Washington state’s Supreme Court may decide next month on socialist Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s appeal to dismiss the recall effort against her.
According to the Supreme Court, a conference about the petition before all justices on the court is slated for Jan. 7, 2021.
Sawant, 47, one of a small but growing number of self-described socialists with political power, is accused of abusing her office by letting a large group of protesters into city hall earlier this year, using city resources in promoting a ballot initiative to impose taxes on Amazon, and outsourcing decisions regarding the hiring and firing of city employees to her party’s executive committee.
She also led a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s private residence even with the knowledge that the mayor’s address was protected under the state confidentiality programs because of threats from to her previous work as a U.S. attorney.
A county judge ruled in September that those four charges were legally sufficient to be heard.
A group of Seattle residents who believe Sawant’s actions warranted her removal from office began the campaign to recall her, leading to the decision. Sawant appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court.
In a 45-page filing submitted Dec. 3 to the state Supreme Court, the group said it’s not the court’s role to decide whether the facts alleged in the petition are true, or whether a particular offense is sufficiently egregious to justify a recall. That matter should be left to voters, who would decide on the issue in April if the courts don’t block it.
“Councilmember Sawant, as much as any litigant, has the right to pursue an appeal, but it is clear she contests not the sufficiency of the charges against her, but the truth and seriousness of them,” the group’s lawyers wrote in the filing.
“The allegations against her are detailed and supplemented by substantial evidence, newspaper articles, photographs, records of agency proceedings, and tweets. Many of her criticisms of the decision below boil down to disagreeing with the Superior Court’s interpretation of this evidence. The voters have the constitutional right to interpret those facts in our state’s recall process.
“Councilmember Sawant repeatedly denies that there is evidence of her intent to act unlawfully, when there is substantial evidence from which to infer her intent. Voters have the right to draw that inference and determine the facts.”
Last month, Sawant’s lawyers argued in a 100-page brief that the county court erred in allowing the four charges.
Sawant’s decision to outsource staffing decisions is inherently discretionary, the lawyers said. Regarding the Amazon issue, it was not a ballot proposition at the time of Sawant using city resources to support it, meaning she didn’t violate public disclosure requirements, they added.
Sawant didn’t disregard state COVID-19-fueled orders when she let protesters into city hall on June 9, the filing states. As for the protest march to Durkan’s house, the petitioners haven’t established that Sawant knew Durkan’s address or knew it was protected.
“Because all four of these charges are factually and legally insufficient, the recall petition must be dismissed,” the attorneys wrote.
Sawant’s lawyers are expected to file another brief on Dec. 10.