Litigation situation mitigation

Sometimes it vows to “see you in court,” sometimes it’s “dragged” there itself. Willingly or otherwise, our city spends a lot of time these days in the realm of the argument and brief, the bench and gavel.

For more than a dozen years (since before all-island incorporation), the city’s attorney has been Rod Kaseguma, a partner at the Bellevue law firm of Inslee, Best, Doezie & Ryder. By all accounts, he and his colleagues are fine attorneys in matters both routine and litigious. Nevertheless, it may be time to reconsider the arrangement, and whether it’s still in the best interest of the Bainbridge Island community.

First, the island’s legal bills have been rising for some time, and nobody sees the end in sight. Because professional services are exempt from state and city competitive-bidding requirements, the

contract itself is not scrutinized on any

regular basis.

And while the Inslee, Best attorneys do not bill the city for travel time, the fact is that they are based in Bellevue, which may limit city officials’ day-to-day access to them. That non-lawyer city employees are drafting ordinances and reviewing the city code for inconsistencies suggests that in at least some situations, the city tries to avoid using its lawyers.

Of the city’s track record in court, there aren’t a lot of conclusions to be drawn. The city has prevailed in some worthy cases in the public interest (the Fletcher Landing road end), but the council at other times has stumbled into litigation more on political whims than legal merit (Papa Murphy’s). And even good cases can be lost if new facts turn up mid-stream or the case winds up before the wrong judge. That’s the law for you. What’s more revealing, perhaps, is the sheer number of recent actions to which the city has been a party.

An examination of city legal services begins in today’s

edition and concludes next week. The mayor and some council members say they too are interested in exploring the issues. Here’s to sound deliberations, and a fair verdict.


***Room for all

It was a good day for a country founded on dissent.

Saturday’s rally in the Winslow town square brought out several hundred islanders in peaceable assembly, petitioning the government for redress of the Bush administration’s hawkish stance on Iraq. While they represented a multiplicity of views and persuasions, it’s fair to say there was one point of consensus: If there is any case for war, it has yet to be made.

Too, we were struck by the comments of several speakers who sought to reclaim the notion of “patriotism” for all Americans, including those opposed to military conflict. Some popular representations of the term hew to loyalty to

government and leaders, particularly in times of national

challenge; demonstrators Saturday pledged allegiance to the moral principles on which the country was founded –- including the right to speak out and the inalienable value of life, here and elsewhere.

Some profess great love of country; others, love of country, and a different, perhaps greater, love still. Those notions can co-exist, and there’s room for all beneath the same flag.

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