This is what a lawsuit looks like....

For a January 2023 update of my story, including the current status of my lawsuits against the State and its co-defendants, go to “Starting Over.” 

Seven years ago, my doctor diagnosed me with PTSD. My symptoms were triggered by recent events, but they were rooted in trauma that occurred thirty years ago. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a supportive family and excellent caregivers. Unfortunately, some people responded to my disability with much less acceptance and support. Particularly my then-employer, the Washington Attorney General’s Office. 

One major factor contributing to the problems with my former employers at the State was that they engaged a Seattle private investigator to look into my separate complaint about sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. His name was Patrick Pearce, of the Seattle law firm Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC. Rather than investigating the evidence I'd submitted about implicit and explicit homophobia, Pearce's investigation turned into a shoddy hatchet job about unrelated workplace conduct. The State used Pearce’s flawed report as a pretext to illegally fire me.

In January 2017, I reached out to Ogden Murphy Wallace in an attempt to clear my name. I asked for a meeting with their Managing Partner. They responded by lawyering up.

I filed a lawsuit against Ogden Murphy Wallace and Patrick Pearce in May 2017. My Complaint accused Defendants of engaging in a pattern of deceptive and discriminatory business practices. 

In the end my lawsuit did not go well. At least, in the end of the beginning. In November 2017, Defendants’ second set of lawyers convinced the busy trial judge to dismiss the case. They relied on an obscure Washington statute that protects citizen whistleblowers who report potential wrongdoing to the appropriate government agency, RCW 4.24.510.

At my last job in Seattle, I was the Washington appellate expert at a law firm that handled all kinds of complex litigation. I would often encounter a version of this situation: a lower court victory that was too good to be true, or at least too good to defend on appeal.

For example, one of my litigation partners would ask me to respond to the other side's appeal from our trial lawyers’ impressively won, judge-certified, un-reversible jury verdict. Easy enough. Then you open the record on appeal, and discover a pretrial skirmish where our side won an early ruling from a busy trial judge who in hindsight probably made the wrong call. Our side's legal victory won the initial battle, but on appeal now risked losing the war.

If I was Ogden Murphy Wallace’s appellate lawyer right now, that’s how I would feel. 

The audience no longer is a single overextended Seattle trial judge with too many cases and zero support staff, frantically skimming briefs at home on weekends. Now it’s multiple experienced appellant judges, with the benefit of long briefs from the parties, and law clerks to read them. And the most appellant-friendly legal standard possible.

I became an LGBT advocate 25 years ago, when society and the law were not as friendly to our community as they are today. 

Nowadays, I tell audiences it’s déjà vu all over again: disabled individuals, particularly people affected by mental illness, face exactly the same kinds of social and legal barriers the LGBT community faced a generation ago. Often we would go into court and encounter what came to be called “the gay exception”: we’d make an iron-clad legal argument that judges invariably applied to everyone else. But we would still lose. 

A couple of decades later, as judges and society began to listen, LGBT advocates achieved some great victories. Hopefully the moral arc for disabled folks also bends toward justice.

This is the first paragraph of my opening appeal brief:

In 1989, the Washington Legislature passed the “Brenda Hill” anti-SLAPP act to protect citizen whistleblowers who report potential misconduct to relevant government agenciesThis appeal presents an issue of first impression under Washington law: when it enacted RCW 4.24.510, did the Legislature intend to grant absolute immunity from civil liability for injuries caused by government vendors in connection with their contractual engagements?

Here’s a link to my entire appeal brief. I’ll let the record and the parties' arguments and legal authorities speak for themselves. The lawyers for Ogden Murphy Wallace filed Respondents’ Brief on August 8. Here's a link to my Reply Brief. The Court of Appeals held oral argument in Seattle on April 16, 2019.

Frankly I have a lot of other things on my plate right now. Nevertheless, I appealed this troubling ruling to protect my family. And to send a message on behalf of other victims – whether they’ve been denied employment opportunities because of their mental health or other disabilities; or they’ve been injured by government contractors in the course of their tax-payer funded engagements; or they’ve been frustrated by finding out how quickly the legal system can close its doors to outsiders, often without anyone realizing it. 

The very first topic I addressed on this blog was the importance of being out of the closet. It doesn't matter whether the temptation is to hide your sexual orientation or your disability. Someone has to speak out. Often, someone has to be first to speak up.

Over 300,000 words of blogging later, you can see I’ve written about a lot of things. But I always return to the subject of not returning to the closet.

On September 3, 2019, the Washington Court of Appeals agreed with my legal arguments, and reversed the trial court's erroneous decision. I'm grateful for this vindication.

Once again, Defendants responded with stall tactics, this time by seeking discretionary review by the Washington Supreme Court. On October 21, 2019, I filed an Answer to Defendants' Petition for Review. Even though I won in the Court of Appeals, I joined Defendants in asking the Court to choose this case because it involves important questions of substantial public interest that should be determined by our Supreme Court.

On January 29, 2020, the Washington Supreme Court accepted review. Here's a link to my Supplemental Brief to the Supreme Court. And here's how my final brief concludes:

“In this case, the collective tragedy of the Attorney General’s Office, Ogden Murphy Wallace, Western Washington University, and Roger Leishman began with a few boneheaded Human Resources mistakes by the State’s top employment attorneys. Implicit and explicit bias made things worse along the way. But the saga became a disaster only when lawyers started lying, and then wouldn’t stop. The legal system is simply not equipped to handle this many lies from members of the bar.”

The Washington Supreme Court held Zoom oral argument on June 9, 2020. The Court issued three confusing opinions in a 4-1-4 vote on January 28, 2021. My motion for reconsideration and defendants' response brief have been pending before the Supreme Court throughout 2021. 

August 19, 2021 update

Today the Washington Supreme Court entered an order reconsidering their January 2021 ruling in my lawsuit against the State's sleazy private investigators. Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud substituted an entirely new opinion. Her original concurrence is now a partial dissent. Justice Gordon McClouds thorough analysis reinstates most of my claims against Defendants Ogden Murphy Wallace and Patrick Pearce. 

The parties will now return to the trial court and start all over – but this time with the benefit of the mountain of incriminating evidence I uncovered while lawyers and judges procrastinated. I am grateful for Justice Gordon McCloud’s willingness to important examine details that other members of the bench and bar were prepared to overlook.   

For a January 2023 update of my story, including the current status of my lawsuits against the State and its co-defendants, go to “Starting Over.” 

Blog posts about my original state court lawsuit against Ogden Murphy Wallace:

Blog posts about earlier proceedings in my lawsuit against Ogden Murphy Wallace and Patrick Pearce:

  • This is what a lawsuit looks like, Episode 3: Party Discovery (6/28/17)
  • This is what a lawsuit looks like, Episode 5: Never Surrender  (10/8/17)

Click here for more stories from the saga of 

"The State of Washington v. Roger"

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