Criteria for WCOG Participation in Litigation
(last revised 5/13/05)
A. Participation as a Party Plaintiff
The Washington Coalition for Open Government is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the people’s right to know in matters of public interest and the public’s business. From time to time, WCOG may need to institute litigation to further its mission. In making a determination to institute litigation, the WCOG Legal Committee wishes to establish certain criteria, which will guide it in recommending the commencement of any such litigation to the full WCOG Board, which must approve any final decision regarding the commencement of litigation. This criteria may include some, or all, of the following criteria, or other criteria that may be relevant to a determination in an individual case:
1. It is unlikely a private litigant could or would bring the case.
2. The case under consideration must have a strong legal basis indicating a high likelihood of ultimate success on the merits.
3. Any judicial decision to result from the litigation must be intended to preserve and protect the rights of ordinary Washington citizens to have the fullest access as allowed by law to the workings of government either through public meetings or public records.
4. A significant public interest in the records sought must be present; WCOG will not advance litigation to further narrow private interests.
5. The case raises unique legal questions that suggests the case could help resolve existing ambiguities in Washington law or further the development in Washington law in the areas of access to public records and public meetings.
6. The agency withholding records has a pattern of abusing Washington’s public records or public meeting acts.
7. The case ultimately presents a compelling reason to fight against unjust illegal withholding of public records by public agencies.
B. Criteria For Amicus Participation
From time to time, WCOG may be asked to participate as an intervenor, or amicus, in lawsuits started by other parties who seek access to public records or public meetings. It is the general policy of WCOG to not participate at the trial court level in any such actions. However, WCOG may decide to seek intervenor or amicus status for cases dealing with public records/public meetings issues pending before Washington appellate courts. The criteria to be used in selecting cases for amicus participation may include some or all of those set forth above. In addition, the following criteria should be considered in deciding on amicus participation:
– Whether amicus participation will increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome for the party which has sued to obtain public records or access to public meetings;
– Whether amicus participation will help produce an appellate court decision to resolve ambiguities or conflicts in the area of public records act/public meeting act law among the divisions of the courts of appeal;
– Whether WCOG’s participation is likely to enhance or promote the acceptance of an appellate case in the area of public records/public meetings by the Washington Supreme Court.
Any decision to authorize amicus participation by WCOG may be made by the President, after receipt of a recommendation from the WCOG Legal Committee. In the event the President serves on the Legal Committee, participation must be authorized by both the President and Vice President.