As reported by PubliCola (Court Approves City Attorney’s Motion to Clear Outstanding Prostitution Warrants), last week Seattle City Attorney’s Office (SCAO) filed a motion last week to close/dismiss/vacate a number of outstanding prostitution cases and squashing bench warrants, which was approved by the Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) presiding judge Willie Gregory this week.
The PubliCola article has different numbers, but the earliest case dates back to 1993 and the total number of warrants quashed is 38 (not 37), involving 35 individuals according to SCAO.
Also according to SCAO, this closes/dismisses/vacates all outstanding prostitution cases in the SMC.
As for the impetus for this move, SCAO credits the work of the Community Task Force on Criminal/Legal System Realignment, a group of formerly or currently system-involved folks and our families (including Coalition for Rights & Safety director Emi), which has just turned in a report to the City Council this past Friday (September 17th) and will present it to the Public Safety Committee next Friday (September 24th) at 9:30-11:30am.
On another big news, we have also been informed that Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has ordered his staff to stop seeking SOAP or SODA orders, which if issued by a judge excludes individuals from specific areas considered high traffic for prostitution or drug trade. We’ve been advocating for SOAP and SODA orders to be abolished because it leads to racial and gender profiling and other hardships with discriminatory impact. After the City abolished prostitution loitering and drug traffic loitering ordinances in response to the BLM uprising last summer, there was no excuse to keep SOAP and SODA orders intact since they result in the same exact consequences as the loitering ordinances.
The impact of SCAO’s decision not to seek SOAP and SODA orders is limited. First, this does not stop King County Prosecutor’s Office or any other prosecutors in cities across the County from seeking them. It also does not stop judges, including SMC judges, form issuing them anyway. Finally, it will not invalidate existing SOAP and SODA orders, or prevent the Seattle Police Department and other law enforcement agencies from using the pretext of enforcing SOAP and SODA orders to profile and harass communities. The Community Task Force mentioned above is asking the SMC to stop issuing SOAP and SODA orders, and SPD to stop enforcing them altogether.