WSBA Records Case VII: Does the Washington Public Records Act Apply?


Posted On Sep 29 2016 by

Case VII is a WSBA Records Request.  The court rule regarding Bar Records, GR 12.4, is used.  The question which will eventually be raised and decided is whether the Court Rule GR 12.4 applies to the exclusion of the Washington Public Records Act, RCW Ch. 42.56.

In the recent the WSBA’s  Response to Eugster’s Appeal to the Records Review Appeal Officer under GR 12.4, the WSBA takes the position the Washington Public Records Act, RCW Ch. 42.56, does not apply.  Here is what the WSBA says:

As a preliminary matter, access to Bar records is governed by GR 12.4. Therefore, any suggestion by Mr. Eugster that Bar records are subject to the Public Records Act (PRA), RCW 42.56, or that the question is “yet to be decided,” Eugster Br. at 8-9, is incorrect. The Washington Supreme Court has clearly held that the PRA does not apply to the courts, Federal Way v. Koenig, 167 Wn.2d 341 , 346,217 P.3d 1172 (2009), and the WSBA operates under the authority of the Washington Supreme Court. See, e.g., GR 12.1-12.3; Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct (ELC) 2.1; Admission and Practice Rules (APR), passim. In the only case the WSBA is aware to have addressed the issue, the court held that the PRA does not apply to Bar records. See Seattle Times Co. v. Wash. State Bar Ass ‘n, No. 88-2-01118-4 (King. Co. Sup. Ct. Feb. 26, 1988) (Attachment H). And the Washington Supreme Court clearly and unequivocally “decided” the issue when it enacted GR 12.4. See GR 12.4U) (confirming that PRA does not apply to Bar records, but may be used for non-binding guidance). GR 12.4 does, however, incorporate by reference the PRA’s exemptions from disclosure (in addition to those specific exemptions contained in GR 12.4 itself) – that is, if a record would be exempt under the PRA, it is also exempt under GR 12.4. See GR 12.4(d)(l).

2016_09_28_wsba-response-brief-w-attachments,  page 4

Last Updated on: September 29th, 2016 at 9:28 am, by Stephen Eugster


Written by Stephen Eugster