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Supreme Court returns publisher's case to appellate court

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    NMU         WASHINGTON         Newsgathering         Sep 10, 2002    

Supreme Court returns publisher’s case to appellate court

  • A Seattle newsletter publisher who was jailed for “harassing” housing project officials won another go at the state Court of Appeals last week.

In a unanimous decision, a panel of five Washington Supreme Court justices ordered the Court of Appeals in Seattle on Sept. 4 to reinstate an appeal by Paul Trummel, publisher of a newsletter that criticized the management of his housing complex.

Trummel’s troubles began after he started publishing a Web site and newsletter alleging abuses and corruption at Council House, the 163-unit elderly housing complex in Seattle where he lived. His case caught the attention of free speech advocates around the country and in Europe.

Last year, a Seattle Superior Court Judge ruled the publications “inflammatory.” Trummel, 69, was later jailed for 111 days after he refused to remove the phone numbers and addresses of Council House administrators from his Web site.

Trummel called the decision a “first step” toward answering some of the questions posed to the appellate court last year.

In June 2001, Trummel’s attorney appealed the Superior Court’s decision, alleging that the trial court’s anti-harassment charge constituted a prior restraint of Trummel’s speech.

The appellate court dismissed the case because the $250 filing fee was not paid on time. Trummel’s attorney argued that his client was indigent and unable to pay the fee, but the court still refused to hear the case.

“We thought the issue was clear and that the appeals court was wrong in dismissing it,” said Trummel’s attorney Robert Siegel. “Obviously the Supreme Court agreed.”

(Trummel v. Mitchell; Media attorney: Robert J. Siegel, Merkle Siegel and Friedrichsen, PC, Seattle, Wa. ) JL

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