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On Wednesday, October 4, Federal Judge Ricardo Martinez denied class certification and a preliminary  injunction sought in a lawsuit The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia joined earlier this year with the ACLU, Real Change, Trinity Episcopal Church and several unhoused individuals against the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation.  The case alleges that the city and Department violate the constitutional rights of people living outside by seizing and often throwing away their property without adequate notice or providing a meaningful way for individuals to reclaim any property that was not immediately destroyed.

Bishop Greg Rickel responded to the judge’s ruling: “I am extremely dismayed by the ruling from Judge Martinez. Unhoused persons living in Seattle continue to have their rights violated and continue to be pushed further and further to the margins without adequate help or assistance. For a city that takes pride in its progressive ideals, we can and must do better.

“Entering into a lawsuit is not an action that I take lightly, but I believe this was the only course of action to take. When we first joined in this lawsuit, I said how deeply appalled I was by the actions that my city has engaged in against the most vulnerable in our community. The unlawful seizure and destruction of the homeless’ property is cruel and unjust.

“As Seattle’s economy grows and the housing market skyrockets, more and more of our citizens are being priced out of their homes and many have nowhere to go. We have a dire crisis on our hands, but attempting to make those who suffer from homelessness invisible is not a solution.

“In the past two years, there have been over 1,000 instances of these unlawful seizures. The suit seeks to prevent local government from subjecting this vulnerable population to the loss of belongings critical to their survival and well-being, including tents, sleeping bags, personal identification, and life-saving medications.

“Christ has called us to minister to the most vulnerable among us. This is an essential part of our ministry. Unhoused people are part of our community and it is our responsibility to treat them with dignity. Our public officials must respect the rights of all people and not pursue policies that treat homeless persons and their belongings as dispensable.”

Bishop Rickel Responds to Ruling in Lawsuit to Block Seizure of Homeless Property

4 thoughts on “Bishop Rickel Responds to Ruling in Lawsuit to Block Seizure of Homeless Property

  • October 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Dear Bishop ~

    I am sorry to read that you were “extremely dismayed by the ruling from Judge Martinez” in the lawsuit to upend the City of Seattle’s policy on responding to homeless encampments. Most people who lose a motion in court are dismayed by that outcome, which means that fifty percent of the customers in most courts are dismayed all the time. Given that you know nothing of Judge Martinez’ feelings, beliefs or values around the questions of providing dignity and justice for homeless persons, I wonder what part of his ruling dismays you. There are very technical rules about when to grant a temporary emergency injunction, very technical rules about when to grant a preliminary injunction and very technical rules about the certification of class actions. Which of these rules did Judge Martinez violate to produce your dismay?

    I have known Rick Martinez since we were young deputy prosecutors together in the Office of the King County Prosecuting Attorney back when Washington was a territory. I have watched with pride as he moved up through the ranks of being a Superior Court Judge in King County to his appointment as the first Latino judge on the federal bench in the Western District of Washington.

    At oral argument on the motions recently decided, the press reported Judge Martinez to have said “I don’t think [it is] any secret that the court is sympathetic to the plight of the plaintiffs [the ACLU and its clients] in this case, but there are some very interesting legal issues.”

    At the hearing where he delivered his ruling, the press reported Judge Martinez to have said: “The Court continues to recognize the hardships faced by Plaintiffs, and it acknowledges their constitutional property rights. The optimum solution for the difficult issues raised in this lawsuit may, ultimately, only be found outside of a courtroom.”

    Criticism of rulings by jurists often confuses their rulings on matters of law with their (undisclosed and unknown) positions on the merits of a matter before them. This sort of confusion is unworthy of an educated populace and beneath the dignity of leaders in the community to perpetuate.

    As Judge Martinez pointed out, the resolution of these important social issues may well, in the end, be political rather than judicial.

    • October 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      Dear Stephen+,

      Thank you for sharing your insights into the legal process and the technical rules that may influence a judge’s decision in one way or another. My statement was in no way an attempt to discredit Judge Martinez or suggest that he violated any rules of law. Neither was it a criticism of Judge Martinez’s personal beliefs on the issue of homelessness. In fact, I am very aware of his work and beliefs in that area from some personal experience but also through many other legal advisers of mine. I was well aware of the statement regarding his sympathy on the day of the hearing itself, which I took as something he did not have to say. I also took it as a sign this would probably go the way that it has. My statement was an attempt to share my disappointment with Judge Martinez’s decision. I don’t regret that or wish to change it. I am disappointed, and yes, as you say, 50% of “customers” in any court room are going to have that disappointment, or dismay, or whatever other adjective they might use. Expressing disappointment, unhappiness, or even dismay at a judge’s ruling does not necessarily mean that we are calling into question a judge’s integrity. In this case I can promise you it does not. I believed from the minute this case was assigned that we had probably the best odds with Judge Martinez, both for his known integrity and his high moral character. I believed that when I wrote this and I believe that now. Again, my apologies if this statement dismayed you, or seemed to take a swipe at your profession. That was not intended.



  • October 10, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Dear Bishop,
    Outside of the courts, has the Diocese tried to provide housing by challenging and assisting each Parish with sponsoring one or more homeless people? Maybe the Diocese could buy a small farm that could be turned into a commune or kibbutz where currently homeless people might live, grow food, make items, etc…

  • October 10, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Thought of this after my last comment:
    How about using rectories to house the homeless?


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