Judge denies Seattle’s attempt to have CHOP lawsuit tossed

SEATTLE — A U.S District Court judge on Friday denied Seattle’s attempt to have a class-action lawsuit dismissed that alleges the city’s active support of the former Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone (CHOP) caused nearby neighbors and business owners “irreparable” harm.

The city of Seattle had argued that it’s not liable for the “acts of private parties” in and around CHOP and told the court “the complaint fails to state a claim as a matter of law.”

However, the business owners and neighbors named in the lawsuit claim Seattle was complicit and “officially supported the establishment of an autonomous zone” by providing concrete barriers, medical supplies, sanitation, and other services, while pulling back fire and police services.

“Clearly, the City’s conduct, as alleged by the [First Amended Class Action Complaint], may have been the ‘moving force’ behind the alleged constitutional violations,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly, who dismissed one of the lawsuit’s four claims.

The lawsuit claims the city’s “CHOP-related policies and practices” denied people constitutionally protected property rights and access while depriving them of public safety services.

“The businesses, residents who live in this area have been denied the freedom to operate their businesses as they should be able to and to leave peacefully,” said Patty Eakes, one of the attorneys handling the case, during a June interview with KIRO 7. She said then that clients unsuccessfully tried to get help from the city.

The Friday ruling blocked Seattle’s attempt to have the court deny class certification, pending discovery.

“I think the biggest question there is how much, in the end, is this going to cost the city?” said Kevin Schofield, with Seattle City Council Insight. “If it’s just the plaintiffs right now, then it’s probably in the millions. If it turns into a class action lawsuit, it could be in the tens of millions.”

In a statement to KIRO 7, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office said: “We are pleased that the court dismissed a portion of the lawsuit and are assessing our options for proceeding on the remaining claims.”