JERRY L. BARR III, Appellant,
SNOHOMISH COUNTY SHERIFF, Respondent.
1992, a juvenile court adjudicated Jerry L. Barr guilty of
two class A felonies. Over 25 years later, in 2016, the
juvenile court entered an order sealing Barr's juvenile
records of the two felony adjudications. Barr then applied
for a concealed pistol license (CPL) through the Snohomish
County Sheriff's Office (Sheriff). The Sheriff denied
Barr's application based on these felony adjudications.
Barr petitioned the superior court for a writ of mandamus to
compel the Sheriff to issue him a CPL, and the superior court
denied his petition. Because under the juvenile sealing
statute sealed adjudications are to be "treated as if
they never occurred, " Barr is not prohibited from
obtaining a CPL and the superior court erroneously denied
Barr's writ of mandamus. We, therefore, reverse and
remand with instructions to the superior court to issue the
writ. We also grant Barr's request for attorney fees.
case requires us to analyze the juvenile sealing statute. In
the 19th century, Washington established a separate court
division dedicated to juvenile issues with the intention of
protecting the interests of juveniles, rather than
prosecuting juveniles in the same manner as adult defendants.
See Laws of 1905, ch. 18, § 3. Throughout the
years, the legislature has expanded the juvenile court system
reflecting national changes regarding the treatment of
juvenile offenders. See State v. S.J.C., 183 Wn.2d
408, 422-23, 352 P.3d 749 (2015).
1977, the legislature overhauled the juvenile justice
statutes and specified substantive and procedural guidelines
for juvenile courts by enacting the Juvenile Justice Act of
1977 (JJA). Laws of 1977, 1st Ex. Sess., ch. 291, §
With the JJA, the legislature "changed the philosophy
and methodology of addressing the personal and societal
problems of juvenile offenders." State v.
Lawley, 91 Wn.2d 654, 659, 591 P.2d 772 (1979).
the 1977 amendments, the legislature also addressed how
juvenile proceeding records and official juvenile court files
were to be treated. Though the JJA affirmed that juvenile
proceeding records and court files were public records, the
legislature also created a mechanism for juvenile offenders
to have their records sealed or destroyed. State v.
J.C., 192 Wn.App. 122, 128, 366 P.3d 455 (2016). The JJA
allowed a juvenile to have his or her records sealed two
years after the end of a proceeding and destroyed when the
juvenile reached 23 years of age. Laws of 1979, 1st Ex.
Sess., ch. 155, § 9(11); (16). By establishing a method to
seal juvenile records, the legislature reiterated its desire
to treat juvenile records more confidentially than other
court records. See S.J.C., 183 Wn.2d at 422.
juvenile sealing and destruction provisions underwent more
changes in 1997. At that time, the legislature amended the
sealing and destruction statutes and made the sealing and
expungement process more difficult by imposing additional
requirements and conditions. State v. Diaz-Cardona,
123 Wn.App. 477, 485, 98 P.3d 136 (2004). However, although
the legislature made it more difficult to seal and destroy
juvenile records, the legislature did not eradicate the
sealing process. See State v. J.H., 96 Wn.App. 167,
176, 978 P.2d 1121 (1999).
2014, the legislature again amended the JJA's juvenile
court record sealing provisions. Laws of 2014, ch. 175,
§§ 3-5. The legislature mandated that the juvenile
courts, instead of juveniles, must initiate the sealing of
juvenile court records after a certain amount of time and
after the juvenile offender met certain conditions. Laws of
2014, ch. 175, § 4. The legislature also clearly stated
its intent regarding the protection of juvenile records:
It is the policy of the state of Washington that the interest
in juvenile rehabilitation and reintegration constitutes
compelling circumstances that outweigh the public interest in
continued availability of juvenile court records.
2014, ch. 175, § 1. The legislature further explained
that the mechanism for sealing juvenile records existed so
that juveniles can overcome prejudice and reintegrate into
society. Laws of 2014, ch. 175, § 1.
recently, the Supreme Court commented on the court's role
in applying the juvenile sealing statutes:
The legislature has always treated juvenile court records as
distinctive and as deserving of more confidentiality than
other types of records[, ] and [Washington] court[s] ha[ve]
always given effect to the legislature's judgment in the
unique setting of juvenile court records.
S.J.C., 183 Wn.2d at 417.
Barr's Record Sealing
1992, the King County Juvenile Court adjudicated Barr guilty
of two class A felonies.In 2016, Barr petitioned the juvenile
court to seal his two juvenile class A felony adjudications.
Barr had not committed a crime during the 16 years prior to
requesting his records be sealed, and he had maintained law
that Barr met all the statutory prerequisites, the juvenile
court granted his petition and entered orders sealing
Barr's adjudications under RCW 13.50.260, the juvenile
records sealing statute. The orders sealed Barr's
official juvenile court record, social file, and related
agency records. The orders cited RCW 13.50.260 which stated
that "the proceedings in the case shall be treated as if
they never occurred, and the subject of the records may reply
accordingly to any inquiry about the events, the records of
which are sealed." The orders also notified Barr that
any charging of an adult felony would nullify the sealing
after it entered Barr's orders sealing his records, the
court entered an order stating that under RCW
9.41.040(4)(a)(ii), Barr qualified for the restoration of his
firearm rights because Barr complied with the terms of his
sentences, spent five years in the community without being
convicted of a crime, and because Barr "had no prior
felony convictions." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 9.
2017, Barr applied for a CPL through the Snohomish County
Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff denied Barr's
application listing his two juvenile class A felony
adjudications as the basis for the denial.
then filed a petition in Thurston County Superior Court
seeking a writ of mandamus under RCW 9.41.0975. Barr requested
the court to grant his writ and to direct the Sheriff to
issue him a CPL. Barr argued that the Sheriff had an
affirmative duty to issue a CPL to every applicant unless the
applicant was ineligible to possess a firearm under state law
or federal law. Specifically, Barr argued that his sealed
juvenile adjudications did not exist because under RCW
13.50.260(6)(a), sealed adjudications "shall be treated
as if they never occurred, " and, therefore, he was not
prohibited from possession of a firearm under RCW
9.41.040(4), Washington's possession of a firearm
further argued that he was likewise not prohibited from
possessing a firearm under federal law. He asserted that
under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)((20), the federal firearm
statute, federal law looks to the jurisdiction of conviction
to determine whether an offense is a "conviction"
for purposes of federal firearm law. CP at 33. Barr claimed
that because his Washington adjudications were sealed, he did
not have a prohibitory conviction under federal law.
superior court denied Barr's petition for a writ of
mandamus. Barr appeals.
of Mandamus Improperly Denied
argues that the superior court improperly denied his petition
for a writ of mandamus. Barr claims that the Sheriff breached
its duty to issue him a CPL because his sealed adjudications
are treated as if they never occurred under the juvenile
sealing statute and do not prohibit him from possessing a
firearm. The Sheriff argues that sealing does not
"restore" Barr's firearm rights because he is
ineligible to possess a firearm under RCW 9.41.040 and that
state and federal cases to the contrary are mistaken. We
agree with Barr.
Legal Principles: Writs of Mandamus, Juvenile Records,
Writs of Mandamus
may issue a writ of mandamus, "to any inferior tribunal,
corporation, board or person, to compel the performance of an
act which the law especially enjoins as a duty resulting from
an office, trust or station." RCW 7.16.160.
Additionally, RCW 9.41.0975(2)(a) specifically authorizes a
petition for a writ of mandamus requesting that the court
direct "an issuing agency to issue a concealed pistol
license or alien firearm license wrongfully refused."
applicant must satisfy three elements before a writ will
issue: (1) the party subject to the writ is under a clear
duty to act; (2) the applicant has no plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law; and (3) the
applicant is beneficially interested. Eugster v. City of
Spokane, 118 Wn.App. 383, 402, 76 P.3d 741 (2003). This
dispute involves only the first element-whether the Sheriff
had a clear duty to issue Barr a CPL. To determine whether
the Sheriff had a clear duty to act, we must look to the
statutes governing sealing juvenile records and issuance of
Sealing Juvenile Records
juvenile record sealing statute provides that once a
convicted person meets certain criteria,  a person can
petition the court to "order the sealing of the official
juvenile court record, the social file, and records of the
court and of any other agency in the case." RCW
13.50.260(3). Once a person receives a court order sealing
their juvenile court records,
[t]hereafter, the proceedings in the case shall be
treated as if they never occurred, and the subject
of the records may reply accordingly to any inquiry about the
events, records of which are sealed. Any agency shall reply
to any inquiry concerning confidential or sealed records that
records are confidential, and no information can be given
about the existence or nonexistence of records concerning an
RCW 13.50.260(6)(a) (emphasis added). After receiving an
order sealing their juvenile records and adjudications, the
juvenile offender is treated as not having "previously
been convicted" under RCW 9.41.040(3) for firearm
possession purposes. Nelson v. State, 120 Wn.App.
470, 480, 85 P.3d 912 (2003).
9.41.070 governs the issuance of CPL in Washington. RCW
9.41.070(1)(a) states that the sheriff of a county shall
issue a CPL to an applicant and provides that an applicant
will not be issued a CPL where
[h]e or she is ineligible to possess a firearm under the
provisions of RCW 9.41.040 . . . or is prohibited from
possessing a firearm under federal law.
whether a person can obtain a CPL depends on whether they are
eligible to possess a firearm under state and federal law.
A person, whether an adult or juvenile, is guilty of the
crime of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first
degree, if the person owns, has in his or her possession, or
has in his or her control any firearm after having previously
been convicted . . . of any serious offense as defined in
this chapter. It is undisputed that Barr's juvenile class
A felonies constitute "serious offenses." Br. of
App. at 2; Br. of Resp't at 5.
RCW 9.41.040(3) provides:
Notwithstanding RCW 9.41.047 or any other provisions of law,
as used in this chapter, a person has been
"convicted", whether in an adult court or
adjudicated in a juvenile court, at such time as a plea of
guilty has been accepted, or a verdict of guilty has been
filed, notwithstanding the pendency of any future proceedings
including but not limited to sentencing or disposition,
post-trial or post-fact-finding motions, and appeals. . . . A
person shall not be precluded from possession of a
firearm if the conviction has been the subject of a pardon,
annulment, certificate of rehabilitation, or other
equivalent procedure based on a finding of the rehabilitation
of the person convicted or the conviction or disposition has
been the subject of a pardon, annulment, or other equivalent
procedure based ...