Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

SilvaIn a story that aired this week, KING 5's Drew Mikkelsen spoke with convicted bank robber Matthew Silva, who has made more than 125 public records requests—or “PRRs”— to the Department of Corrections (DOC), requiring more than 1400 taxpayer-funded staff hours to respond. For example, he made a Feb. 8, 2011, request to DOC for copies of every photocopy DOC made for any inmate for the last year. This request was made in response to DOC’s refusal to photocopy his PRA complaints for free under the "legal mail policy." Among his other dubious achievements, Silva has made 41 PRA requests to the Attorney General’s Office, requiring significant staff time to respond, yet he frequently fails to pay for records gathered. Files  

He's requested personal retirement account information from the Department of Retirement Systems concerning the Attorney General and an Assistant Attorney General. He's filed or attempted to file 21 PRA lawsuits and appeals against the state, and he frequently waits months after the alleged violation before he files suit, presumably to maximize any penalty award. Mr. Silva is barred from filing lawsuits in federal court at public expense due to his history of filing meritless and frivolous litigation.

These kinds of abuses of our public records laws are exactly why we’ve proposed legislation to deal with the problem. Yet, in the KING 5 story Silva claims, “If we can't have access to records or information about the government, then we don't have a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Actually, our bills protect access to records, even for inmates. Our “Three strikes on frivolous actions” bill simply restricts inmates from filing suit in state court at public expense if they previously brought three or more cases determined to be frivolous or malicious, or failed to state a claim of relief. It would not prevent inmates from bringing claims at their own expense, or proceeding at public expense if they're at imminent risk of serious physical harm. Our other bill eliminates penalty awards for inmates who file PRR lawsuits but, of course, still allows them to receive the records they’ve legitimately requested. I've embedded Drew's full story below. If you'd like to track this bill or others, visit the AGO Legislative page.

-Dan Sytman-