In State v. E.J.J., the Washington Supreme Court decision that came out today, the justices ruled that citizens cannot be arrested for obstruction for criticizing how the police are handling a situation, even if the citizen criticism includes foul language. Former King County Superior Court Judge, and current Supreme Court Justice Steven González, summarizes the facts of the case as follows:
“In the case, the juvenile E.J.J.’s mother called the police to assist her family in crisis. E.J.J’s younger sister was intoxicated and breaking windows. The police responded and intervened. E.J.J., who was 17 years old at the time, saw one officer raise his nightstick as the police tried to subdue his sister. E.J.J. was concerned for his sister’s welfare and let the police know he was watching. E.J.J. and one officer called each other names. An officer ordered E.J.J. to retreat to his house. At first E.J.J. refused, but ultimately he acceded. Once inside, E.J.J. asserted his right to watch the police from inside his own home. He refused an unlawful order to close his own door. He refused to turn away. For this, he was arrested, charged, and convicted”
Justice González then asked rhetorically, “[i]f this is typical of the cases for which King County wants to build a new youth jail, perhaps the community opposition is understandable.” After the court’s decision, even the Seattle Police have stated that they support the dismissal of the case. So question remains, if the Washington Supreme Court and the Seattle Police believe that EJJ should never have been convicted of a crime, then why did the King County Prosecutor decide to pursue this case all the way to the Supreme Court level?