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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Seattle Challenges Constitutionality of Sex Predator Facility Siting Law

10/9/2003  3:40:00 PM
Tori Hamilton/Kathryn Harper, Law Department, (206) 684-8288

Seattle Challenges Constitutionality of Sex Predator Facility Siting Law

SEATTLE – The City of Seattle today filed a lawsuit challenging the decision last month by the State Department of Social and Health Services to establish a facility for sexually violent predators in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.

“This law suit is about fairness,” said City Attorney Tom Carr. “It’s about whether a fair process was in place to begin with, whether existing rules were applied fairly, and whether DSHS will follow rules fairly as it moves forward.”

Among other things, the suit challenges the constitutionality of the state law under which DSHS made its decision. The statute automatically excludes sites in the vicinity of school bus stops. That is why DSHS dropped a potential site in Carnation earlier this year. But legislators amended the statute to strip that protection from bus stops that, even though they serve school children, were established primarily for transit uses. The SoDo site is at a major Metro bus crossroads. Seattle school children using Metro buses to travel between West Seattle and neighborhoods in the southeastern part of the city must walk directly in front of the SoDo sex predator site to transfer between bus stops that, in some cases, are on the same block at the site.

The City argues that stripping protection from these children violates constitutional equal protection guarantees. “No lawfully valid basis exists for placing a higher value on the safety of school children who use yellow school buses than on the safety of school children who use transit buses,” the City’s complaint, filed in King County Superior Court, says.

The City’s suit also takes DSHS to task for not following its statutory mandate to give priority to public safety and security and to adopt and apply policies to ensure the equitable distribution of sexually violent predators. According the City, the SoDo site puts at risk the greatest numbers—from school children to sports fans to neighborhood employees and customers. Seattle citizens—especially those in the lower-income neighborhoods nearest the SoDo site—have repeatedly complained that they already shoulder more than their fare share of social service problems and risks. The City alleges that, had DSHS adopted and applied equitable distribution policies, DSHS would not have chosen the SoDo site.

“This lawsuit is just one of the ways the City is responding to the DSHS decision,” said Councilmember Jim Compton. “I believe it is a clear and bold statement to DSHS, and thank the City Attorney staff for their hard work. I am committed to pursuing this and any other available means to protect the people who live and work around the site.”

“I am very concerned about the safety of schoolchildren who use Metro buses and pass by this site daily, and feel it is unfair for the state to exclude them from its calculations about the risks posed by this facility’s location,” said Councilmember Richard J. McIver. “There is also a moral case, even if not a necessarily a legal one, to be made for the environmental justice factor of continuing to unload so many of these offenders in our South Seattle neighborhoods.”


Law Department

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