Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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King County sought ways to provide legal defense services to indigent criminal defendants. The County settled on a system of using nonprofit corporations to provide services funded through and monitored by the County's Office of the Public Defender (OPD). Over time, the County took steps to improve and make these nonprofit organizations more accountable to the County. In so doing, it asserted more control over the groups that provided defender services. Respondents are employees of the defender organizations who sued the County for state employee benefits. They argued the County's funding and control over their "independent" organizations essentially made them state employees for the purposes of participating in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Applying the pertinent statues and common law principles, the Supreme Court agreed that employees of the defender organizations are "employees" under state law, and, as such, are entitled to be enrolled in the PERS.

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Samantha A. is a 15-year-old with a wide range of medical maladies. Samantha is unable to perform a many activities necessary for independent living. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) determined that Samantha is eligible for 24-hour institutional care because of the extreme nature of her needs. Because Samantha is cared for by a single mother, Samantha qualified for the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Program so that she can receive benefits at home and not be institutionalized. As part of the in-home benefits, Samantha receives Medicaid Personal Care (MPC). DSHS assessed Samantha as needing 90 hours of MPC per month. In 2005, DSHS adopted changes to its assessment formula pertaining to MPC. Under the new rules, Samantha's MPC hours were reduced. Samantha petitioned the Superior Court for review of the DSHS reassessment. The court invalidated some of the DSHS rule changes. DSHS appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the rule changes were valid. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court, finding the rule changes invalid under the Medicaid laws. The Court affirmed the superior court's decision.