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Published on June 21, 2024
Washington Supreme Court Affirms AG's Power to Challenge Unlawful Evictions in SunnysideSource: Google Street View

In a decisive move to uphold civil rights, the Washington State Supreme Court has confirmed that Attorney General Bob Ferguson holds the authority to legally challenge local government actions that infringe upon constitutional protections. The ruling specifically addresses the issue of discriminatory and unlawful evictions in the City of Sunnyside, where it was alleged that the city's Crime-Free Rental Housing Program was used as a tool for such practices. This landmark decision paves the way for Ferguson to defend Washingtonians against government misconduct.

The controversy centers around multiple instances of Sunnyside police forcibly evicting tenants, many of whom were Latinx, women, or families with children, without due process. According to the original release by the Attorney General's Office, these actions were carried out based largely on unsubstantiated claims of crime or nuisance, and in several cases, without a court order. The Supreme Court's decision to sanction the state's case sends a clear message that such violations will not stand.

"One of my office’s core functions is to defend the civil and constitutional rights of residents," Ferguson was quoted, highlighting his commitment to safeguarding the rights and welfare of Washington's citizenry. The ruling not only vindicates the Attorney General's pursuit of justice on behalf this community but also serves as a reminder of the legal system's role in maintaining governmental accountability.

As a result of the Attorney General's efforts, the case has been returned to Yakima County Superior Court for further proceedings. Ferguson aims to obtain an official order to cease Sunnyside's unlawful practices and secure compensation for those affected by the illegal evictions. Allegations suggest that over 123 incidents of wrongful eviction have been documented, signaling a widespread and systemic abuse of power by local authorities.

The implicated Crime-Free Rental Housing Program stands as a questionable initiative, potentially impacting any of the city's 16,000 renters. While the program's purported goal is to maintain safety and order, this contentious application by Sunnyside police officers raises serious concerns over civil liberties. The state's intervention underscores a broader struggle for equitable treatment under the law and poses significant questions about the balance between community safety and individual rights.

Residents or anyone with information regarding the misconduct within Sunnyside's Crime-Free Rental Housing Program are encouraged to step forward and contact the Attorney General’s Office. Assistant Attorneys General Mitchell Riese and Neal Luna, along with other members of the AGO’s Wing Luke Civil Rights Division, remain steadfast in their pursuit of corrective action against the alleged discriminatory evictions. The division's efforts resonate with the legacy of Wing Luke himself, who not only served as Assistant Attorney General but left a lasting mark as an advocate for social justice in Washington.