David Koenig, a regular plaintiff in Public Records Act cases, sought certain records from Thurston County. The records were a Victim Impact Statement and a Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA) evaluation. The documents are used in evaluation and sentencing of sex offenders.
The trial court ordered the documents sealed. But Koenig’s request had been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office, and not to the court. The Prosecutor’s Office denied disclosure under RCW 42.56.240(1), which exempts from public inspection and copying,
“specific investigative records compiled by investigative, law enforcement, and penology agencies….the non-disclosure of which is essential to effective law enforcement or for the protection of any person’s right to privacy.”
The Washington Court of Appeals ruled, on April 6, 2010, in a divided opinion that Victim Impact Statements are exempt under the PRA. But, the court held that SSOSA evaluations must be disclosed after redaction of any identifying information regarding the victim and certain other third parties. Notwithstanding the difficulty in determining the exemption from disclosure of these particular public records, the court determined that it had no discretion regarding the award of penalties to Koenig under RCW 42.56.550(4). The matter was remanded to the trial court to set the amount of penalties that Koenig may receive.
To view the court’s decision, click HERE.