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Washington Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Spokane

The Washington Supreme Court. Back row, L to R: Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary Yu and G. Helen Whitener. Front row, L to r: Susan Owens, Charles Johnson, Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez, Barbara Madsen and Debra Stephens.
Washington Supreme Court
The Washington Supreme Court. Back row, L to R: Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary Yu and G. Helen Whitener. Front row, L to r: Susan Owens, Charles Johnson, Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez, Barbara Madsen and Debra Stephens.

The nine justices of Washington's highest court convened in Spokane Thursday morning to hear oral arguments in three cases.

The proceedings were held at Gonzaga Law School's Barbieri courtroom. The visit is part of Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez's effort to conduct court business at each of the state's law schools.

Two of the cases being argued Thursday involved the state's Involuntary Treatment Act. Under that law, the state has the authority to detain a person suffering from a behavioral health disorder for the purposes of evaluation and treatment.

Three people are challenging their detention under that law.

“Two people were involuntarily detained under the ITA at Western State Hospital for more than a month after the court orders authorizing their continued civil commitment had expired," a statement from the court read. "Another was involuntarily medicated before a court hearing despite asserting her statutory right not to be.”

The plaintiffs are asking for the petitions that triggered their detainment to be dismissed.

In the second case, a man challenges his detainment because he was held longer than the law allowed.

The third case, slated to be heard Thursday afternoon, involves a change to Spokane's city charter.

In 2019, the city’s voters amended the charter to make collective bargaining negotiations with public employee unions open to the public. The Washington State Council of County and City Employees objected, and filed suit against the city to keep those negotiations private.

The justices must first determine whether the challenge is justiciable — that is, whether it can be decided in a court of law or not. If the answer is "yes," the court will then decide whether the charter amendment violates a state law public bargaining law or the Washington Constitution.

Decisions in each of the cases may be weeks or months away.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.