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Contact: Mindy Chambers, Communications, mindy.chambers@dshs.wa.gov
February 10, 2014
State Supreme Court upholds reversal of Public Records Act judgment against DSHS

OLYMPIA - The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday let stand a state Court of Appeals opinion that the Department of Social and Health Services did not violate state law in a public records case that started in 2010.


The Supreme Court declined to review the Appeals Court reversal of a Superior Court decision that had imposed $649,896 in penalties and attorney fees against the Department under the Public Records Act. 


“This result fully resolves this dispute and affirms the Department’s actions in the Wright v. DSHS case,” said DSHS Public Records Officer Kristal Wiitala.


The case started with the plaintiff's request for child welfare records in 2007. The plaintiff’s attorneys eventually filed three separate lawsuits, each claiming violations of the Public Records Act.


The Court of Appeals ruled in September 2013 that the Department did not violate the Act when it responded to the plaintiff’s requests.  The Court held that child welfare records are exempt from production under the Public Records Act, but clients may obtain copies of those records under a separate state law, the Juvenile Records Act. 


The court also ruled that the Department could not be penalized for not producing records that the plaintiff did not request.  The plaintiff argued that the Department should be penalized under the Public Records Act for not producing policies when it responded to the request.  The Appeals Court ruled, however, that the plaintiff did not provide the Department with a reasonable indication that she sought policy records under her request.


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DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.