Ferguson-Legislature spat highlights attorney general’s role

SEATTLE (AP) — The duties of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson are laid out in state law. Among them: to defend any state officer or employee in court if they’re sued in their public capacity.

So how is it that the popular Democrat has not only declined to represent the Legislature in a public records lawsuit brought by news organizations, but has actually filed a friend-of-the-court brief contrary to lawmakers’ position in the case?

His actions have lawmakers objecting, saying it’s a conflict of interest. The attorney general insists no such conflict exists and that his office also has a duty to ensure compliance with the Public Records Act.

The unusual situation has arisen in a lawsuit filed by The Associated Press and other news organizations against the Legislature, seeking a ruling that individual lawmakers are covered by the state’s Public Records Act. A hearing in the case and a potential ruling are set for Friday in Thurston County Superior Court.