July 30, 2020
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.
UNEMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT SEEKS ACCELERATED REVIEW OF MANDAMUS PETITION ASKING HIGH COURT TO ORDER EMPLOYMENT SECURITY DEPARTMENT TO PAY UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS WHICH HAVE BEEN WITHHELD FOR MONTHS IN SOME CASES; See Amicus Brief and Witness Statements Outlining Ongoing Damages Supporting Acceleration
June 23, 2020
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.
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.
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
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.