City of Seattle v. Long

Decision Date12 August 2021
Docket NumberNo. 98824-2,98824-2
Citation493 P.3d 94
CourtWashington Supreme Court
Parties CITY OF SEATTLE, Respondent, v. Steven Gregory LONG, Petitioner.

James Elliot Lobsenz, Carney Badley Spellman, Alison Sophia Bilow, Columbia Legal Services, Seattle, WA, for Petitioner.

Erica Franklin, Seattle City Attorney's Office, Robert Bertelson Mitchell Jr., Aaron Edward Millstein, K&L Gates LLP, Seattle, WA, Michael Jordan Thompson, Attorney at Law, Polson, MT, for Respondent.

Thomas E. WeaverJr., Attorney at Law, Bremerton, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Wa Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

William R. Maurer, Institute For Justice, Seattle, WA, for Amici Curiae on behalf of Institute for Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, Oregon Law Center, Equal Justice Under Law, Policy Advocacy Clinic, MacArthur Justice Center.

William R. Maurer, Institute For Justice, Seattle, WA, Lisa Foster, Fines and Fees Justice Center, New York, NY, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Fines and Fees Justice Center.

Nancy Lynn Talner, Breanne Schuster, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Julia Mizutani, Attorney at Law, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Aclu of Washington.

Alexandria Marie Hohman, The Washington Defender Association, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Washington Defender Association.

Ann Marie Logerfo, Logerfo Garella, PLLC, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Interfaith Task Force On Homelessness.

Sara Rankin, Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Homeless Rights Advocacy Project.

Tristia Bauman, National Law Center on Homelessness, Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of National Law Center On Homelessness and Poverty.

Kymberly Kathryn Evanson, Pacifica Law Group LLP, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of International Municipal Lawyers Association.

Kimberly Noel Gordon, Law Offices of Gordon & Saunders PLLC, Seattle, WA, Marsha L. Levick, Jessica Feierman, Lindsey E. Smith, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia, PA, for Amicui Curiae on behalf of Juvenile Law Center, African American Juvenile Justice Project, Center for Children and Youth Justice, Children and Family Justice Center, Civitas Childlaw Center, COAlition for Juvenile Justice, Justice Policy Institute, Legal Counsel for Youth and Children, National Center for Youth Law, National Juvenile Defender Center, National Juvenile Justice Network, Public Counsel, Teamchild, UC Berkeley School of Law Policy Advocacy Clinic, W. Haywood Burns Institute, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice.

Todd Maybrown, Allen Hansen Maybrown & Offenbecher, PS, Seattle, WA, for Amici Curiae on behalf of Professor Alexes Phd Harris, Professor Mary Phd Pattillo.

Carrie Suzanne Graf, Northwest Justice Project, Olympia, WA, Scott Crain, Northwest Justice Project, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Northwest Justice Project.

Amanda Nicole Martin, Northwest Consumer Law Center, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Northwest Consumer Law Center.

Daniel G Lloyd, Vancouver City Attorney's Office, Vancouver, WA, Duncan McGehee Greene, Van Ness Feldman LLP, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys.

Prachi Vipinchandra Dave, Public Defender Association, Rebecca Charney Fish, Catherine A Bentley, Attorneys at Law, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Public Defender Association.

Toby James Marshall, Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC, Seattle, WA, Leslie A. Bailey, Brian Hardingham, John He, Public Justice, PC, Oakland, CA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Public Justice.

Mary B. McCord, Seth Wayne, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy, Washington, DC, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

Claudia Wilner, Linda Morris, Nat. Center for Law & Eco Justice, New York, NY, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of National Center for Law and Econimic Justice.

John W. Whitehead, Douglas R. McKusick, Rutherford Institute, Charlottesville, VA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Rutherford Institute.


¶1 Steven Gregory Long parked his truck on property owned by the city of Seattle for more than 72 hours, violating Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 11.72.440(B). For this civil infraction, a city-contracted towing company impounded Long's truck. Long contested the infraction and eventually agreed to a payment plan to reimburse the city for the costs of the impoundment. He now argues, among other things, that the impoundment violated Washington's homestead act, ch. 6.13 RCW, and the federal excessive fines clause. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm in part and reverse in part.


¶2 In 2016, Long was living in his truck. Long, then a 56-year-old member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation, worked as a general tradesman and stored work tools as well as personal items in his vehicle. One day, Long was driving to an appointment when the truck began making "grinding" noises. On July 5, 2016, Long parked in a gravel lot owned by the city of Seattle. Long stayed on the property for the next three months.

¶3 On October 5, 2016, police alerted Long that he was violating the SMC by parking in one location for more than 72 hours. SMC 11.72.440(B). Long claims he told the officers that he lived in the truck. Later that day, a parking enforcement officer posted a 72-hour notice on the truck, noting it would be impounded if not moved at least one city block. SMC 11.30.060. Long did not move the truck. While Long was at work on October 12, 2016, a city-contracted company towed his truck. Without it, Long slept outside on the ground before seeking shelter nearby to escape the rain and wind.

¶4 Long requested a hearing to contest the parking infraction. SMC 11.30.120 (vehicle owner may request a hearing in municipal court to contest an impoundment). At the November 2, 2016 impoundment hearing, Long reiterated that he lived in his truck and kept all of his work tools in it. The magistrate found that Long had parked illegally, but the magistrate waived the $44.00 ticket, reduced the impoundment charges from $946.61 to $547.12, and added a $10.00 administrative fee. SMC 11.31.121 (violating the 72-hour rule is a "parking infraction" subject to $44.00 fine).1 The magistrate drafted a payment plan requiring Long to pay $50.00 per month.2 Long felt "forced" to agree or risk losing his truck at a public auction. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 109.

¶5 Long appealed the magistrate's findings. Though he did not contest that the truck was parked illegally, Long argued that the impoundment violated the state and federal excessive fines clauses, substantive due process, and the homestead act. Long moved for summary judgment, which the municipal court denied.

¶6 On a RALJ appeal, the superior court affirmed and reversed in part: it rejected the substantive due process claim, and it held that the impoundment costs were unconstitutionally excessive under the federal constitution and that the payment plan violated the homestead act. The court concluded that the impoundment itself did not violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

¶7 The parties then sought review at the Court of Appeals. In a published decision, the court concluded that the payment plan was invalid under the homestead act and rejected the constitutional argument that the impoundment and associated costs were excessive. City of Seattle v. Long , 13 Wash. App. 2d 709, 467 P.3d 979 (2020). The court also held that Long failed to show the impoundment was unlawful pursuant to article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution, declining to review it for the first time on appeal. Id . at 733-35, 467 P.3d 979.

¶8 Long sought review here of the excessive fines and the article I, section 7 issues. Pet. for Review at 4-5, 8-18. Seattle cross petitioned, raising the homestead act as a contingent issue. Answer to Pet. for Review at 16-20. We granted review of all three.3 Order, No. 98824-2 (Wash. Dec. 2, 2020). Numerous amici curiae have filed briefs in support of Long, including the Institute for Justice, Public Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, Northwest Justice Project, Juvenile Law Center, and Professors Alexes Harris and Mary Pattillo. Two amici contributed briefs in support of Seattle: the International Municipal Lawyers Association and the Washington Association of Municipal Attorneys.4


¶9 We review a summary judgment order de novo, engaging in the same inquiry as the trial court. Highline Sch. Dist. No. 401 v. Port of Seattle , 87 Wash.2d 6, 15, 548 P.2d 1085 (1976). Summary judgment is proper if the record shows "no genuine issue as to any material fact" and the "moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." CR 56(c). The parties do not appear to contest the facts in this case.

I. The Homestead Act

¶10 A "uniquely American contribution" to real property law, homestead exemptions are based on the notion that citizens should have a home where family is sheltered and living beyond the reach of financial misfortune and the demands of certain classes of creditors. George L. Haskins, Homestead Exemptions , 63 HARV. L. REV. 1289, 1289 (1950) ; Charless & Blow v. Lamberson , 1 Iowa 435, 439 (1855) ; see also Paul Goodman, The Emergence of Homestead Exemption in the United States: Accommodation and Resistance to the Market Revolution, 1840-1880 , 80 J. AM. HIST. 470, 470 (1993). States began enacting homestead laws in the 19th century in order to provide security in an increasingly volatile American economy. Goodman, supra , at 470. Prior to these laws, the United States experienced financial panics that caused unemployment, bankruptcy, and loss of the family home. Id . at 471.

¶11 Texas enacted the first homestead exemption in 1839. MacKenzie Breitenstein, Note, The Ideal Homestead Exemption: Avoiding Asset Conversion & Fraud but Still Protecting Dependents , 58 DRAKE L....

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1 books & journal articles
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    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 No. 2, November 2021
    • November 1, 2021
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