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Prosecuting Attorney
Major Cases

Criminal Prosecutions

About half of the office effort is directed toward criminal prosecution and serving the needs of victims of crimes. Office policies provide for consistent prosecution of offenders in a wide range of criminal cases including theft, fishing violations, domestic violence, vehicular assault or homicide, and the emerging area of internet fraud. By initiating policies for charging appropriately, approximately ninety percent of all cases are resolved by plea agreement. Once convicted, we hold defendants accountable and call them back to court if they do not comply with the terms of the sentence. The office is tough on crime. We are proud of the advice jail inmates reportedly pass along to others: "Don't go to San Juan County to commit crime."

Jetski Ordinance and Ordinance Defense

In 1995 the Board of County Commissioners asked this office to draft stringent restrictions on the use of jetskis. The restrictions were based on the unique aspects of an archipelago and jetski operations. We defended these restrictions in a Court challenge by the industry. The defense was extraordinary due to the limited budget available for the County in contrast to the industry. The County's defense was aided by more than $18,000 in unsolicited cash donations and hundreds of hours of donated attorney time. In 1998 the Washington State Supreme Court supported the County's appeal and ruled that San Juan County did have the constitutional right to pass an ordinance banning the use of motorized personal watercraft.

San Juan County "Home Rule" Charter

The San Juan County Prosecutor's Office served as the legal advisor to the Board of Freeholders. The freeholders submitted a Charter to the people and it was approved in the 2005 election.

Real Estate Transactions

In 2001, people from throughout the community contacted the leaders at Lafarge North America and asked them to donate to the public the gravel pit property on San Juan Island.   The transaction began with the promise that the County would acquire the property at a bargain price, and but first, Lafarge would be responsible for restoration of the site as required by state law.   

Now, the people of San Juan County now have a 55 acre park property which will be governed by the San Juan Island Park and Recreation District.  The San Juan County Public Works department acquired a beach access point which has historically been used as the site for the arrival and departure of barges. Although this was one of the more complicated and long lasting transactions, the lawyers in the prosecutors office provided the continuity and continued advice to the County leaders. Restoration has now been completed  The planning is underway to determine how the property may be best used by the public.

Shown at above right is the gravel pit property in 2003 - click on the photo for a much larger version of the same picture. 

Support for State Oil Tanker Regulations

The regulation of waterbikes would mean little if federal maritime law rules allowed vessels, of all sizes, unrestricted use of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. So, we led the effort to provide the local perspective of statewide tanker regulations.

We submitted a brief in support of the State of Washington and environmental groups to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Although most of the regulations were found invalid, the Courts recognized the State's desire to protect the fragile resources of the Puget Sound.

Fair Campaigns

Prosecutors in San Juan County and the cities of Seattle, Auburn and Kent responded quickly to require a campaign to repeal a gas tax to disclose the identity of contributors and the amount of their contributions. When it was discovered that the promoters of the campaign included two prominent talk show hosts from KVI radio, we requested the same disclosure from them as any other person or business that chooses to get involved in a political campaign, and we went to court to demand it promptly, before election was over.

The Thurston County superior court judge agreed with the prosecutors, but before the case could be wrapped up, the No New Gas Tax Campaign claimed violation of the First Amendment speech rights. The case is pending before the court of appeals. The copies of the briefs and news release on this case are available by clicking here (news release announcing the suit) and here (news release announcing the state Supreme Court response.).

Lawyers and assistants stand on the steps of the Washington State Supreme Court after argument in the No New Gas Tax Case. (above)

San Juan Sanitation Solid Waste Challenge

Have you thought about the way your garbage and recyclables are collected? Do you like the fact that your elected officials are directly responsible for the costs and management of the solid waste and recycling operations? We successfully defended a challenge to the County's ownership and management of the solid waste transfer stations. This protected the citizens' control over the facilities, operations and costs of handling solid waste and recyclables.

Growth Management Board Cases

Since 1995 five major cases testing our land-use laws have been successfully resolved, assuring local control over our laws and policies. The first case successfully defended was a challenge to enactment of the Waldron Subarea Plan. Next, upon advice of this office, fourteen appeals by 31 individuals regarding the 1996 Comprehensive Plan was efficiently resolved through repeal and reenactment of the Comprehensive Plan with development regulations. The 1998 Plan was found to be deficient in areas concerning urban growth, density, and guest houses, so revisions were made.

Guesthouses and Accessory Dwelling Units: For more information and history of the County's work on guesthouses and detached accessory units, please click here.

Westcott Bay Dock

The aesthetics of our shoreline are important to San Juan County. It's a resource we must protect and defend, although it is not easy. This office defended the Board of County Commissioners' decision to deny a 300-foot dock on the pristine Westcott Bay, requiring defense before the state boards, the trial courts and appeals courts. The Court's decision will be remembered and referred to many times in the years ahead as the standard for protecting the visual value of our shorelines.

"Practical Magic" Appeals

The Park Board called on the Prosecutor's Office when it was asked about the use of the County Park for the filming of the feature movie "Practical Magic" by Warner Bros.

The controversy focused on the Park Board's need for money to pay for basic capital improvements such as bathrooms and water systems and the policy regarding future use of the parks for commercial ventures. This office guided the Park Board through the process and defended it against appeals. As a result, the Park Board received more than $80,000 from Warner Bros. -- and an estimated $2.5 million was spent locally.

The photo to the right is the house that was built as part of the set at County Park; at the end of shooting, the house was dismantled and removed in about a day and a half, and the park returned to its previous condition.

Tax Appeals

Don't yawn at tax cases! They are important to assure that everyone is taxed fairly and uniformly. Several cases illustrate this issue. First, the prosecutor defended the valuation method of the County assessor for the Rosario Resort property. The State Board of Tax Appeals retained the County's valuation for the year 1996. Second, the prosecutor represented the Assessor in a successful challenge to the value averaging rules of Referendum 47. This assured waterfront and upland property owners a fair taxation. The assessor also joined the statewide challenges to initiatives I-695 and I-722, and provided the factual background for how these laws affected our small island community.

Land Bank Transactions

It happens quietly and without much fanfare. But every week this office aids the County Land Bank in protecting our scenic and ecologically significant resources. We provide advice on negotiations with land owners, write or revise permanent agreements that restrict development on land or to purchase land.