ACLU Files Suit over Issaquah Housing Ordinance

News Release: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

Update: On Feb.23, 2006, King County Superior Court Judge Linda Lau ruled that the ordinance is not unconstitutional and does not conflict with state law. The ACLU intends to pursue the legal challenge to Issaquah's ordinance and is considering its options for doing so.

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit on behalf of an Issaquah mother and her son challenging a recently passed Issaquah ordinance that imposes highly restrictive limits on housing for people with past convictions for sex offenses. The measure would force the mother to evict her son from a home she owns and would leave him unable to find other housing in Issaquah. If the mother does not evict her son, she faces possible criminal charges by the City of Issaquah. The suit was filed in King County Superior Court.

“Laws that make it virtually impossible for sex offenders to find housing do not make us safer. Society is not safer if former offenders live on the street,” said ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor.
Kyle Lewis lives in Issaquah in a rental property owned by his mother Mary Lou Lewis. He was convicted in 1995 of a sex offense that occurred when he was a minor. He completed the terms of his sentence, has not committed a further offense in more than a decade, and continues to attend voluntary sessions with a therapist. In June 2005, after living in Seattle for several years, he moved to his childhood home in Issaquah.

In August 2005 the Issaquah City Council adopted an ordinance drastically limiting where sex offenders may live. Almost all the land where an individual could lawfully reside under the measure is either undeveloped or contains commercial and industrial buildings with no dwelling units. None of the few existing housing units where Kyle Lewis could lawfully live are currently available for rental or sale to sex offenders. The only way for him to comply with the law is to move out of his hometown of Issaquah. 

The lawsuit asserts that Issaquah’s ordinance is inconsistent with state statutes governing sex offenders and seeks an injunction barring its enforcement. State law does not restrict where offenders may live after they have completed their sentences. The Issaquah measure wrongfully imposes additional punishment on individuals who already have been punished under state law.

The case is being handled by ACLU cooperating attorney Jeffrey Cohen and ACLU staff attorney Aaron Caplan.

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