In today’s WSJ: sovereign immunity in Washington

I’ve got a “Rule of Law” column in today’s Wall Street Journal on the unique problems presented to the state of Washington by the decay of longstanding doctrines of “sovereign immunity” which have left it financially liable for many crimes committed against its citizens, specifically when perpetrated by parolees or persons under the supervision of social welfare agencies. (Walter Olson, “Lawsuit Reform in Washington”, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 24). For one such cause celebre, see Ted’s Sept. 19 post on the case of Joyce v. Washington Department of Corrections, in which the state was sued after a parolee ran a red light and killed a Tacoma woman. For more on freshman Washington AG Rob McKenna’s plans to curtail the state’s liability, see Andrew Garber, “McKenna eyes liability limits”, Seattle Times, Nov. 27. (More discussion: Jan. 4).

Also of interest to readers in Washington state: I’ll be in Seattle Friday, Jan. 6 as the luncheon speaker at the Washington Liability Reform Coalition’s annual meeting. Contact WALRC for more information about that event.


  • I’d think the real problem is that the state’s tort laws have left everyone vulnerable to ridiculous lawsuits, not that the state failed to exempt itself.

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