SEATTLE — Attorneys for the federal government are attempting to block a federal judge from considering a court brief written by more than a dozen retired Washington state judges and two former state Supreme Court justices. The judges’ brief supports Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful practice of seizing immigrants in and near Washington courthouses, even when those individuals are at the courthouse to serve as witnesses or to conduct ordinary business like renewing their car tabs.

Attorneys for the federal government argue that the 17 former jurists’ experience and arguments will not help the court understand “courthouse arrests and their effect in immigrant communities” served by Washington’s justice system.

“The federal government has arrested many people who are simply trying to access justice for themselves or their families,” Ferguson said. “These former justices and judges can directly address the impact of these arrests on the larger justice system. Their perspective is not only helpful, it is invaluable.”

Ferguson filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s courthouse arrests in December, and has asked the court to grant a preliminary injunction to force the federal government to stop the practice while Ferguson’s case progresses.

In the judges’ brief, filed by the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law, the retired judges argue that “the rising number of ICE arrests in or near courthouses, together with the federal government’s public statements endorsing such arrests, have created a damaging chilling effect deterring noncitizens from participating in the justice system.”

These arrests “obstruct the judicial process” the judges continue, resulting “in the unavailability of criminal defendants and witnesses, the unnecessary escalation of criminal charges, a drain on judicial resources stemming from delays and scheduling interruptions, and increased courthouse disorder and security costs.”

The federal government’s attorneys in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington asked the court to reject the brief, arguing that the judges’ brief “would not be helpful to the Court” in deciding whether to grant Ferguson’s preliminary injunction request. The federal government argued that the judges do not offer a “unique perspective” to the court.

Retired justices and judges who signed brief

Justice Bobbe Bridge (Washington Supreme Court, King County Superior Court)

Justice Faith Ireland (Washington Supreme Court, King County Superior Court)

Judge Ronald E. Cox (Washington Court of Appeals, Division I)

Judge Kenneth Kato (Washington Court of Appeals, Division III, Spokane County Superior Court)

Judge Karen Seinfeld (Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II, Pierce County Superior Court)

Judge Michael Spearman (Washington Court of Appeals, Division I, King County Superior Court)

Judge Harriett M. Cody (King County Superior Court)

Judge Tari S. Eitzen (Spokane County Superior Court)

Judge Deborah Fleck (King County Superior Court)

Judge Eileen Kato (King County District Court)

Judge C. Kimi Kondo (Seattle Municipal Court)

Judge James M. (Jim) Murphy (Spokane County Superior Court, Spokane County District Court)

Judge Alicia Nakata (Chelan County Superior Court, Chelan County District Court)

Judge Kathleen O’Connor (Spokane County Superior Court)

Judge T.W. Small (Chelan County Superior Court)

Judge Mariane Spearman (King County Superior Court)

Judge Dennis Yule (Benton and Franklin Counties Superior Court)