United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO CERTIFY TWO
QUESTIONS OF STATE LAW TO THE WASHINGTON SUPREME
ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT is Defendant's Motion to Certify Two Questions
of State Law to the Washington Supreme Court, ECF No. 22.
After reviewing the pleadings and the record, the Court
concludes that certification is not appropriate.
Jade Wilcox brought this putative class action lawsuit
against John Batiste, Chief of the Washington State Patrol
and his agents (“WSP”), alleging that the WSP
violated the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18
U.S.C. §§ 2721-2725, by disclosing personal
information in vehicle collision reports to third parties who
used the information in the reports to solicit legal
business. ECF No. 1 at 1-2.
has moved the Court to certify two questions to the
Washington State Supreme Court:
(1) Whether the Washington State Patrol's duty under RCW
46.52.060 includes disclosure of police traffic collision
reports to the public; and
(2) If so, whether the disclosure of a police traffic
collision report under RCW 46.52.060 is related to the
operation of a motor vehicle or public safety.
Standard for Certification of Questions
law provides that
“[w]hen in the opinion of any federal court before whom
a proceeding is pending, it is necessary to ascertain the
local law of this state in order to dispose of such
proceeding and the local law has not been clearly determined,
such federal court may certify to the supreme court for
answer the question of local law involved . . . .”
RCW 2.60.020. “Certification provides a means to obtain
authoritative answers to unclear questions of state
law.” Toner for Toner v. Lederle Labs., Div. of Am.
Cyanamid Co., 779 F.2d 1429, 1432 (9th Cir. 1986). The
Court has discretion to decide whether to certify questions
to a state supreme court. Centurion Prop. III,
LLC v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., 793 F.3d 1087, 1089
(9th Cir. 2015). The Court first considers whether it is
necessary to ascertain Washington State law in order to
dispose of the proceeding, and second whether the applicable
Washington State law has been clearly determined.
See RCW 2.60.020.
“certifying court should also consider the possible
delays involved and whether the legal issue can be framed to
produce a helpful response by the state.” Complaint
of McLinn, 744 F.2d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 1984). In doing
so, the court should be mindful that “[c]ertification
of open questions of state law to the state supreme court can
in the long run save time, energy, and resources and help
build a cooperative judicial federalism.” Thompson
v. Paul, 547 F.3d 1055, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). However,
certification is unnecessary where Washington law
“provide[s] sufficient guidance” for the Court to
make a determination. Todd v. United States, 1993
U.S. App. LEXIS 30899, at *5-6 (9th Cir. Nov. 18, 1993).