Veterans' Preference Statute is Unconstitutional in Washington State.
From: "Charles Heckman"
(360) 352-8564.
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 7:27 PM
Subject: Court of Appeals hearing on veterans' preference

The Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II, at Tacoma has ordered a hearing for the appeal Heckman v. Departments of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife, Docket No. 28656-4-II, on Monday, May 12, 2003, 9:00 a.m., in the courtroom at 950 Broadway, Suite 300, Tacoma, Washington.

This appeal was filed under the Constitution of the State of Washington, which guarantees its citizens trial by jury, a right denied by the Superior Court for Thurston County.

Main issues are the constitutionality of Washington's Veterans' Preference Statute and the discretion of State agencies to give absolute preference to their own employees and friends of employees over more qualified veterans.  Also at issue is the right of an agency to blacklist a veteran for filing a discrimination complaint as well as the enforcement of the Washington and Federal whistleblower, privacy, and anti-blacklisting laws, which prohibit retaliation against persons for filing complaints and disclosing illegal practices and prohibit the exchange information to prevent persons from obtaining employment.  Selections to fill at least 12 vacancies with the defendant agencies are at issue.

The Washington Court of Appeals, Division I, in Seattle, recently decided that the Washington Veterans' Preference Statute is unconstitutional if applied when a veteran is substantially less qualified than the person the agency wishes to hire.  The unanswered question is whether agencies are permitted to simply declare that a non-veteran is more qualified than a veteran, even though the veteran has more education, experience, tangible achievement, and specific knowledge required for the job.  This appeal seeks to reverse a Superior Court decision denying a veteran a chance to present his case before a jury to show that his qualifications are considerably better than each of the 12 applicants preferred by the agencies.  None of the successful applicants were entitled to preference of any kind, and all of them either worked for the agency already or were acquainted with agency employees through contract work.  The veteran holds master's and doctoral degrees in a field directly related to the job, while not one of the 12 persons selected holds a doctoral degree and only one has earned a master's degree.

Attorney General Christine Gregoire has already spent more than $185,000 to have the courts strike down Washington's Veterans' Preference Statute in four lawsuits filed by veterans.  This law was previously declared Constitutional in 1955, but the courts have recently reversed this decision through the efforts of Ms. Gregoire.  She has virtually unlimited amounts of our Federal and State tax money to pay state lawyers to defend her position, while the veteran is forced to argue without the assistance of an attorney.  If you can make it to Tacoma on May 2, 2003, I would appreciate your attendance at this hearing.  Points will be argued for and against veterans' preference, and limits of its application will be set.

Federal decisions do not affect veterans' preference with agencies of the State of Washington, so it is not relevant that the United States Supreme Court has decided in favor of veterans or that many other states have done the same.  Washington has its own Constitution and laws, and it is at issue whether veterans will continue to enjoy the preference they once thought they had earned.

The case file is a public record.  If you are qualified to serve on a jury, your opinion is important.  If you would decide that the veteran is legally entitled to a favorable decision, then the decision of the Superior Court for Thurston County is illegal.  That court is permitted to grant summary judgement if and only if no reasonable juror could possibly decide in favor of the veteran and if the state agencies have a right to a decision as a matter of law.  That means that if, after hearing the facts and law, you think that a preponderance of evidence would show that the veteran was more qualified for any of the jobs, then the veteran must win this appeal, and his the lawsuit must go to trial before a jury.

Members of veterans' service organizations are especially encouraged to attend or at least follow the outcome of this case.  It is expected that a decision will be announced at the hearing.  For further questions, send a response to this e-mail or contact me at (360) 352-8564.

Charles W. Heckman
E-mail: "Charles Heckman"
(360) 352-8564
Veterans' Voting Bloc
Washington State