Colvin v. Inslee
Colvin v. Inslee (Supreme Court of Washington, July 23, 2020) – Petitioners sued the Washington State Department of Corrections seeking a writ of mandamus to direct Governor Inslee and Secretary Sinclair to immediately release about 13,000 at-risk inmates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Petitioners argued that constitutional and statutory sources impose a duty on the Governor and Secretary to take all “reasonable steps to protect the inmate population from COVID-19”. The Washington Supreme Court found that “no matter how dire the emergency,” there was no duty to release prisoners, because doing so would violate separation of powers principles. The Court explained that a writ of mandamus is often forbidden because it allows a court to command another governmental branch to take a particular action. Additionally, because respondents claim release is the only reasonable step, and no law commands the Governor or Secretary to release inmates, the Court would be exceeding its constitutional authority in requiring specific actions not required by law. Read the full opinion here.