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ISSAQUAH LAW GROUP

Issaquah Law Group: Experienced Counsel; Client Focus

PHILOSOPHY: Formed in 2014, Issaquah Law Group is a law firm with one focus: providing businesses and insurers with high quality legal representation with the responsiveness of a smaller firm. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built upon clear and consistent communication. 

LITIGATION: We work closely with our clients to fully and accurately understand their goals, work collaboratively to formulate specific legal strategies, and execute the agreed plan of action utilizing methods most likely to result in the efficient and effective resolution of the matter. ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death, product liability, commercial general liability, labor & employment, construction litigation, and catastrophic losses due to fire and explosion.

BUSINESS LAW: Rarely is the path from point A to point B a straight line, so our role in a business law practice is to find alternatives, devise workable strategies, and keep your business ideas, goals and objectives moving toward realization. ILG’s business attorneys help clients achieve their goals with respect to business formation, intellectual property, labor and employment, CAN-SPAM, copyright and trademark

COMMUNITY: In addition, the Lawyers at Issaquah Law Group remain active in the legal and civic community. A core commitment of our Issaquah Attorneys is community service. Our attorneys' civic involvement includes the King County Civil Rights Commission; the City of Issaquah Planning Policy Commission; the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, service as a pro tem judge. We live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and we aim to make it a better place.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

WA Legal Roundup - Washington Supreme Court

City of Woodinville v. Northshore United Church of Christ

Northshore had sought a permit to host Tent City. The problem lied in the fact that the Woodinville had placed a moratorium on all R-1 (Residential) permit applications. However, the city had agreed to host Tent City as long as they sought an R-1 permit. Essentially, Northshore filed suit on two grounds: 1) The city had breached its earlier contract by placing a moratorium on the one method through which Tent City could have obtained its benefit from the contract; and 2) the city violated the free exercise clause.

Before I get to the substance, I must articulate something about the standard here. Which applies in terms of Free Exercise? The State Constitution or the Federal Constitution? The Court of Appeals did not apply a Gunwall analysis because Northshore did not submit briefing on it. The Court laid out a better rule for determining when courts should apply the analysis:

Gunwall is better understood to prescribe appropriate arguments: if the parties provide argument on state constitutional provisions and citation, a court may consider the issue. This is especially true where, as in many areas, the special protections of our state constitution have been previously recognized by this court. Listing the Gunwall factors is a helpful approach when arguing how Washington's constitution provides greater rights than its federal counterpart. But failing to subhead a brief with each factor does not foreclose constitutional argument.

     Here, numerous cases in this court have already decided that the article I, section 11 freedom of religious sentiment, belief and worship "absolutely protects the free exercise of religion, [and] extends broader protection than the first amendment to the federal constitution . . . ." First Covenant Church v. City of Seattle, 120 Wn.2d 203, 229-30, 840 P.2d 174 (1992). The Church has more protection under Washington's constitution.

Under the Free Exercise clause, the challenger must show that the action was the the belief is sincere and the government action burdens the exercise. The burden is then shifted to the government to show a narrow tailoring to achieve a compelling goal -- essentially strict shifting it to strict scrutiny. The city conceded the first factor, that the belief is sincere. The city also did not submit briefing that its action was narrowly tailored. It only said that its actions did not substantially burden the exercise. The court turned to the second Free Exercise Factor, the only thing in dispute: "Thus, the only issue presented is whether the City's actions substantially burden the free exercise of the Church's religious "sentiment, belief [or] worship."

Keeping in line with a slew of cases surrounding permitting of church applications:

This does not mean any slight burden is invalid, however. If the constitution forbade all government actions that worked some burden by minimally affecting "sentiment, belief [or] worship," then any church actions argued to be part of religious exercise would be totally free from government regulation. Our constitution expressly provides to the contrary. The argued burden on religious exercise must be more, it must be substantial. Here, the total refusal to process a permit application is such a burden.

As to the contract, the city's material breach excused the breach by Northshore:

When the City rejected the Church's application without even considering it, the Church was excused from full compliance. Though the Church did not provide sufficient processing time, as also required by the 2004 contract, this does not excuse the City's refusal to process the permit application, especially since the City actually had time to hold a public hearing. Under the contract's clear terms, the Church promised not to host Tent City 4 until it obtained a permit, a promise it broke.

     Since the City would not process the Church's permit application, the Church was excused from its performance under these unique circumstances.

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