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July 01, 2010

As promised last month, I have plenty of news and information to report from the NAAG 2010 summer meeting in Seattle.  First, however, I want to share my excitement--and pride--in the work of our Solicitor General’s team in the Doe v. Reed case which I argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28.

Washington’s people can celebrate a major victory for transparent and accountable elections with the Court’s 8-1 ruling which upheld the constitutionality of our voter-approved public records law as applied to ballot measure petitions.  Ruling in favor of disclosure as a general rule, not just in Washington but across our country, the Supreme Court upholds the public's right to double-check the work of signature-gatherers and elections officials, and to learn which voters are directing the state to hold an election on a new law.  Citizen legislating is too important to be conducted in secret.

This case is not over, though, as the trial court has not reached the second important claim brought by some of those who signed Referendum 71 in 2009. The federal judge will now hear the issue of whether the specific Referendum 71 petitions should be released to the public. The plaintiff signers will argue that release would subject them to harassment and intimidation. As I’ve told many who’ve contacted our office, there is no place in civilized society for illegal harassment and intimidation, but the plaintiffs must meet a high legal standard to prove these petitions should be kept from public view. As Justice Scalia points out, running a democracy requires “a certain amount of civic courage.”

This was my third opportunity to defend a voter-approved Washington law before the U.S. Supreme Court and I’m pleased to have won all three arguments.  So far during my tenure as Attorney General, we’re 7-0 in the Supreme Court and, overall, we’re winning more than 90 percent of our appellate cases.

NAAG Summer Meeting: Using Technology to Protect the Public 

As citizens, businesses and government shift more and more of their daily interactions online, few are immune to the potential risks and dangers associated with cybercrime, such as Internet fraud, counterfeiting and identity theft. 

In recent years, attorneys general from across the nation have been working tirelessly to stay at the forefront of consumer protection and other legal issues involving not only online schemes and scams, but a range of other cybercrimes as well, such as intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting.

From June 14-17, 23 other AGs and I gathered in Seattle for the National Association of Attorneys General summer meeting.  With a wealth of technology leadership located here in Washington state and as one of the most tech-savvy attorney general’s offices in America, it was only fitting that the theme of this year’s meeting was “Using Technology to Protect the Public.”  We spent three full days brainstorming ideas, sharing information and learning from a strong line-up of national and local experts about how we can continue enhancing our efforts to protect the public online.

A highlight of the meeting was spending an afternoon on the Microsoft campus, hearing from CEO Steve Ballmer and General Counsel Brad Smith.  I was honored to moderate two informative panels:

  • The first focused on identity management in the online environment, with experts addressing ways identity management can be handled efficiently, securely and with the flexibility demanded by the speed of the Digital Age. 
  • The second panel focused on helping attorneys general reduce the risks that pirated and counterfeit products present to consumers.

AGO Award Winners Bring Pride to Washington’s Legal Community

At the Washington AGO we strive to be the best public law office in America, so I was very proud when several members of my team were honored with prestigious NAAG awards for excellence in both leadership and law.

Chief Deputy Brian Moran was honored with the esteemed Ray Marvin Award for his work in co-founding the Chief Deputies Tobacco Working Group and serving on both the NAAG executive director screening and selection committees and its Best Practices Task Force.

Also, our office received the NAAG Best Brief Award for our brief in Doe v. Reed, which was prepared by Solicitor General Marnie Hart and Deputy Solicitors General Bill Collins and Anne Egeler, with my input and edits. This award recognizes excellence in brief writing in the U.S. Supreme Court, and I have no doubt that the quality brief our team produced in this case was the key factor in our victory.

Road to the 2011 NAAG Presidency

Finally, at the NAAG business session, I was elected President-Elect for the coming year and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper was elected President. I will succeed him as NAAG President next June.

More help for struggling homeowners

With persistent high unemployment rates and a continuing decline in home values across the region, far too many homeowners in Washington are struggling to afford their mortgage obligations.

Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Pacific Northwest Chase Homeownership Center Grand Opening.  This newest Homeownership Center, one of 51 around the country, is a tremendous asset for Chase customers, because it gives challenged homeowners a place to meet face-to-face with trained, professional housing advisors as they seek mortgage assistance.  Equally important, these efforts will also facilitate interaction with local, non-profit housing counselors.  Chase has been a trailblazer in establishing these centers, and I hope that other lenders will follow suit.

Looking ahead

In July, I’ll be attending the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) where we’ll be tackling a range of issues that affect Western states, including endangered species, Indian gaming and law enforcement in Indian country, and financial fraud involving mortgages, credit cards, and debt consolidation.   

Upon my I return, I’ll report on those issues, along with all the latest summer news from the AGO.  Meanwhile, I hope you and yours have a fantastic 4th of July!

Rob McKenna
Attorney General

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