Saldin Securities, Inc. v. Snohomish County, 63940-0

Decision Date08 January 1998
Docket NumberNo. 63940-0,63940-0
Citation134 Wn.2d 288,949 P.2d 370
CourtWashington Supreme Court
PartiesSALDIN SECURITIES, INC., a Washington corporation; and NADW Northwest, Inc., a Washington corporation, Petitioners, v. SNOHOMISH COUNTY, a municipal corporation; The Snohomish County Council; Eleanor Frei; Brian Main and Pamela Main, husband and wife; and Don Foltz, Respondents. Lawrence W. WHITFIELD and Darlene I. Whitfield, husband and wife; and DD & L., Inc., a Washington corporation, Petitioners, v. SNOHOMISH COUNTY, a municipal corporation; The Snohomish County Council; Eleanor Frei; Brian Main and Pamela Main, husband and wife; and Don Foltz, Respondents.
Groen & Stephens, John Groen, W. Theodore Vander Wel, Bellevue, for petitioners

Jim Krider, Snohomish County Prosecutor, Barbara Dykes, Deputy County Prosecutor, Everett, Bricklin & Gendler, David A. Bricklin, Seattle, for respondents.

MADSEN, Justice.

The Snohomish County Superior Court reversed a decision and order of the Snohomish County Council requiring Petitioners to prepare a limited environmental impact statement for their land use project developments. The Court of Appeals reversed and Petitioners seek review of that decision. We affirm.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Petitioners, Lawrence W. and Darlene I. Whitfield (Whitfield), and their family corporation, DD & L, Inc., own 34 Residents in the neighborhood where Petitioners' properties are located were concerned there was no environmental report on the projects' effects on groundwater in their area. They appealed the MDNS to the Snohomish County Hearing Examiner. The Hearing Examiner upheld the planning department's decisions and gave preliminary approval to both plat applications.

acres of property in Snohomish County. Whitfield wants to divide the property into 54 individual lots. Petitioners, Saldin Securities, Inc. and NADW Northwest, Inc., (Saldin) own 14.5 acres adjacent to the Whitfield property. Saldin wants to divide its property into 26 individual lots. Petitioners plan to develop and use on-site septic tank and drainfield sewage systems for their lots. Preliminary plat applications were submitted by Petitioners to the Snohomish County Department of Planning and Community Development. The Department of Planning and Community Development issued a "Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance" (MDNS) for each proposal, concluding that, with mitigation, neither development would have a significant adverse effect on the environment. Thus, neither project would require an environmental impact statement (EIS).

The residents appealed the Hearing Examiner's decision to the Snohomish County Council. 1 The Council held an evidentiary hearing focusing on possible groundwater contamination from the developments. Following the hearing, the Council vacated the determination of nonsignificance, reversed the Hearing Examiner's decisions, and remanded the applications to the planning department for preparation of environmental impact statement limited to the issue of groundwater contamination. The Council deferred action on Petitioners' preliminary plat application until completion of the environmental impact statement.

Petitioners filed petitions for writ of certiorari in the Snohomish County Superior Court claiming the Council's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. The petitions also included complaints for damages under RCW 64.40 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court granted Petitioners' constitutional writ of certiorari, but dismissed the claims for damages without prejudice on the ground that they were not ripe. The court concluded the Council's decision was arbitrary and capricious and reinstated the decision of the hearing examiner.

Petitioners appealed the superior court's decision to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court, finding the trial court erred granting a constitutional writ of certiorari because the project proponents failed to establish that extraordinary circumstances justified interlocutory review of the EIS decisions. Saldin Sec., Inc. v. Snohomish County, 80 Wash.App. 522, 910 P.2d 513 (1996). Petitioners sought review in this court and it was granted.

DISCUSSION

The superior court has inherent power provided in article IV, section 6 of the Washington State Constitution to review administrative decisions for illegal or manifestly arbitrary acts. Kreidler v. Eikenberry, 111 Wash.2d 828, 837, 766 P.2d 438 (1989); Pierce County Sheriff v. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 98 Wash.2d 690, 693-94, 658 P.2d 648 (1983); Williams v. Seattle Sch. Dist., 97 Wash.2d 215, 221, 643 P.2d 426 (1982). The fundamental purpose of the constitutional writ of certiorari is to enable a court of review to determine whether the proceedings below were within the lower tribunal's jurisdiction and authority. Bridle Trails Community Club v. City of Bellevue, 45 Wash.App. 248, 252-53, 724 P.2d 1110 (1986). Thus, a court will accept review only if the appellant can allege facts that, if verified, would establish that the lower tribunal's decision was illegal or arbitrary and capricious. Pierce County Sheriff, 98 Wash.2d at 693-94, 658 P.2d 648; Williams, 97 Wash.2d at 221, 643 P.2d 426. Additionally, although The Court of Appeals found that beyond the principles cited above, "extraordinary" circumstances must exist for a court to grant a constitutional writ. For this proposition, the court cited the Division I, Court of Appeals' opinion in King County v. Washington State Bd. of Tax Appeals, 28 Wash.App. 230, 237, 622 P.2d 898 (1981), which stated that the writ of certiorari "is an extraordinary remedy reserved for extraordinary situations." However, the King County court's use of the word "extraordinary" when read in context does not support an additional requirement of "extraordinary" circumstances as a prerequisite to issuance of a constitutional writ. The Court of Appeals in King County used the word "extraordinary" only to describe the nature of the statutory writ process, not the constitutional writ. Id. The court in King County did not state that "extraordinary" facts must exist before a constitutional writ may be granted. Id. at 237-38, 622 P.2d 898. Instead, the court explained that in a constitutional writ action, the superior court "looks initially to the petitioner's allegations to determine whether, if true, they clearly demonstrate [the agency acted illegal or arbitrary and capriciously]", and "[i]f they do, review should be granted...." Id. at 238, 622 P.2d 898.

                exercise of this inherent power is discretionary, it will not ordinarily occur if either a statutory writ or a direct appeal is available, unless the appellant can show good cause for not using those methods.   Bridle Trails, 45 Wash.App. at 253, 724 P.2d 1110;  Birch Bay Trailer Sales, Inc. v. Whatcom County, 65 Wash.App. 739, 746, 829 P.2d 1109, review denied, 119 Wash.2d 1023, 838 P.2d 690 (1992);  see also 1 Bouvier's Law Dictionary 443, 446-47 (1914). 2
                

Additionally, in four decisions after its opinion in King County, Division I has never mentioned, nor implied, that "extraordinary facts" must exist before a court may grant Moreover, the decisions of this court do not support the conclusion that "extraordinary facts or circumstances" must exist before a constitutional writ of certiorari may be granted. Kreidler, 111 Wash.2d at 837, 766 P.2d 438; Pierce County Sheriff, 98 Wash.2d at 693-94, 658 P.2d 648; Williams, 97 Wash.2d at 221-22, 643 P.2d 426. We have consistently held that "any arbitrary and capricious action is subject to review," never indicating that additional extraordinary circumstances must exist. Pierce County Sheriff, 98 Wash.2d at 694, 658 P.2d 648 (citing Williams, 97 Wash.2d at 221-22, 643 P.2d 426). In fact, in Williams this court refused to interpret the constitutional writ as requiring a violation of "fundamental rights" in addition to a decision that is arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law. Williams, 97 Wash.2d at 221-22, 643 P.2d 426; see also Pierce County Sheriff, 98 Wash.2d at 693-94, 658 P.2d 648. We find no basis in law for the conclusion that a court may not exercise its inherent power of review unless "extraordinary facts or circumstances" exist. Instead, we adhere to the long accepted rule that a court may grant a constitutional writ of certiorari if no other avenue of appeal is available and facts exist that, if verified, indicate the lower tribunal has acted in an illegal or arbitrary and capricious manner.

a constitutional writ. Concerned Organized Women & People Opposed to Offensive Proposals, Inc. v. City of Arlington, 69 Wash.App. 209, 221, 847 P.2d 963, review denied, 122 Wash.2d 1014, 863 P.2d 73 (1993); Birch Bay, 65 Wash.App. at 745-46, 829 P.2d 1109; Bridle Trails, 45 Wash.App. at 251-53, 724 P.2d 1110; Dorsten v. Port of Skagit County, 32 Wash.App. 785, 788-89, 650 P.2d 220, review denied, 98 Wash.2d 1008 (1982). Thus, it is clear the Court of Appeals in King County did not intend to place an extra hurdle on the constitutional writ requirement.

In this case, Petitioners seek judicial review of the Council's determination of significance which will require them to prepare an environmental impact statement on the issue of potential groundwater contamination. As the Court of Appeals notes, interlocutory judicial review of a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) determination must "without exception" be coupled with review of the final action on the application. RCW 43.21C.075(6)(c). This provision However, an appeal from the County's final plat decision is not an effective remedy for the Council's decision to require Petitioners to prepare an environmental impact statement. This provision effectively denies judicial review to project proponents of determinations of significance and "other agency SEPA determinations which might improperly increase environmental analysis burdens and project...

To continue reading

Request your trial
55 cases
  • State v. Gamble, 80131-2.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • January 28, 2010
    ...the assertion that double jeopardy principles have been violated. Saldin Sec., Inc. v. Snohomish County, 134 Wash.2d 288, 297 n. 4, 949 P.2d 370 ¶ 43 Gamble also contends that the trial court committed reversible error when it failed to give a lesser offense instruction on second degree man......
  • Tiffany Family Trust Corp. v. City of Kent, 74526-9.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 8, 2005
    ...below were within the lower tribunal's jurisdiction and authority.'" (quoting Saldin Sec., Inc. v. Snohomish County, 134 Wash.2d 288, 292, 949 P.2d 370 (1998))); accord Heavens 66 Wash.2d at 562, 404 P.2d 453 (allowing review despite failure to follow statutory procedure because the argumen......
  • Fed. Way Sch. Dist. No. 210 v. Vinson, 84243–4.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 29, 2011
    ...below were within the lower tribunal's jurisdiction and authority.” Saldin Secs., Inc. v. Snohomish County, 134 Wash.2d 288, 292, 949 P.2d 370 (1998). Thus, a court will accept review only if the appellant can allege facts that, if verified, would establish that the lower tribunal's decisio......
  • Washington Public Employees Ass'n v. Washington Personnel Resources Bd., 21384-2-II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • July 10, 1998
    ...it helpful to explain why the trial court's ruling was appropriate. See Saldin Sec., Inc. v. Snohomish County, 134 Wash.2d 288, 293, 949 P.2d 370 (1998) (court will not ordinarily exercise its inherent power of review if either a statutory writ or a direct appeal is available, unless the ap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Washington's Growth Management Revolution Goes to Court
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 23-04, June 2000
    • Invalid date
    ...aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 979 P.2d 374 (Wash. 1999). 289. See, e.g., Saldin Securities v. Snohomish County, 134 Wash. 2d 288, 292-94, 949 P.2d 370,373-74 (1998). 290. Former WASH. REV. CODE § 36.70A.320(1) (amended 1997). 291. See WASH. REV. CODE § 36.70A.320(3). 292. See id. § 36.70A.3......
  • Understanding the Limits of Power: Judicial Restraint in General Jurisdiction Court Systems
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 22-02, December 1998
    • Invalid date
    ...949 P.2d at 1318 (Durham, C.J., dissenting). 140. Id. at 944-47, 949 P.2d at 1316-7 (Durham, C.J., dissenting). 141. 134 Wash. 2d 288, 949 P.2d 370 142. WASH. REV. CODE § 43.21C.075(6)(c) (1998) provides: "Judicial review under this chapter shall without exception be of the governmental act......
  • Road Map to the Revolution: a Practical Guide to Procedural Issues Before the Growth Management Hearings Boards
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 23-04, June 2000
    • Invalid date
    ...No. 96-3-0009c, Final Decision and Order (July 31, 1996) 47. See, e.g., Saldin Sec., Inc. v. Snohomish County, 134 Wash. 2d 288, 292, 949 P.2d 370, 372 (1998); Williams v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, 97 Wash. 2d 215, 221, 643 P.2d 426, 430 48. See Torrance, 136 Wash. 2d at 791-92, 966 P.2d ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT