Skunks in the Dead of Night

 Dear Mr. Cutler,

I have immense respect for your law firm, Perkins Coie, and your willingness to stand up for the legal rights of Selah's Black Lives Matter protesters, the Selah Alliance For Equality, and folks who want a change of leadership in Selah.

But I think you are too patient with Selah leaders. As the old aphorism notes, "Once is chance, twice is coincidence, but three times is a pattern."  Selah leaders clearly exhibit a pattern of changing tactics without changing course.

The latest headline in the Herald Republic does seem encouraging at first blush. The sub-head reads, "Selah city employees have been ordered not to remove signs put up by a group calling for racial equality and the firing of City Administrator Don Wayman, attorneys for both sides said."

But let's not kid ourselves. We both know what happens next. (It has already been documented on several occasions.) Private individuals who agree with suppressing the protesters' voices will take over removal of the signs.  (Sure, there's a state law against it, but enforcement is effectively left to the city.)

Sign thieves may be forced to act in the dead of night, but skunks are naturally nocturnal creatures.  

Signs will keep disappearing and city officials will disavow involvement (already happened). Tracking devices (if they exist on the signs) will simply lead police (if they are allowed to follow up) to a nearby dumpster.  

The fox-and-skunk game will continue until something more persuasive than negotiations changes the city's belief they can outlast this moment of reckoning. 

We are well past the "three times" point where we call this a pattern. Each time you cut them off at the pass on one tactic, they move on to another.  

If you genuinely believe Selah is violating the constitutional and statutory rights of these residents (and I wholeheartedly agree with you that they have done that and are continuing to do so), then negotiations are not the answer. The full power of the federal court system imposing the rule of law is the effective course at this point. 

You are probably doing this pro bono publico - "for the public good."  And negotiations require far fewer resources from Perkins Coie than preparing for Section 1983 litigation (as you know, a specialty where your firm boasts an exceptional pro bono track record) or a similarly complex case. So I get why you tried to negotiate first. 

But patience is a virtue only until it becomes folly. We will eventually and inevitably end up at the courthouse steps, based on the pattern we have seen. Selah's leadership behavior will not change until they are forced to change.  

Meanwhile, it seems to me (and I suspect to you, based on your words and actions) that real constitutional rights are being trampled. Restoring them via negotiations is only part of the equation.  A price tag also needs to be attached to the misbehavior already documented.

Please, go to court and seek accountability and restitution for any and all rights that have been violated.

Thank you and your firm for taking on this cause.