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Request filed to expedite FW court lawsuit

The Tacoma News Tribune filed a request May 8 to expedite the case involving Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Michael Morgan and an investigation of the court’s work environment.

Morgan is suing the City of Federal Way to block the public release of “The Stephson report.” On March 19, Superior Court judge Kimberley Prochnau ordered the report’s release, but the case is now indefinitely tied up in the state Court of Appeals.

The News Tribune argues that prompt disclosure is necessary to inform voters of Morgan’s behavior in office before he can seek re-election.

“If this case is not heard directly by this court, then it is likely that the requested documents will be shielded from public view until after the election, and certainly after the (June 5, 2009) filing deadline,” The News Tribune’s request stated. “The News Tribune requests that this Court order the case transferred to the Supreme Court and expedite review to ensure that the public is allowed access to the records pertaining to Morgan’s conduct within a timeframe that will allow the public to evaluate his actions or inactions in the fall 2009 elections.”

Federal Way will join The News Tribune in the request, said Ramsey Ramerman, who represents the city in this case.

In addition, Morgan has formally demanded the city pay $36,715 in attorney fees.

The city first asked Morgan to pay for attorney fees after filing a “cost bill,” Ramerman said. Judge Morgan filed a motion to ask the court to deny Federal Way payment of the attorney fees, although the city had not yet filed a motion asking for attorney fees, Ramerman said.

“The city feels it would be irresponsible not to ask for those fees,” Ramerman said. “It was Judge Morgan who insisted on having the court address this immediately.”

The court that issued Morgan’s injunction to block the report’s release was determined to be wrong, as ruled March 19 by Prochneau. Under state law, Federal Way has the right to ask for attorney fees, Ramerman said.

“Generally, parties pay their own attorney fees in Washington,” Ramerman added.

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