Gronquist v. Dep't of Corrections (Majority and Concurrence)Annotate this Case
At issue before the Washington Supreme Court in this matter was whether trial courts had discretion to impose remedial sanctions under RCW 7.21.030(3) in the absence of ongoing, continuing contempt. Derek Gronquist was convicted of violent sexual offenses in 1988. While confined, he participated in a sex offender treatment program until 1991. That same year, former participants of the program brought a class action against the Department of Corrections (Department) to enjoin the release of their treatment files, which contained extensive medical and personal information. Gronquist was not a named class member. The case resulted in a permanent injunction in 1993 that prohibited the Department from releasing certain documents from any class member’s file. Though not a named party, Gronquist fell within the class of persons protected by the injunction. As Gronquist approached his earned early release date, the Department referred him to the King County prosecutor for possible commitment as a sexually violent predator. Under then-current statutory law, the prosecutor sought all records relating to Gronquist’s treatment. Gronquist filed a civil contempt motion against the Department and the King County prosecutor for releasing his treatment records. He also sought an accounting for all breaches of the injunction, an order transferring him to community custody, destruction of all improperly disclosed confidential information, at least $500 a day per contemnor, disqualification of a potential expert witness, and attorney fees and costs under RCW 7.21.030(3). The Department and the prosecutor may have shared some of Gronquist’s files in direct contravention of a valid injunction. On the Department's motion, but before considering Gronquist's contempt motion, the trial court prospectively invalidated the injunction as to Gronquist. The Department them moved to dismiss the contempt motion as moot. The Washington Supreme Court determined courts had discretion to impose remedial sanctions in the absence of contempt, but in this case, Gronquist failed to establish he suffered any compensable losses. With no ongoing contempt, any claim for sanctions here was moot.