Family of Butts v. Constantine (Majority)Annotate this Case
Damarius Butts, Isaiah Obet, Charleena Lyles, and seven other people were shot and killed by law enforcement officers in King County, Washington in 2017. In response to community demands for greater police accountability, King County Executive (Executive) Dow Constantine issued a series of executive orders to reform the procedures for conducting coroner’s inquests. The King County Superior Court struck down those executive orders on various grounds, and nearly all parties appealed some aspect of that ruling. The Washington Supreme Court determined every party’s arguments had some merit and all prevailed to some degree. The Court held that the Executive’s authority to conduct coroner’s inquests included the power to establish the procedures by which those inquests are conducted, as long as those procedures are consistent with applicable state and county law. The Court therefore largely upheld Executive Constantine’s recent reforms. But the Court struck portions of the executive orders that the Families and the Law Enforcement Parties showed conflicted with state law, including those that would prevent inquest juries from fulfilling their duties under the Coroner’s Act. The Families were correct that the law required inquest juries be able to examine the involved officers and to decide whether those officers killed Butts, Obet, and Lyles by criminal means. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s order and remanded to grant in part the Families’ petitions for writs of mandamus.