Home » Archives for carpenterr » Page 2

Author: carpenterr


Come Gather Young Lawyers: A Response to the Curmudgeon

By Barbara Engstrom, Executive Director

In the February edition of the Bar Bulletin, Mike Goldenkranz (self-described “full-time curmudgeon”) made a compelling appeal to our community to create pathways for young attorneys to pursue low bono law practice.[1]  Renting office space in the Puget Sound region is almost out of reach for young attorneys establishing a market-rate practice and virtually impossible for those starting a low bono practice.  Add to that the cost of subscribing to Westlaw or Lexis and the other expenses of running a law office and suddenly you realize that maybe the only newbie attorney who will be able to afford to go low bono upon becoming barred is Kim Kardashian.

Mike made several suggestions to help overcome these barriers.  As we read through his suggestions, my staff and I thought, wait – the King County Law Library already provides a lot of the services Mike mentions.  Below are the law library’s responses to several of Mike’s suggestions.

Office Space

“You may ask, what can more established lawyers do to help? Plenty, as it turns out. Young low bono lawyers need tools, support, and office space that is truly affordable and accessible.”

One of Mike’s main suggestions was for law firms to offer excess or unused office space to low bono attorneys for reasonable rates.  I invite low bono attorney to consider the King County Law Library as a coworking office space.  What types of amenities might a new attorney need in office space? A wish list might look something like this:

    • A desirable location close to the courthouse
    • Wi-Fi access
    • A variety of seating arrangements for solo and collaborative work
    • Printing, copying, and scanning.
    • Access to secure conference rooms for trial preparation
    • Private space for meeting with clients
    • Westlaw and research databases availability
    • CLE/ professional development opportunities
    • Ready access to legal research expertise

As it happens, the King County Law Library provides all these things and more.  We have prime space in the heart of the courthouse in both our Seattle and the Kent locations.  The building-wide Wi-Fi network provides very fast and reliable internet access.  Our workspaces are configured to provide a variety of seating arrangements that can accommodate solo or collaborative work, including quiet tables tucked into the stacks with fantastic views of the Sound and the Olympics.  We also offer on-demand printing, copying, and scanning. If you need to use a computer while you’re here, we’ve got that covered too.

Market rates for this type of coworking space in Seattle would be $300-$500 a month.  Not to worry, all are welcome to use the law library space for free.

Westlaw and Legal Research Database Access

I’ve been told (and granted, it’s hearsay) that Westlaw and Lexis are still too expensive for these altruistic newbies embarking on low bono practices. I’ve not investigated pricing, but perhaps firms, law schools and Bar Associations can make those services available to those still idealistic enough to follow their passion and try to bridge the access divide while hoping they’ll be able to make a living.”

The Law Library’s in-house patrons have access to a very robust Westlaw subscription that includes all state and federal primary law and trial documents, jury verdicts, the full treatise and law review collection, and practitioner sets from every state including Washington Practice. In addition to Westlaw, in-house patrons can access the WSBA Deskbooks and KCBA Lawyer’s Practice Manual online and in print, Support Calc, Hein Online, and a very large eBook collection from Lexis Digital which includes the complete ABA treatise collection.  Patrons also have access to the legal research expertise of the law library staff.

Conference Rooms

“For lawyers working from their homes, meeting clients at the local coffee shop gets old (and compromises confidentiality). Conference rooms in law firms often go unused. They could be made available to low bono lawyers at very modest hourly rates.”

The law library has ample conference room space for short term reservations for private client meetings, Zoom hearings, or telephone conferences.  For longer term uses such as multi-day depositions or extended trials, we offer full day conference room rentals and multi-day availability to set up a war room with secure equipment storage and access for the duration of a trial.  Rooms can be reserved for a very reasonable fee of $20 per hour for subscribers and $35 per hour for non-subscribers.  Conference rooms that are not reserved are offered on a first come, first serve basis at no cost. See our Conference Room webpage for more information. https://kcll.org/reserve-a-conference-room/

And More…

In addition to Mike’s suggestions, the law library also offers other services and opportunities for new attorneys to establish low bono practices and help with developing their reputation and client base.  Members of our subscriber program have remote access to our Lexis Digital eBook collection.  Subscribers can access the WSBA Deskbooks, the King County Lawyer’s Practice Manual, Annotated  Statutes and Court Rules along with hundreds of other treatises from the convenience of home. While remote access to the Lexis Digital eBook is only available to subscribers, the law library also offers a wealth of remote access to eBooks and legal research databases to non-subscribers as well.  These include the National Consumer Law Center, Nolo Press, and Wolter’s Kluwer’s Vital Law databases.  See our Remote Databases page for more information. https://kcll.org/remote-databases/

We often team up with attorneys working in fields that have a strong pro se/ access to justice component to present workshops or create video content to assist pro se patrons.  This is a great way for newer attorneys to market themselves and their low bono practice. We’ve teamed with attorneys for workshops and videos on family law, civil litigation, probate, wills, power of attorney, and protection orders just to name a few subject areas.  We are happy to work newer attorneys on these types of projects and love when they suggest workshops.  For more information see our videos webpage. https://kcll.org/videos/

How You Can Help!

What can start immediately, though, is for firms, law libraries, law schools and bar associations, to post notices in the local bar bulletins, state bar magazine, and other media and venues where our young access-to-justice legal eagles look, listing office space, conference rooms, legal research applications and law practice desk book help on easily-afforded terms.”

As noted in this article, the King County Law Library is a fantastic resource for newbie attorneys interested in embarking on a low bono practice and we check all the boxes Mike mentions.  For most of the issues, we already have a service in place.  What we really need is help getting the word out.

    • If you work with newer public interest-minded attorneys, please show them a copy of this article.
    • If you are part of a professional organization or special interest section that connects with newer attorneys, please consider saying a word or two about the King County Law Library’s services at your next meeting.
    • If you are a newer attorney and would like more information on any of our services, opportunities for speaking or creating video content, or becoming a subscriber please visit our website at kcll.org or email us at services@kcll.org.

Finally, a big thanks the Mike Goldenkranz for bringing up the issues facing new attorneys trying to make a dent in access to justice and low bono services and for making a compelling case for ways we all can help.


[1] Michael Goldenkranz, Access to Justice: Representation for Modest Means Clients, King County Bar Bulletin (Feb 2023) [MBG is retired but remains a full-time curmudgeon, who volunteers at KCBA Neighborhood Legal Clinics and has been a friend of both the NLC and Pro Bono Committees.]




Hey! I started writing this monthly blog a year ago now. What a year it’s been: 365 days, 52 weeks, four seasons – the whole shebang. And so many delightful ref q’s. Now, in that time, I haven’t received an iota of feedback, and it’s possible I’m typing away into the void, but isn’t that the nature of anything? If this blog had won the Pulitzer (which I still can’t believe I was robbed of this first year—it still stings), wouldn’t that voice still be whispering in my ear, “memento mori?” No? Oh.

A year of ref q’s! Some of these require me going through old notes or sent emails, trying to capture something thoughtful that fits the gist of the blog. Other times, a Q stays with me, and I have no say in investigating further – such is the case this month.

Someone emailed saying they were looking for a “form to withdraw my motion.” No further information was provided. The way I interpreted that was, a motion was submitted, it had not been heard by a judicial officer, and maybe it hadn’t even been served on the other party. Simply, a motion was filed, and the emailer came to immediately regret it, and want to hit “undo.” Surprisingly, I have no recollection of having received this Q before, and my coworkers said the same. The way forward wasn’t obvious.

The first route to explore was Rule 15 (Amended and Supplemental Pleadings). We’re used to getting Q’s about amending pleadings, and if you squint, that’s kinda what the person wants… But not really. They wanted to take a whole motion and amend it to say “nvm.” Does that count?

After searching the Washington Practice chapters on Pre-Trial Motions and also Pleadings, and then talking with my colleagues, this seemed like unfortunately the best route. CR 7 (Motions) and CR 10 (Pleadings) don’t address retractions, withdrawals, or whatever else you’d call this. But sometimes the rules don’t address something seemingly obvious, so practitioners need to grab onto something, anything tangentially related. I let the emailer know that this was a surprisingly uncommon ask, and that CR 15 is the closest thing with which we could come up.

This was weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to shake the idea that this Q remained unanswered. It’s true that with The Law, perfect solutions are in short supply, but all the same, I couldn’t get over it. There seemed to be two tandem goals:

  1. I wish I hadn’t submitted this motion – CTRL +Z.
  2. I regret making this motion and don’t want it to take effect.

(1) is a fairly straightforward “not gonna happen.” Once you submit something to the clerk’s office, it’s theirs and public record (short of sealing the file, which is not a given in any situation). They are literally not going to hand it back.

So, the effort seems to boil down to stopping the motion from taking effect, and ASAP. Because of course the emailer could dutifully serve the other party and attend the hearing, to only then say “nvm” but that is weak sauce and obvious. “It’s my motion, and I want to withdraw it now!

Other ideas swirled around my noggin. Could you use a motion to strike (CR 12(f))? These are technically a defensive maneuver, but couldn’t you ask the court to strike your own motion as “immaterial?” It’s somewhat silly, and nothing in Washington Practice suggests this is even a possible path, but I couldn’t find enough to rule it out.

Could you contact the clerks or the bailiff and ask to cancel the motion hearing? If there is no set time for the motion to be heard, it won’t be! It will sorta just float away in the judicial aether, right? So far this seems the most straightforward and quick approach. But what if there was an even easier way?

I did something unusual and walked across the hall to the Superior Court Clerk’s Office and asked around. After some bouncing around, I was told the emailer could file a Motion to Vacate Ex Parte Via the Clerk. I reiterated that there isn’t a signed order, there is just a submitted motion, but the clerk stuck with their answer and I went on my way. This didn’t seem correct- CR 60 is titled “Relief from Judgment or Order” and the emailer has neither a judgment nor an order. Section (c) of CR 60 does technically say, “This rule does not limit the power of a court to entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment, order, or proceeding.” Emphasis mine. But in reading through the entirety of Washington Practice – Rules Practice on CR 60, usage for this purpose is not even slightly addressed. My more tenured colleagues dismissed this idea out of hand.

I began to feel like Quinn in Auster’s City of Glass, but instead of waiting in an alleyway for Stillman, I was looking at the Westlaw homepage, with the cursor blinking in an empty search bar. How could such a simple question not have a simple answer? Was the cursor blinking in morse code, “yr dumb?”

Finally, with weeks gone by, I reached out to local attorney Rosemarie LeMoine, who has volunteered with the library on a number of webinars and videos. I don’t want to exhaust our volunteer attorneys’ goodwill with every silly question I have (I have many), but as someone who whittles away his hours counseling others, “you need legal advice from an attorney,” I figured I would get some legal advice of my own.

Her answer… you simply contact the commissioners’ email address (family law) or the bailiff (general civil cases) and ask them to strike the motion! Of course, you have to CC the other party, but just like that… you ask them to strike it! And then, it’s stricken! Beautiful.

None of the books I consulted nor the veteran courthouse employees I spoke with suggested that this was a possibility. It took talking to a seasoned attorney (a million thanks to Rosemarie) to know that emailing a commissioner/bailiff to strike a motion is even an option. This is probably common knowledge for actual practitioners, but for the pro se’s and other outsiders (like librarians), it’s impossible to discern.

It’s been that folks have approached the reference desk wanting to know a court rule, but in seeing the Civil Rules or Local Family Law Rules, they’ve lowered their voice and said, “Isn’t there something else?” Another way to achieve X, Y, or Z. And I’ve replied confidently, “There are no secret rules.” But now I wonder, what other pathways remain hidden? It’s often the case that the more complex a reference question seems, the simpler its answer must be, but do all the simple questions require some arcane knowledge? What else remains obscured? Tune in next month for another Ross’ Req Q’s to find out!



Guest Column: What is Happening in Iran? An Iranian American Attorney Explains

By: Hazel Engstrom, Reporter for the Ballard High School Talisman

On September 16, 2022, Mahsa Zhina Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman was killed at the hands of Iran’s morality police for not wearing her Hijab to the standard of the Islamic republic’s dress code. Since then, across Iran, thousands have taken to the streets calling for justice for Amini. According to the United Nations, over 14,000 members of civil society have been arrested by the government for their involvement in these protests. An estimated 450 protester have been killed since September 17 when the demonstrations first began.

I have followed the news of the protests in the media but wanted to get a deeper understanding from someone who has experienced life in Iran first-hand.  I reached out to Tanya Fekri, an Iranian immigration lawyer from Edmonds, Washington, who was born in Tehran and maintains a strong connection to the culture and people of Iran.  Tanya helped me to understand the protests taking place in Iran and their political and historical connotations.

How would you introduce your work? What is your connection to Iran?

I am a licensed attorney in the state of Washington and my area of expertise is in Immigration Law. I was born in Tehran, Iran and emigrated to the United States with my family towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war. My family and I personally experienced the immigration process first-hand and that is why I became interested in immigration law. More importantly, my immigration law practice has helped me to work directly with the Iranian community in the U.S. and those in Iran to seek lawful pathways to live and work in the United States. My source of inspiration and hope stems from my grandmother who will always remain my guardian angel. She was a pious woman who chose to wear the headscarf but was vehemently against government actors regulating women’s bodies and mandating the wearing of the hijab. Her spirit and strength instilled in me and the rest of the women in our family the importance of choice when it comes to making decisions about our bodies and how we choose to express our freedoms. I have family members who have risked their lives to free Iran and have faced beatings and imprisonment by the Islamic regime for their courageous actions. I come from that line of blood and I feel an obligation and strong desire to keep the political legacy alive. To that end, it has truly been such an honor to protest alongside my parents and my family members in hopes that our country will one day attain the freedom that our people so rightfully deserve and have been waiting for far too long.

How do you think the protests occurring in Iran today are similar to those that have occurred in the country historically? How is what’s happening now different?

Historically, the Iranian people have always protested for the same reasons–human rights for all, democracy for Iran, and freedom. We have now unified as a collective force to fight for the same causes as we have done previously, but what makes these protests even more special is that we are shouting chants such as “zan, zendigi, azadi” (woman, life, freedom) and by doing so we are linking the protest to the broader issues of women’s rights–specifically, a woman’s right to make choices without fear of violence-and targeting the very foundations of the Islamic regime and its ideological taboos.

How would you define the role of morality police to someone unfamiliar with their presence in Iran?

The ideological taboos of this regime are rooted in how women’s bodies should be viewed and controlled under strict religious interpretations. Therefore, the female body has always been at the forefront of the regime’s political agenda. Much of the role of the morality police is to enforce the mandatory dress codes and the state’s gender and sexual proscriptions. Members of the morality police often harass, attack and imprison women in public for not wearing the hijab correctly. In this particular case, Ms. Amini died as a result of not wearing her veil correctly which puts the morality police under spotlight. 

What does the reaction of Iran’s government, specifically Ali Khamenei tell you about the effect these protests are having nationally? Internationally?

Despite the branding of these protests as “riots” and a U.S. backed conspiracy, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is recognizing that these current uprisings are threatening the regime’s legitimacy. Many of the religious regulations that are supposedly rooted in Islamic theology are being questioned by all sectors of society, including those who have more religious leanings. The misusing of religion to promote a political agenda that is rooted in abuse, corruption, and lies can no longer be tolerated by Iranian citizens and those living abroad. The outpouring of support, protests, and activism all around the world are getting us closer to our fight for human rights and an end to the Islamic regime—a dictatorship that has censored and committed heinous crimes against humanity for the last 4 decades. 

What changes social and political, do you think may come as a result of these protests?

Weakening of the regime; abolishment of the obligatory headscarf; and a change in political power and makeup that will get us a step (or a few steps) closer to a democratic Iran.

How would you define Iran’s government? How has it changed since 1935?

The most drastic change that has taken place since 1935 was the shift from monarch (Shah) rule to the formation of the Islamic Republic. This revolutionary shift replaced the previous criminal code with the now codified Islamic Penal Code which criminalizes many basic human rights and liberties including the right to freedom of speech and assembly. Before the 1979 revolution, politics and religion remained separated, however, there were some religious scholars and clergymen who held political seats and exerted some political power. After the 1979 revolution, the religious political groups drew out the Shah and implemented a regime change that fought to intertwine religion and politics and control the way society would function and behave. Throughout these last forty plus years, there have been far too many political prisoners and innocent civilians that have been beaten, tortured, and killed by the hands of the Islamic regime. 

How is this issue larger than simply wearing a Hijab or not?

Yes, absolutely. It is about the freedom of choice—right to choose to wear the headscarf or not to wear the headscarf. It is about living in a country where you have the freedom and liberty to exercise your basic human rights without the fear of violence, torture and/or death. 


When looking at the protests from the outside, it can be easy to assume that they are solely about the hijab, but as Tanya explains, the cry “zan, zendigi, azadi” (woman, life, freedom) connects it with the broader issues of women’s rights more generally, and the right to live without fear of violence and intimidation.  More than that, she helps us understand that there is a long history of protest in Iran for basic human rights, political freedom, and freedom from religious oppression.





Happy new year! 2023 – doesn’t that seem excessive? That’s a lot of years. But it’s February now, which marks my third year of employment at the law library. Now that’s cause for celebration.

Today’s ref q is notable because it features the technique of using procedure meant for the opposing party as a guide. When the resources are paltry for the responding side (often for changes to parenting plans, or responding to a protection order), it is often beneficial to read instructions meant for the petitioner, and in those shadows and gaps we can discern how best to respond. Today we return to property law.

Someone called in asking what to do about the lien on their house. They said it had been ten months and they wanted to remove the lien. Well, that makes sense. Like an itch at the center of your back, when we think of liens at all, the idea is to be relieved of them.

Prior to this interaction, here is what I knew about liens: they are attached to your property via the Recorder’s office, they are a mar on the title, and I knew of a good resource to recommend for those claiming a lien- but not one for those on the receiving end. 

My first instinct, as usual, was of dumb misunderstanding. Well of course they want the lien removed, did they pay the contractor? No, but ten months had passed. I didn’t follow – weren’t liens more or less permanent? Isn’t that their whole deal? Weren’t liens supposed to make selling your house more difficult? HUH?

I didn’t have a good understanding of how liens work! Not aware of resources for the property owner, I opened up that BIAW How-To and read all the way through. The last paragraph states:

Your lien will survive for eight months after recording, unless before the eight months is up, you choose to bring a lawsuit to foreclose on the lien or file a Release of Lien or Conditional Release of Lien.

8 months? Could that be right? I checked Washington Practice: Creditor’s Remedies and Debtor’s Relief, which pointed me to statutes: it was right. The lien lives for eight months, in which time the claimant can force a foreclosure to be paid- but after 8 months, that threat goes away.

In that way, the lien is perpetual. If it’s not removed, it stays on the deed. It just can’t be enforced. But other sources state that this serves the claimant as well. Of course, if the bills have been paid up, the lien should be released (or the claimant can be rightly sued) – but if not, the lien, enforceable or not, lives on at the Recorder’s Office- clouding the title to some degree, So the owner may still be induced to pay up, though the lien can’t force the owner into foreclosure. But the flip side is that the owner may have rights to sue the claimant to remove the lien.

So, to me, the situation necessitates removing the lien – perhaps the contractor will fill out a Release of Lien form, or perhaps the homeowners should sue. But the important thing is to use whatever resources you have at your disposal, and fill in the gaps as best as you can.


A Fond Farewell to a Friend: Many Thanks to Stephen Seely

By Barbara Engstrom, Executive Director King County Law Library

When Stephen Seely started as Outreach Services Attorney at the King County Law Library, he was not long out of law school. He’d practiced for a bit and decided he’d like to try something different. Having worked in libraries throughout his undergrad and law school years he thought that perhaps working in a law library might suit his style. Was he ever right! Stephen shot the lights out here at KCLL putting the full extent of his diligence, smarts, and good humor to any task at hand. When our good friend Laurie Miller decided to retire as Director of the Pierce County Law Library in December, against my own better judgment I had to encourage Stephen to apply. To no one’s surprise, Stephen was a shoo-in for the position. I’m so proud of all that Stephen accomplished in the four years that he worked at KCLL and I know he’ll do a fabulous job with the Pierce County Law Library. That said, Stephen leaves some very big shoes to fill. He’s such an integral part of the KCLL fabric that it’s hard to imagine work without him. We like to joke that he’s breaking up the band. In many ways we’re not kidding.

He Had Us at Hello

Even when Stephen was interviewing for his job here at KCLL there were several signs that he was a perfect fit. Instead of just using a generic background for his slide deck during his teaching presentation, Stephen took the time to find a KCLL branded slide deck from our website and created a class that looked exactly as it would if he were actually teaching as a KCLL instructor. It was a small thing, but it caught all of our attention because it displayed forethought, attention to detail, and marketing savvy. Qualities that can often be hard to demonstrate in an interview, but which Stephen managed to do in a subtle and creative way. The other thing that I’ll always remember from Stephen’s interview was his response to a question about finding and working with unfamiliar resources. Stephen related a story about shearing the side view mirror off his car. Being an undergrad student without a lot of disposable income, he decided to try to fix it himself instead of taking it to a shop. He told a story of going to his college library, finding the database with the Chilton’s manuals and successfully replacing the mirror using the Chilton’s instructions. Again, a very savvy move on Stephen’s part — not only showing that he knows his way around a library database but also letting us know that he is mechanically inclined and able to fix things. I’m sure he took a look around our century old workspace and thought — I have just the anecdote for this place.

No Stone Unturned

When Stephen approaches a work project, he goes all in. Part of his work as Outreach Services Attorney involves creating self-help packets for our pro se patrons. The amount of research, consultation with experts, and time spent thinking about end-user experience that went into each of the packets he created was a marvel to behold. He would do a deep dive into all the ins and outs and possible twists and turns of the issue when constructing the packets. But his true gift was his ability to synthesize very complex concepts and procedures into a concise, plain language set of instructions and forms that are easy for people with very little experience with the legal process to get their heads around. I’m still in awe of his replevin packet.

He did the same thing with his work on our Let Us Do Your Research service. Stephen would leave no stone unturned when slicing and dicing a research problem but would present his research findings in a clear and cogent manner. During these research project deep dives, Stephen’s curiosity was often piqued. One project led him to discover a method for “guerrilla disbarment” [1] by presenting opposing counsel with an honorary sheriff’s deputy award. Did I mention that Stephen has a great sense of humor?

Other Duties as Assigned

Stephen has great attention to detail. We’re talking Sherlock Holmes level attention to detail. Stephen took it upon himself to make the rounds of the library several times a day. Nothing would escape his notice. Anything out of place or purposefully “stashed” in the library would be quickly found. I recall him discovering that someone had tried to tamper with an electrical box because the tiniest strip of tape was out of place.

In addition to his keen eye for detail, cleanliness, and order, Stephen was also an enthusiast of safety and emergency procedures. He was our floor warden for fire drills and made sure that all of our emergency policies and manuals were up-to-date and that we had clear lines of contact with the county. During our COVID lockdown, he kept us all apprised of the latest information on vaccines, procedures for staying safe, and let us know about any COVID related court or executive orders as soon as they were released. Yet, as a colleague mentioned, he never seemed to get down or flummoxed. He was focused on best practices for the library and for staff, but his focus was always accompanied by a smile and a “que sera, sera” shrug.

An Analogy for Every Occasion

When the KCLL staff and I talk about Stephen, the thing that always comes up right away is his amazing repertoire of analogies that he can pull up out of thin air. Stephen was excellent at assisting patrons at the reference desk because he could always come up with the perfect analogy to make something very complex easily understood. I can’t count the number of times I’ve overheard people that he’s working with tell him that what other people were trying to explain to them finally makes sense. Often the analogies were silly or arcane but they were always spot on. Did I mention that Stephen has the rare gift in an extremely talented and capable person of not taking himself too seriously?

À Bientôt Stephen!

Since Stephen is just going down the road to Tacoma, we won’t actually say farewell. Instead, as the French say, we’ll see you soon. Congratulations on your new position from all your friends at the King County Law Library. You will be missed.

Have Questions or Need Help?

If you would have questions about the Let Us Do Your Research Program or any of the other services that the King County Law Library provides, please contact us at services@kcll.org.

1 Stephen Seely, Guerilla Disbarment: An Unusual Tactic for the Removal of Opposing Counsel, King County Bar Bulletin Nov 2022


Doxxing, Swatting, and Paper Terrorism? Tips to Protect Your Personal Information

By Barbara Engstrom and Stephen Seely

We all know that apps and trackers collect information from our phones, doorbell cameras, digital speakers, and pretty much any “smart” appliance.  It safe to assume that much of our personal information is no longer private.  No sooner do I type some innocuous term in an email, than I start to see targeted ads for it across my devices.  While it may seem easiest to throw our hands up in surrender, in this very polarized world malicious posting of person information, or doxxing, can have tragic consequences. Rather than surrender, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.  In this column our intrepid Outreach Services Attorney, Stephen Seely and I will chat about what bad actors do with personal information, how to discover what of your personal information is floating around on the internet, and what you can do to protect it.

BE: Stephen, I know that doxxing really came to a head during the pandemic when many health care officials were threatened at their homes and via phone and email.  What are the consequences for doxxers? Do you know of any legislation that would address the harm that doxxing causes?

SS: There isn’t a state law that directly addresses doxxing. An attempt was made to pass a law in the last legislative session that would punish people who intentionally posted personally identifiable information if they knew it would be reasonably likely to cause serious harm for the person being doxxed.[1] As you can imagine, it’s a tricky issue to legislate. You’re balancing freedom of speech against personal safety and privacy; exactly the sort of constitutional law question that leaves law students frazzled and sends judges to put on a second pot of coffee.

The law that best addresses the issue right now is the cyber harassment statute;[2] but it isn’t well suited for that purpose. The trouble is it doesn’t punish and deter people from doxxing others, it merely punishes people who’ve taken the doxxed information and used it to cause serious problems for the victim. It doesn’t treat the disease; it only helps manage the symptoms. You end up in situations where Person A posts a home address to a web forum and Person B uses that information for a harmful purpose. It’s like Person A walking into an elementary school and leaving a bunch of matches behind.

BE: Could you explain some of the other things that bad actors do with personal information such as swatting or paper terrorism? Is your sense that judges, politicians, and attorneys are at greater risk? 

SS: “Swatting” is a trending fad in the world of harassment. It’s when someone will make a “prank” phone call to 9-1-1, claiming there’s a very serious emergency that needs a large police response (like a hostage situation), and tells the dispatcher that it’s happening at your address. This leaves you very confused and scared when the S.W.A.T. team is running around on your front lawn at 2:00 a.m.

“Paper terrorism” is essentially using the bureaucratic process as a means of harassment. It’s when someone uses government institutions or the legal system to cause you problems. This can be done in bad faith, simply to be malicious. It can also be done in good faith by a delusional person who thinks they’re acting righteously or righting some wrong. I don’t want to go into specifics and give anyone any ideas, but this type of harassment can use your personal information to negatively impact your claims of property ownership, ability to sell a property, and credit report. These things can be sorted out in court, but that process is tedious and expensive, especially if your harasser is judgment proof and you’re left holding the bag.

Regrettably, personal information can also be used for some truly horrific purposes. This point was recently driven home last month when a man found the home address of the Speaker of the House and attacked her husband with a hammer in the middle of the night.[3] In 2020, an attorney in a federal case in New Jersey became angry at the judge, found the judge’s home address, and shot the judge’s son as he answered the front door, killing him.[4] In 1985 a man became convinced that a local Seattle lawyer and political figure was part of a communist conspiracy. The man tracked down the lawyer’s home address. On Christmas Eve, the man posed as a delivery man and killed the lawyer and his family with an iron and a kitchen knife.[5]

Because of the public and often controversial nature of their work judges, lawyers, and politicians do tend to be more at risk. Sometimes this is because the judge or lawyer happens to be linked to a very emotional case. Other times it’s because someone believes the judge or lawyer is responsible for their current misfortune or is the person who can fix it.

BE: So I guess the first step in the “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” mantra is to figure out what of your personal information is out there.  I know that your Skip Tracing CLE goes into quite a bit of detail, but what are the most common types of personal information on the web?

SS: Common types of information people will be able to find about you easily and freely are:

  • Home address
  • Relations (spouse, children, parents, siblings, roommates)
  • Real property you may own
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Social media accounts

And that information can be used as a good jumping off point to find more detailed information.

BE: When you find your personal information on the web, are there any self-help measures you can take to have it removed?  I recently read that Google has a form that allows one to request the removal of personal information from Google search results.  Do you have any experience using that?

SS: I haven’t used that resource specifically, but most websites that gather and provide personal information about people have a procedure you can follow to request that the information be removed. But be prepared, this procedure is often convoluted and tedious, which discourages people from successfully requesting a removal. It’s also worth noting that an information removal process won’t always be available, it depends on the nature of the website and the country it’s based in.

BE: I understand that there are commercial services that assist with removing personal information.  How do they work?  What do they cost?  How effective are they?

SS: There are several private companies who specialize in taking down personal information that is already available on the web. The big three are DeleteMe, Optery, and Incogni. The company will routinely review websites that provide searchable personal information, check to see if your information is listed, complete the removal request process for you, and send you a quarterly summary of what information was found and how far along they are in the removal process.  They usually charge a monthly fee per person in the $10-$25 range. They also offer corporate account options. I’ve found them to be very effective in reducing the amount of personal information that’s easily available online. However, there are some websites with your personal information that are beyond the reach of the removal services. These websites might be on the dark web, based in a jurisdiction that doesn’t require an information removal process, or public records.

BE: What are other measures that judges or attorneys can take to protect themselves?

SS: If a person has been the victim of actual or threatened domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or stalking; or if they qualify as a “criminal justice participant”[6] who is a target for statutorily prohibited threats or harassment,[7] they can look into applying to Washington’s Address Confidentiality Program.[8] The program helps to provide additional protections to people who need to keep their home address private.

BE: Any last bits of sage wisdom for protecting personal information?

SS: I’d recommend that everyone do a routine “security check-up” every six months. Search for yourself online to see what information is available on the web generally. Then search for your property records on your county Recorder’s Office website and search for your name on the Department of Licensing’s UCC filings website. Make sure any information filed with those offices is correct and not fraudulent.

BE: Well, I think you have us all sufficiently scared to get proactive about protecting our personal information, Stephen.  Thanks for all  the great tips!

If you have questions on doxxing, swatting, or paper terrorism and the means to combat it or any other legal research issues be sure to contact the King County Law Library. You can email us at services@kcll.org.  To find out when the next Skip Tracing CLE is scheduled at  visit our website https://kcll.org/classes-at-the-law-library/classes/cles/ .


Stephen Seely is the Outreach Services Attorney at the King County Law Library. He is licensed to practice law in Washington and before the U.S. Supreme Court.

[1] See https://crosscut.com/politics/2022/01/how-punishing-people-doxxing-could-prove-tricky-wa-lawmakers

[2] RCW 9A.90.123.

[3] See https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/28/us/politics/nancy-pelosi-husband-assaulted.html

[4] See https://www.npr.org/2020/11/20/936717194/a-judge-watched-her-son-die-now-she-wants-to-protect-other-judicial-families

[5] See https://crosscut.com/mossback/2022/11/disturbing-pelosi-attack-recalls-seattles-goldmark-murders

[6] Two definitions available, see RCW 9A.90.120 and RCW 9A.46.020.

[7] See RCW 40.24.030.

[8] https://www.sos.wa.gov/acp/.




It’s December! I have updated our KCLL Newsletter to the “winter theme” and am very much enjoying this snowy start to what is my favorite season. [I just looked and apparently some department head, King Winter, whoever, says that winter officially starts on December 21 (solstice). What a crock, right? If it were December 20th and you said, “What a lovely autumn day!” I would think you a psychopath and allow the widest berth possible… Winter obviously runs December 1 through the end of February.] Anyway, I love the cold, the rain, and the darkness, which I know is odd—I’ve heard it said that for someone who needs a compensatory reason to enjoy winter, they can think, “Well, you need the winter’s constant rain to have our amazing forests,” which is of course true, but I’m happy without such a justification.

That’s all to say, gratitude is on my mind. I’m grateful to see my warm breath in the morning. I’m grateful for personal and familial reasons that exceed the scope of this blog. And I’m grateful for my coworkers at the law library, who are kind and patient with me, and who are always a bastion of knowledge. Counting on my fingers and toes, between the six of us, we have 78 combined years of experience (with a tenure of less than three years, I’m obviously tanking the average tenure of ~13 years), which means that given any specific or oddball question, one of us has an answer, or a direction in which to look.

“But Ross,” you might ask, “would you stop dithering and tell us the precious Ref Q?” Well, the Ref Q is one simply answered, and frankly not the focus of today’s column in many ways:

I work for a bank that has foreclosed on a house. The [previous] owner won’t leave. Will your eviction packet work in this situation?

That’s the gist of the email I received. If you have some background in real property, the answer to this question is glaringly obvious. I’m going to spare you my research play-by-play to say: no, eviction is the process for booting someone when there’s a landlord-tenant relationshipejectment is the correct process for this situation, which is a special type of proceeding (akin to quieting a title) under RCW 7.28. It’s, from what I’ve read since, a lengthier process vs. eviction. It’s also fairly complicated, so the querier was encouraged to seek counsel. 

“But Ross,” you’re wailing through bitter tears, “what about the research lessons to be learned? Have you totally abandoned the thrust of this column?”

Rest easy, dear reader, because today’s lesson has arrived. I looked through our eviction packet, I looked through the Landlord-Tenant statutes, and I tried many search queries- to no avail. After a long while, I leaned over to ask a coworker and they immediately replied, “It’s ejectment, not eviction.” Again, this is probably obvious to those with a background, but I had never seen it before. My coworker had.

As I then read up on ejectment, I got a laugh out of the Washington Practice introduction on the topic (Real Estate: Transactions – Stoebuck/Weaver) and shared this quote with another coworker:

Not only that sentence and that section but the entire chapter are poorly organized, a patchwork quilt of several different actions, created at different times by the legislature and jumbled together in ways that often make it difficult to tell which provisions pertain to which actions.

That coworker replied, “Ejectment?”

And so, I’m grateful for institutional knowledge, a source of knowledge that I consistently fail to think of as foundational. It’s true that I often seek such input from my coworkers, despite my fear of being seen as an imposition—but it needs saying that for research purposes, people are as useful, if not more so, than any database. Relying on others is a good thing. Of course, something is gained in initially trying your own hand, and you should verify important information gained on your own, but there’s no use in beating your head against a wall when a colleague is happy to help.

My imagined, irate reader is now seething—was the point of this column really so obvious? To encourage asking for help? Yep! I’m a firm believer that the atomization of society won’t last, and there’s no future where we don’t embrace our need for one another. So go ahead, enter the hardware store and immediately flag down the nearest worker! Give yourself a shot on the assignment, but don’t fail to ask for your boss’ input! And if you’re at a research dead end, don’t hesitate to contact us at the law library! We’re happy to help.

Happy holidays!


Guerrilla Disbarment: An Unusual Tactic for the Removal of Opposing Counsel

By Stephen Seely, Outreach Services Attorney

Years of working in the law library means being on the receiving end of unusual research questions, reviewing many aspects of Washington law, and uncovering some truly bizarre legal outcomes. One discovery that has stuck with me is this: an unwary lawyer can be tricked into accepting an award and forfeiting their right to practice law.

It nearly happened to a Special Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in 1963.[1] A grand jury had been convened in Snohomish County for the purpose of deciding whether the Snohomish County Sheriff should be indicted for willful neglect of duty for not shutting down a brothel. A lawyer living in King County was appointed as a Special Deputy Prosecuting Attorney to assist with the investigation and presentation to the grand jury.

After an indictment and a conviction, the defendant appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court.[2] On appeal, the appellant argued that the indictment should be set aside because of the presence of an unauthorized person during the grand jury proceedings.[3] The appellant argued that the Special Deputy Prosecuting Attorney was not authorized to be present during the grand jury proceedings because he was ineligible to practice law after he had been named and commissioned as an Honorary Deputy Sheriff by the King County Sheriff, 35 days before the grand jury was convened.

A person who is commissioned as a sheriff is not permitted to practice law in Washington.[4] And no sheriff is allowed to appear or practice as an attorney, except in their own defense.[5]

The Court took a keen interest in the issue. Presumably, they were not thrilled with the idea of a county sheriff being able to “disbar” any lawyer in the state at-will:

The result of a holding that a sheriff does have the power to deprive an attorney of his right to practice law, simply by issuing to him a commission and enrolling him as a deputy, would be that attorneys would be placed at the mercy of their respective county sheriffs. The court depends a great deal upon lawyers as a class, if not always as individuals, and is naturally inclined to take a protective attitude toward them, so long as the public is not harmed thereby. The right to practice law is a valuable right, even if it is only a privilege, and it will not be assumed that an attorney will abandon it lightly.[6]

After a review of the record, the Court noted that the record was silent on whether the Special Deputy Prosecuting Attorney had accepted the commission; and they used this to eke out a narrow escape. To protect lawyers from summary disbarment “. . . at any moment by a sheriff who may happen to have a grudge. . . ,”[7] the Court held that if a sheriff were to issue a commission to a lawyer, the lawyer could avoid being “disbarred” by not affirmatively accepting the commission.

This leads to an interesting method of guerrilla disbarment. If it becomes convenient to remove a lawyer from practice without much oversight or recourse, all it would take is the offer and acceptance of an award making the lawyer an honorary member of law enforcement, in recognition of their work on behalf of the community. Everyone loves to be recognized for their work and very few people are likely to criticize someone for offering an award or recognition; why look a gift horse in the mouth? Unfortunately, for the unwary lawyer, this horse bites.

If you have questions about the best ways to research unusual or uncommon areas of Washington law, feel free to contact the King County Law Library at services@kcll.org. We’d be happy to offer insights into research strategies, to direct you to helpful resources, or do the research for you (for our law library subscribers, for a fee) to let you know what’s out there. 


Stephen Seely is the Outreach Services Attorney at the King County Law Library. He is licensed to practice law in Washington and before the U.S. Supreme Court.

[1] State v. Twitchell, 61 Wn.2d 403, 406–07, 378 P.2d 444, 446 (1963).

[2] The Court of Appeals would not be created until 1969.

[3] RCW 10.40.070.

[4] RCW 2.48.200.

[5] RCW 36.28.110.

[6] Twitchell at 406–07.

[7] Id. at 407.

ROSS’ REF Q’S – Removing a discriminatory covenant



Welcome back to Ross’ Ref Q’s! We had our quarterly bye month in October to allow my ref q energies to recharge, but now ref q answering energy is radiating from my fingertips! This month’s ref q involves shame and deed recording:

How do I remove a discriminatory covenant on the deed of my house?

This was an emailed question. A new homeowner found out that the deed to their house contained a decades-old, racially-based restrictive covenant and ran up against the issue of deed recording. Deeds are passed hand to hand, with new recordings adding new information, but almost never altering what’s already written—it’s a recording, right?

But Seattle, King County, and much of the United States has a shameful history of restricting where people can live based off their ethnicity and race. While these types of covenants and discriminations were nominally made void decades ago, their depressive effects persist in the form of disparate rates of home ownership and generational wealth. At the same time, though these covenants are now unenforceable, they persist in the public record as recorded covenants.

Unenforceable as these covenants may be, I get why someone would want to distance their noxious history from the place they call home. But is altering the deed possible?

King County has a helpful guide for how to file a modification with the Recorder’s office. Their words: “Recording a modification document will provide notice in the land title records that the restrictive covenant is void and unenforceable. It will not delete the historic record.” This process will thus help many folks, but not our present querier. We want the covenant gone.

Helpfully, the county has another guide on how to remove covenants. Less helpfully, the process is thus explained: “If the owner wants the covenant removed, they go to Superior Court (paying the nominal court fee) in the county in which the property is located. Superior Court may issue a declaratory judgment action – entering an order striking the void provisions from the public records and eliminating the void provisions from the title.”

This certainly makes it sound like you can waltz into 516 3rd Ave, pay a fee, and get your “declaratory judgment,” whatever that means! This description elides the “How” part of “How to remove restrictive covenants.” Filing any kind of lawsuit is complicated and time-intensive, and this FAQ entry unfortunately makes a molehill out of what is at least a somewhat formidable landmass.

At least we know that it is possible! This wasn’t a sure thing, because as discussed, recorded documents like to be wholly retained. Perhaps there is a statutory or regulatory basis for this? Time to check ye olde secondary sources – Washington Practice. I searched the whole series (via Westlaw) for “restrictive covenants,” but this yielded too many results—restrictive covenants are only our emphasis to the extent that they are discriminatory. So, I retooled my search to “discriminatory covenants” and the top result seemed relevant.

Washington Practice Volume 17 Real Estate: Property Law § 3.1.70. speaks to discriminatory covenants and says that it was only recently that the legislature adopted RCW 49.60.227 to allow the removal of discriminatory covenants. Statutory language – bingo!

RCW 49.60.227 sez “The action shall be an in rem, declaratory judgment action whose title shall be the description of the property. The necessary party to the action shall be the owner, occupant, or tenant of the property or any portion thereof. The person bringing the action shall pay a fee set under…”

This is enough for a patron, I think.

    • Declaratory judgments, see:
        • CR 57
        • 15 Washington Practice § 42:11. Declaratory Judgments: Procedure generally
    • In rem jurisdiction
        • 14 Washington Practice Chapter 5: In rem jurisdiction

The next steps would probably be modifying a blank probate form caption (or some other Ex Parte material) to say “In rem of: [the property]” and to use the above texts, perhaps our civil lawsuit packet, to cobble together a complaint for declaratory judgment against the discriminatory covenant. This would likely entail service by publication, as seen in the chapter for in rem jurisdiction.

A determined pro se litigant who wants to excise the unenforceable bits from their deed can likely achieve it, although they will likely find the process opaque, time consuming, and discombobulating. In other words, right up my alley.


Free to Roam the Cabin

By Barbara Engstrom, Executive Director King County Law Library

This is your captain speaking:  “We have turned off the fasten seatbelt signs.  You are now free to roam the cabin.”

Back in the Stacks

For those of you who have been itching to get back into the law library stacks to do some browsing, you’ll be happy to know that the King County Law Library has resumed full access the stacks and seating in both wings of the law library.  You are free to roam.

I should note that we still have a few vestiges of our COVID protocols in place.  In order to guard against overcrowding and to ensure we are able to serve those needing our specialized services and resources, use of the law library is limited to patrons engaged in legal research and legal work.  We continue to ask patrons to do a quick check-in at the front desk when they enter.  Masks are no longer required, but we recommend wearing a mask inside the law library.

Longer Computer and Database Access

Computer access, including Westlaw, is now back to a two-hour session.  We have three dedicated Westlaw terminals in Seattle and two in Kent.  It should never be a problem to walk-in and immediately get on a Westlaw computer with no wait.  We have excellent Westlaw law coverage with full 50 state and federal primary law, KeyCite, the complete law review & journal collection, the state and federal court dockets and filings, and of course the full Westlaw treatise collection including Washington Practice.   Our in-house computers also have access to our complete database collection including Hein Online, the WSBA Deskbooks via Fastcase, the National Consumer Law Center, Vital Law, NOLO Press, SupportCalc, and our Lexis Digital eBook collection.

If you are considering becoming a subscriber to gain remote access to the Lexis Digital eBook collection, a visit to the law library will allow you to test drive the eBook collection and see all the great content included with our remote access for subscribers.  The Lexis Digital eBook collection has the WSBA Deskbooks, the KCBA Lawyer’s Practice Manual, the Lexis Washington Practitioner Series, the gold standard treatises for almost any subject area (Collier on Bankruptcy, Corbin on Contracts, Immigration Practice and Procedure, Moore’s Federal Practice, Appleman on Insurance, Page on Wills, and Powell on Real Property just to name a few), and the complete ABA treatise collection.

Conference Rooms

Our conference rooms are available for walk-in use for free on a first come, first serve basis. Just check in at the front desk to confirm availability.  Conference rooms may also be reserved in advance for a fee via our website. https://kcll.org/reserve-a-conference-room/   Rooms are already filling up for the fall and winter so be sure to make your reservation well in advance.

Remote Services Still Available

If you would like to access the library’s collection and services, but are not coming into the courthouse much these days, never fear we still have plenty of remote options.  As noted above, subscribers have fantastic remote access to our robust collection of Washington, federal, and general practice materials.  The Washington treatises include perennial favorites such as Defending DUIs in Washington, Washington Insurance Law, Washington Business Entities: Laws and Forms, Employment in Washington, and the Law of Evidence in Washington.  We also have the Annotated Revised Code of Washington, and the Washington Court Rules Annotated. As a subscriber, you can annotate and save sections of the eBooks and download for later, offline use.

For non-subscribers, VitalLaw, the National Consumer Law Center treatises, and NOLO Press Books are all available for remote access.

Researchers at Your Service — Let Us Do Your Research

During the pandemic, many of our subscribers discovered the law library’s Let Us Do Your Research service. For solo and small firm attorneys, it’s like having an on-demand, low-cost research assistant who comes armed with tens of thousands of dollars of legal research resources.

Subscribers submit research projects to us through our website. The first fifteen minutes of research is free as our staff reviews the request and determines: 1) if the question(s) fall within the scope of our expertise and our information resources; and 2) if we can meet the request deadline. Once we determine that the question meets these parameters, the subscriber decides if it makes sense to use the service and how much time she would like us to spend. The current rate for approved Let Us Do Your Research projects is $100 per hour, charged in 15-minute increments. Our researchers will limit the amount of time spent on the question to the predetermined amount. If the question takes less time than projected, we only charge for the time spent on the project. Subscribers receive a detailed research memo that includes references to the resources used, summaries of relevant caselaw as well as the full text of cases relied on in the research memo. This service is available only to subscribers.

Here’s what some of our Let Us Do Your Research service users have said:

I presented a fairly complicated question and didn’t want to spend my time down the rabbit hole. I wanted a pro to help me avoid the hours I would have taken to get to first base. I got a call a day after I sent the question from a gentleman who asked perfect questions and engaged in a fruitful and interesting back and forth on the issue. Three days later I got a clearly written road map memo that got me where I needed and then some. Overall great experience. Thank you, money well spent.

Very helpful! I sometimes forget about other potential legal avenues I might pursue. In this case your research reminded me of Restatement of Judgments 2nd which gave me an excellent argument to hopefully defeat collateral estoppel

This is great and exactly what I was hoping for. As a solo practitioner who has zero staff, this type of assistance is invaluable. Thank you, again!

Making it Easier to Get What You Need Remotely — 5 Free Document Deliveries Per Month

To make it easier to use the law library remotely we offer subscribers 5 free document deliveries per month.  This can be a case, a section of a treatise, a law review article, or any other document we have in our collection.  We’ll shoot you a copy of the requested material over email. For non-subscribers, document deliveries cost $25 per document.

Remote or In-Person KCLL is Here for You

While many of you are thrilled to “roam the cabin” again, some still prefer armchair travel.  Whatever your preference, remote or in-person, KCLL has services and resources to assist with your legal research needs. If you have any questions or would like more information, visit www.kcll.org  or email services@kcll.org.