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Pilloud v. King County Republican Central Committee

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

November 9, 2017

ANDREW PILLOUD, Appellant,
v.
KING COUNTY REPUBLICAN CENTRAL COMMITTEE and LORI SOTELO, county chairman, King County Republican Central Committee, Respondents.

          FAIRHURST, C.J.

         RCW 29A.80.061 requires political parties to elect, rather than appoint, legislative district chairs for each legislative district. Appellant Andrew Pilloud, acting pro se, seeks to enforce the statute against the King County Republican Central Committee (Committee), which, by bylaw, has long chosen to appoint its legislative district chairs. The King County Superior Court concluded that the statute violates a political party's right to free association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Pilloud appealed this decision, and this court granted direct review.

         At issue is whether the superior court erred in ruling that the statute is invalid under the First Amendment. Also at issue is whether the bill containing the statute violates the single subject or subject in title requirements of article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution. We affirm the superior court and hold that RCW 29A.80.061 violates the Committee's freedom of association without reaching the other issues.[1]

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Pilloud sought direct review of a superior court order dismissing his mandamus petition and invalidating RCW 29A.80.061. The statute was enacted as an amendment to Engrossed Senate Bill 6453, the title of which was "AN ACT Relating to a qualifying primary." LAWS OF 2004, ch. 271. RCW 29A.80.061 provides:

Within forty-five days after the statewide general election in even-numbered years, the county chair of each major political party shall call separate meetings of all elected precinct committee officers in each legislative district for the purpose of electing a legislative district chair in such district. The district chair shall hold office until the next legislative district reorganizational meeting two years later, or until a successor is elected.
The legislative district chair may be removed only by the majority vote of the elected precinct committee officers in the chair's district.

         The requirement that precinct committee officers elect district chairs is inconsistent with the Committee's bylaws, which provide that the Committee's chair appoints district chairs. Pilloud, a Republican precinct committee officer, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in superior court, seeking an order enforcing RCW 29A. 80.061.

         The Committee answered, opposing the mandamus action on several grounds. It argued that the action was barred by collateral estoppel on the basis that a superior court invalidated former RCW 29.42.070 (1967), the predecessor of RCW 29A.80.061, on equal protection grounds in 1967. State ex rel. Irwin v. Williams, No. 684175 (King County Super. Ct. Sept. 15, 1967). The Committee also argued that the statute violates the single subject rule in article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution and the right to free association under the First Amendment. The superior court denied the mandamus petition, ruling that under state law there was no right to vote on the election of legislative district chairs and that the Committee had no duty to call meetings to elect such chairs. The court did not reach the Committee's constitutional arguments. Pilloud appealed.

         The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a determination of whether Pilloud was entitled to the writ of mandamus and, if so, whether RCW 29A.80.061 violates the First Amendment or the Washington Constitution. Pilloud v. King County Republican Cent. Comm., No. 73303-6-1, at 6 (Wash.Ct.App. Mar. 14, 2016) (unpublished), http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/. The court held that Pilloud's action was not collaterally estopped by the 1967 ruling because the current statute does not implicate the equal protection question at issue in the prior case.[2] Id. at 4-5. Neither party petitioned for this court's review.

         On remand, the superior court ruled that RCW 29A.80.061 violates the First Amendment because it interferes with the internal structure of a political party. In its oral ruling, the superior court indicated that the outcome was governed by Eu v. San Francisco County Democratic Central Committee, 489 U.S. 214, 109 S.Ct. 1013, 103 L.Ed.2d 271 (1989). The superior court dismissed Pilloud's mandamus petition without reaching the Committee's single subject argument.

         Pilloud appealed two issues directly to this court: (1) whether RCW 29A.80.061 violates the First Amendment by specifying the manner in which an internal party office is filled and (2) whether Engrossed Senate Bill 6453, the bill containing RCW 29A.80.061, violates the single subject or subject in title requirements of article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution. See Laws OF 2004, ch. 271. We granted review of both issues. However, we decline to reach the second issue because it was not addressed by the superior court and is not necessary to resolve this appeal.

         II. ANALYSIS

         RCW 29A.80.061 unconstitutionally infringes on the Committee's freedom of association because it regulates the internal structure of the party absent a showing that such ...


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