MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The state Supreme Court justice asked the attorney pointedly why he didn’t want Port Angeles voters to have a say about fluoridation of their water.
“Why don’t we let the people decide first?” Justice James Johnson asked the city’s legal counsel Steve DiJulio.
The nine justices were convened on three real-life cases in McIntyre Hall on the Skagit Valley College campus Tuesday.
More than 100 students and area residents came to see the court in action in one of its regular sessions outside of Olympia intended to bring the court closer to the people.
Some were surprised at the justices’ interaction with the lawyers, which is much more conversational than in lower courts.
The case, City of Port Angeles v. Our Water-Our Choice, had made its way up from the local courts in Clallam County all the way to the state’s highest court.
Anacortes High School student Lucas Papadakis, 16, was fascinated at the tough questioning the lawyers faced from the justices.
“They just sort of get grilled,” Papadakis said.
Justice Johnson pressed DiJulio further.
“The city of Port Angeles shouldn’t have to hire attorneys to get an initiative on the ballot,” Johnson said. “Why shouldn’t this go on the ballot first?”
DiJulio answered that the city council was acting within its bounds administratively, carrying out a state-regulated plan from the Department of Health.
Representing the anti-fluoride group, attorney Gerald Steel argued that the citizens of Port Angeles should have the right to bring an initiative on the ballot against the fluoridation of their water.
“I believe that the city adopted fluoridation against the will of the majority of the people living in the city,” Steel said.
The Port Angeles City Council approved fluoridation, which commenced in 2006.
“This is not just about fluoride,” Steel said. “This is about putting drugs in a public water system.”
The court’s decision, to be issued at a later date, will determine if voter initiatives can overturn certain actions by a city council.
The justices heard two other cases Tuesday during their session at McIntyre Hall…