KTTH OPINION

Rantz: ‘Egregious’ scandal already plagues Bob Ferguson for Governor campaign

May 7, 2023, 6:30 PM | Updated: May 15, 2023, 1:51 pm

Image: Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson...

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Democrat Attorney General Bob Ferguson starts his campaign for governor in scandal. Due to shady practices, his office and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) owe well over $200,000 in fines for purposefully withholding documents in a lawsuit. The judge overseeing the case called the conduct “egregious.” And given the buck stops with Ferguson, he is directly responsible for the actions in his office.

A developmentally disabled adult, through her guardian, sued the state for negligence. She alleges that DSHS failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse and neglect in the adult home she was placed. Ferguson’s office represents DSHS.

King County Superior Court judge Michael Ryan found Ferguson’s office, during discovery, was over a year late in producing documents to the plaintiff. The documents in question, which could help the plaintiff, were discovered within hours of the initial search in December 2021 but were not provided to Ferguson’s office until June 2022. That’s when DSHS says Ferguson’s office asked for them.

But they weren’t turned over to the plaintiff until December 2022, and now the state admits there are over 100,000 more documents it withheld.

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Bob Ferguson runs scandalous office

A witness testified that this kind of “legal shenanigans with discovery deadlines” are “not uncommon” with Ferguson’s office. The court was not given a reason for the tardiness. Perhaps Bob Ferguson was busy devising his campaign strategy for governor. Or, he realized that a “Bob Ferguson for Governor” campaign ad would be marred by an email he didn’t turn over. It shows a DSHS employee appearing to mock the developmentally disabled plaintiff.

The judge determined there was “no reasonable justification or excuse” in a scathing sanction against Ferguson’s office.

“It is undisputed that these documents were responsive to [the] plaintiff’s discovery requests, yet no one at DSHS or the AGO made any attempt to ensure that its discovery obligations were timely complied with. The Court is at a complete loss to understand how a large State agency, and the largest law firm in the State, could be so cavalier with respect to their discovery obligations and how such a large amount of responsive material could be overlooked and simply ignored for six months,” the judge concluded.

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Judge Ryan says Ferguson’s office lacks “identifiable protocols” to take the “discovery obligations in this case seriously.” He slammed Ferguson’s office, arguing the “lack of processes and procedures by the State’s largest law firm is very concerning to the Court because it evinces a reckless approach to discovery and case management.”

But what’s especially damning, Ferguson employs a team that moved for a summary judgment on all the plaintiff’s claims to “prevent” a deposition that would have addressed discovery concerns.

The judge chastised Ferguson’s team for falsely implying to the plaintiff that there was no evidence to support a claim of a discovery violation. He called the claim “obviously false, and the truth could have been easily ascertained.”

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Ferguson’s office won’t take blame

If Bob Ferguson becomes governor, he’ll certainly come to the office with the same stubborn characteristic as Jay Inslee: not wanting to be blamed for egregious conduct.

Judge Ryan noted that “rather than take responsibility… the AGO [Attorney General’s Office] instead tries to point the finger at [the] plaintiff and her counsel.” He also noted that Ferguson’s office alleged the plaintiff wasn’t forthcoming with her discovery, even though the office didn’t issue any discovery requests to her.

“The Court is not impressed with this argument… the AGO went so far as to accuse [the] plaintiff’s counsel of judge-shopping even though it knows that the only reason this motion is before this Court and not the prior judge assigned to this case is because of timing issues related to the resolution of this motion,” the judge writes. “What these arguments demonstrate to the Court is that the AGO does not understand, or simply refuses to acknowledge, the gravity of its discovery violations or its basic obligations under the discovery rules.”

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Judge finds against Ferguson’s office

The judge strongly rebuked Ferguson’s office for their “egregious” misconduct. This should reflect poorly on the “Bob Ferguson for Governor” campaign. Judge Ryan noted that withholding clearly relevant discovery documents “substantially prejudiced the plaintiff in preparing for trial” because she did not inform depositions, a response to a summary judgment motion, etc., without all the facts.

“A year of litigation has been lost without the plaintiff’s ability to use these documents in shaping future discovery requests and in making strategic decisions as to how it wants to present its case,” the judge wrote.

Judge Ryan called Ferguson’s office out for their violations: they are “egregious, serious, without excuse and the result of willful disregard for discovery obligations by both DSHS and the AGO. Punitive sanctions are warranted.”

Both Ferguson’s office and DSHS were ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and cover all attorney fees and costs for the plaintiff associated with relevant aspects of the trial. Additionally, thanks to Ferguson’s incompetence, the state must pay for a Special Master to review discovery requests. The taxpayer-funded fines and price tag will soon increase, too. Ferguson’s office admits it wrongfully withheld over 100,000 more documents during the discovery process.

Bob Ferguson is to blame

While Bob Ferguson is all in with his campaign for governor, he’s directly to blame and should be held accountable. His office, through a spokesperson, tried to deflect responsibility by claiming Ferguson’s office is too large for better oversight. But if Ferguson can take credit for any positive result of his office, he should take the blame for the negative.

“For context, our office has more than 30 different legal divisions handling criminal and civil matters across the state and in the federal system. At any given time, we are handling approximately 20,000 active cases,” a spokesperson told the Seattle Times.

The Attorney General’s office is too large to handle, but Bob Ferguson wants to become governor of Washington. It’s not so much that the office is too large. Ferguson has been running for governor since he became the Attorney General. He’s leveled strategic lawsuits against political adversaries and in favor of left-wing causes. He did this to use them during his inevitable campaign. But this is one case that should also come up on the campaign trail.

Ferguson, like other far-left Democrats, claim they will move mountains to achieve equity goals and be inclusive of all people. But when it comes to developmentally disabled adults who alleged abuse and neglect? Ferguson is disinterested. This is especially relevant when moderate Democrat State Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) may enter the race. He’s an alternative to Ferguson that Democrats and Republicans can reasonably get behind.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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