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Track Legislative Activity on Your Topic of Interest

The 2023 Washington Legislature is now in session – and schedule to end on April 23rd.

Local non-profit news source Crosscut has created a really helpful website that allows you to track legislative activity by topic of interest.  At a glance, you can the status of a particular piece of legislation as well as find links to deadlines and calendars.

You can find their legislative tracker HERE.

 

What is a Declaration?

Washingtonlawhelp.org has published a new guide explaining what the legal document called a Declaration is, how and when it should and should not be used in a case, and special situations related to declarations.

In addition, you can learn how declarations work together with motions and orders by reading through KCLL’s infographic, Motions, Declarations & Orders

You can also learn how declarations fit into the whole civil trial process by watching KCLL’s video series about representing yourself in a civil trial, Civil Lawsuits Without Tears

The Family Law Help Desk is Coming!

The King County Family Law Information Center (FLIC) provides assistance with a variety of family law-related processes including divorce, child support, parenting plans and parenting plan modifications.  FLIC is introducing a new service system affecting both the Seattle and Kent courthouses.  It will launch in January 2023.  In preparation for that launch, FLIC will have reduced hours in December 2022.

Read more about the launch of the new Help Desk here.

Read more about FLIC’s overall services here.

ROSS’ REF Q’S – “EVICTING” FORECLOSED OWNERS

WE GET A LOT OF REFERENCE QUESTIONS AT THE KING COUNTY LAW LIBRARY.
THE REFRAIN GOES THAT BECAUSE WE AREN’T PRACTICING ATTORNEYS, WE CAN’T OFFER LEGAL ADVICE—AS LIBRARIANS, WE CAN ONLY OFFER RESOURCES.
THAT SAID, SOME QUESTIONS ARE VERY INTERESTING & INSPIRE ME TO DO SOME RESEARCH OF MY OWN, COLLECTED HERE IN THIS COLUMN. DON’T CONSTRUE THIS AS LEGAL ADVICE!

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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!

HOW TO… Use Informal Family Law Trials (09/2022)

If you’re involved in a family law case, you may have the option of going through an INFORMAL trial – rather than the typical/formal type. There are plenty of differences, but the general idea is that if both parties agree to it, the actual trial an easier process for non-lawyers. This video will give you a quick introduction.

Video Highlights:

  • 00:36 – What IS an informal family law trial?
  • 01:16 – Can I speak directly to the judge?
  • 02:36 – What evidence does the judge consider?
  • 07:32 – What is the importance of the Case Schedule?
  • 08:15 – What is the pretrial conference order?
  • 11:17 – Who gets to ask questions?
  • 11:50 – Who can be a witness?
  • 13:48 – Can I ask the witness questions?

ROSS’ REF Q’S – Removing a discriminatory covenant

WE GET A LOT OF REFERENCE QUESTIONS AT THE KING COUNTY LAW LIBRARY.
THE REFRAIN GOES THAT BECAUSE WE AREN’T PRACTICING ATTORNEYS, WE CAN’T OFFER LEGAL ADVICE—AS LIBRARIANS, WE CAN ONLY OFFER RESOURCES.
THAT SAID, SOME QUESTIONS ARE VERY INTERESTING & INSPIRE ME TO DO SOME RESEARCH OF MY OWN, COLLECTED HERE IN THIS COLUMN. DON’T CONSTRUE THIS AS LEGAL ADVICE!

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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.

KC Superior Court Clerk’s Office Launches Website Translation Project

The King County Department of Judicial Administration, also known as the Superior Court Clerk’s Office, is proud to announce the completion of the first phase of its new Website Translation Project. The project’s goal is to translate key content of the Clerk’s Office website into the top 7 languages spoken by King County users. In Phase 1, they have translated information regarding basic Clerk’s Office operations, court calendars, fees & waivers, assistance requesting court records, legal financial obligations, State v. Blake refunds, accommodations, and public disclosure requests.

From the Clerk’s Office homepage, users can click on their preferred language to access a Landing Page written entirely in and containing all translated content in that language. Links to translated content are also included on the English-language web pages for ease of access.

This is only the beginning! As the project moves forward into Phase 2, the Clerk’s Office is looking forward to providing users with additional translated content.

The Clerk’s Office welcomes feedback about this project.  Please send your comments and questions to DJATranslations@kingcounty.gov. For assistance with any Clerk’s Office services, please call 206-296-9300.

Click here to view this announcement translated into the top 7 languages spoken by King County users: Amharic, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Appellate Court Public Document Portal Cases

New Wa Appellate Court Public Document Portal Launched

The public can access files and documents for cases filed with the Washington Supreme Court and the Washington Courts of Appeal after January 1, 2020 through the Court’s new Appellate Court Public Document Portal.  You will need to know the case number you want to research.  This system does not provide access to trial court documents, so you will need to contact the specific trial court for those materials.  Search for Supreme Court case information hereSearch for Appellate Court information here.  Learn more about the new portal by reviewing the FAQs here.

NCLC Explains New Student Loan Relief Options

The National Consumer Law Center has published a very useful article describing the twelve most significant changes to the laws and rules governing repaying or canceling student loan debt. You can also access additional digital content from NCLC, including their publication titled Student Loan Law, directly from King County Law Library’s website here