Over 20 years ago, the Washington State Supreme Court held in Nast v. Michels, 107 Wn.2d 300 (1986 ) that the State's Public Records Act (PRA) does not apply to court case files because the judiciary is not included in the PRA’s definition of a State “agency.” On October 15, 2009 , the Supreme Court reaffirmed its Nast holding in City of Federal Way v. Koenig, 2009 WL 3298055.
The Koenig case began in February 2008. David Koenig, a regular claimant against Washington local governments, requested from the Federal Way Municipal Court all public records related to the resignation of Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Colleen Hartl . His request included correspondence to and from Presiding Judge Michael Morgan. The City of Federal Way provided 183 pages of documents . But, citing Nast, the City refused to provide the requested correspondence on the basis that the municipal court was not subject to the PRA. Koenig argued that Nast was wrongly decided and persisted in pursuing his requests.
The City filed a lawsuit and requested a declaratory ruling that the municipal court was not subject to the PRA. In September 2008 the trial court entered an order finding for the City. Koenig appealed that decision directly to the Washington State Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court affirmed the Nast holding. The Court emphasized that over the years the legislature had amended the PRA many times, without changing the definition of agency. Without a legislative change, the doctrine of stare decisis (to adhere to precedent) was applied by the Court to not disturb the Nast court's holding that the PRA does not apply to the judiciary. As a result, the Court held that the court records requested by Koenig were not subject to disclosure by the City of Federal Way under the PRA.