permitted to do so for a decade before a new white manager took over—while smokers and others did not have to clock out for breaks.  The trial judge refused to give a pretext instruction.  The Court of Appeals explored the pretext jury instruction, and although the court recognized that it is an accurate statement of the law, the Court ruled that it need not be given.  The Court held, “While the instruction might be appropriate, the arguments in its favor are not compelling enough to hold that it is an abuse of discretion to refuse to give the instruction.” Farah v. Hertz Transporting, Inc., 196 Wn. App. 171, 383 P.3d 552, 558 (2016).

The Sheridan Law Firm has petitioned the Washington State Supreme Court in Farah, asking those nine justices to weigh in and make this instruction mandatory, as it is in a number of federal courts.

Click here to see Supreme Court petition in Farah v. Hertz Transporting

Click here to see Court of Appeals decision Farah v. Hertz Transporting (West)

Click here to see Washington Employment Lawyer’s Association friend of the court brief

Johnson v. City of Seattle

This is a race discrimination case involving seven plaintiffs: six are African American and one is Asian American.  The trial judge refused to give the implicit bias instructions proposed by plaintiffs, refused to allow Dr. Anthony Greenwald to testify about implicit bias in the workplace, and refused to give the pretext instruction.  The case is currently on appeal.

Jack noted, “Our jury had no African Americans on the panel (although three jurors were not Caucasian), which meant that the jury lacked the possibility (not guarantee) of having a perspective of the African American experience.  I asked the court to strike the jury pool and bring in a pool that had African Americans, but the Court denied my request.”

Jack notes there are experiences unique to African Americans, which Caucasians do not experience.  For example, there is a phrase called driving while black, which was explained in the Supreme Court case of State v. Valentine in a dissent by former Justice Sanders:

  • Young African American males frequently report being stopped and detained for reasons that are superficially pretextual. Even affluent people of color, who drive expensive or late-model cars, often report being stopped by law enforcement officers because of their race. This practice has become so prevalent that the actual justification for such detentions has become widely known as “Driving While black (D.W.B.).”

State v. Valentine, 132 Wn.2d 1, 28 n.1, 935 P.2d 1294, 1308 (1997) (Sanders dissent) (majority held that in Washington, a person cannot resist an illegal arrest).  Jack noted that “a Caucasian cannot have experienced the driving while black phenomenon, which is one of those life experiences that affects how one connects the dots when given certain facts, and in evaluating this case, the jury lacked the life experiences needed to give this case fair consideration—they could not connect the dots as to why the plaintiffs’ mistreatment related to race.”

Click here to see Motion for New Trial in Johnson v. City of Seattle

081516 Johnson Trial Transcript morning session (picking jury)

081516 Johnson Trial Transcript afternoon session (picking jury)

081616 Johnson Trial Transcript morning session (picking jury)

081616 Trial Transcript afternoon session (picking jury)


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)