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Website of the Week for May 21, 2007

Cheryl Nyberg, editor

Website of the Week Archive

Washington State Legislature, Advanced Search

For years, law librarians and other legal researchers have wished that the Washington Legislature's House and Senate Journals were online. The Journals often include priceless nuggets of legislative intent wrapped up in a "point of inquiry," which consists of a question-and-answer exchange between one member and the sponsor or supporter of a bill.

Now, with no fanfare, the Legislature's Advanced Search feature provides the complete House and Senate Journals going back to 1993! We finally have an efficient way to search for points of inquiry and references to floor debates when researching Washington legislative history and intent.

The Journals are NOT on LexisNexis, Westlaw, or any other free or commercial online service (at least not yet).

The online availability of this content is the good news. The bad news is that the Journals are buried under an incredibly unuseful heading: "Other Textbases."

But once you crack that nut, you can select multiple databases to search, for instance, both the House and Senate Journals for a particular year. You can search by bill number or by keyword.

Maybe you've never seen a "point of inquiry." Here is an example:

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POINT OF INQUIRY

Senator McCaslin: “Senator Zarelli, what is the ‘merger doctrine’ and has the Washington State Supreme Court ever considered adoption of the merger doctrine in relation to second degree felony murder?”  

Senator Zarelli: “The merger doctrine is a rule of statutory construction for determining if the Legislature intended to impose only one punishment for multiple crimes.  The doctrine only applies when there is clear Legislature intent to do so. There was no such legislative intent in this case and there is none now.

“In 1978, Justice Horowitz stated that the adoption of the merger doctrine by the court in the case of second degree felony murder would be, and I am quoting the court here: ‘An unwarranted and insupportable invasion of the legislative function in defining crimes.’  This is exactly what the present Supreme Court decision has now done.”

Senator McCaslin: “Is this amendment to the second degree murder statute meant to be retroactive?”

Senator Zarelli: “Yes, absolutely.  The Washington Supreme Court has indicated in the past that in order for a statute to be applied retroactively, the amendment must be remedial, curative in nature, and the Legislature must clearly indicate its intention to apply the statute retroactively.  Today’s amendment is clearly intended only to cure the court’s misinterpretation of legislative intent and reemphasize that assault is and always has been a predicate offense for second degree felony murder.

“Today, we are also urging the court to retroactively apply the Legislature’s original and continuing intent to include assault as a predicate offense for second degree felony murder.”

Senator McCaslin: “Thank you, Senator Zarelli.”

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Senate Journal, January 29, 2003.

See the Gallagher guide on Washington State Legislative History for more information on conducting this type of research.

 

2008, M.G. Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington