Washington State in the United States

Note: for Washington, D.C., see the entry about the District of Columbia in this legal Encyclopedia.

Legal Materials

Internet links to Washington government Web sites, bills, statutes, regulations, judicial opinions and other primary legal materials are posted by the Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library at the University of Washington School of Law and FindLaw. Supreme and appellate court cases are published in West’s Pacific Reporter. Primary legal materials are also available from Lexis, Westlaw and LOIS. Google Scholar has free case law back to 1950. For more case law resources, see the State Cases entry.

Bills: You can find bills, bills status and related information on bills from the current session back to 2005-2006 session through the Bill Information section of the Washington Legislature web site. For questions about pending bills, call the Bill Room at 800-562-6000 in state or 360-786-7573 from out of state.

Dockets / Case Information: State-wide case information from all Washington court is available through the Washington court system’s free case information search. For more flexible searching use the fee-based JIS-Link, CourtLink of one of the other commercial services discussed in the Docket Sheets entry on this legal Encyclopedia.

Some trial court have their own case search systems. You can look up most of these case searches through The Guide to Washington Court Records or Legal Dockets Online, or check the website for the relevant county court.

Briefs filed with the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are available from the Washington Courts website. You may be able to retrieve case file documents for trial courts through one of the county-specific online systems. Otherwise, you get case file documents from the relevant court clerk’s office.

Document Retrieval: The Attorneys’ Information Bureau (877-885-0815) does document retrieval from all Washington courts and law libraries. I believe they are the only source for documents from cases pending in the Washington Court of Appeals. (However, for closed Court of Appeals cases with published opinions, you can get copies of briefs from the Washington State library.)

Revised Code of Washington: Washington laws are codified in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). Annotated editions are available – and searchable – on Lexis (WASH;CODE) and Westlaw. Unannotated editions are searchable on LOIS and Fastcase.

Historical editions of the RCW are posted free by the Office of the Code Revisor in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Archive back to 2002. Fastcase has searchable unannotated historical editions of the RCW back to 2008. Annotated editions are available back to 1991 from Lexis (e.g., CODES;WA1991) and Westlaw (e.g., WA-STANN91).

Legislative History: See the separate entry for legislative history below.

Land Records: Washington land records are kept by the relevant county. Recent filings are usually available online (e.g., King County Recorder’s Office, Kitsap County Auditor). In addition, the Washington State Archives has added some land records to their Digital Archives.

More information about properties is available from the relevant county’s online tax assessor database (e.g., King County, Kitsap County).

Questions, Copies, ILL: For questions about Washington legal materials, copies and/or inter-library loan, try calling the Washington State Law Library (360-357-2136), the University of Washington law library (206-543-4086) and/or the Seattle University Law Library (253-591-2970).

The Attorneys’ Information Bureau (877-885-0815) will get copies of materials from Washington libraries.

UCC Filings: You can locate statewide UCC lien filings with the UCC File and Search Online posted by the Washington State Department of Licensing. UCC filings related to land, timber, etc. are available from the relevant county land records (discussed above).

Note: We linked the resources to archive.org in an effort to decrease the number of broken links cited.

Legislative History Legal Materials

Washington State has a considerable amount of legislative history materials. You can get them from three sources: (1) The Washington State Legislature web site; (2) the Washington State Law Library; and (3) the Washington State Archives.

(1) Washington State Legislature web site: The Washington State Legislature’s web site has extensive legislative history materials starting with the 1990-1991 legislative session. Here’s a walk-through of how to get them.

  • Look up your section in the Revised Code of Washington (RWC). Note the Chapter Law citations following the text of the section.
  • Put the RCW section into the Bills by Citation search and adjust the pull down menu on the top, right to the year of the first Chapter Law you care about.
  • Wade through the hit list of bills until you find one where the “Status” is your session law.
  • Click on the bill number to pull up a bill tracking report, which will link to any available Bill Drafts, Session Laws, Reports, Committee Materials and Votes.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page to get Bill Drafts, Session Laws, Amendments, Fiscal Notes, Bill Digests and Reports.

You can search entries from some House Journals and Senate Journals from 1993-current through the Washington Legislature’s Legislative Search page. Under “Document Selection” select “Journal” and then specify the years you wish to search. You can use this option to find mentions of your bill in the Journals.

(2) Washington State Law Library: The Washington State Law Library can get you copies of session laws, bill drafts, house and senate journals for all bills and Final Bill Reports starting with bills introduced in the mid-1970s. If you don’t have the bill number, they can look that up for you. Call the Library for questions at 360-357-2136; email copy requests to library.requests@courts.wa.gov or use the form on their Copy Requests page. Fees are posted on the Copy Requests page.

(3) The Washington State Archives Once you have a bill number, you can call the Washington State Archives (360-586-1492) to order the following materials, or you can send your request by email to Research@sos.wa.gov.

  • House and Senate Committee Bill Files (starting somewhere in the 1970s);
  • Committee Tapes (starting around 1983);
  • Floor Debate Tapes (starting around 1983);
  • Governor’s Bill Files (1951-55, 1965-84 – only for signed legislation);
  • Papers of the Governor (hit-or-miss; generally compiled after the Governor leaves office);
  • Legislative Council Records (1947-1974 – highly selective coverage).

See the Archives’ Legislative History page for more information on what they have and how to get it.

For more on Washington legislative history see “Legislative History in Washington,” Part III, Finding Legislative History in Washington, 7 Univ. Puget Sound L. Rev. 571 (1984).

Note: We linked the resources to archive.org in an effort to decrease the number of broken links cited.

Primary Law

For more U.S. state primary law resources, see:

Topics Covered by the Washington State Legal Encyclopedia

Note: More detailed information about this State is provided in the Washington State jurisdictional legal Encyclopedia, which tie together Washington State statutory and case law.

Topics include:

  • Washington Statutes
  • WA Cases & Case Law
  • Washington Legal Websites
  • WA State Government Info
  • Washington Counties
  • Washington Cities
  • Washington Legislation
  • WA Court Reporters/Depositions
  • Washington Legal Forms
  • Washington Courts
  • Washington Local Court Rules
  • WA State Bar/Legal Associations
  • Washington Law Enforcement
  • Washington Media Sources

Inside the Beltway (in Politics)

Related to political science, the following is a definition of Inside the Beltway in the U.S. practice of politics: The area inside the Capital Beltway that encircles Washington, D.C.

An issue that is described as “inside the Beltway” is said to be only of concern to the people who work in the federal government and is of little interest to the nation at large.

Finding the law: Washington in the U.S. Code

A collection of general and permanent laws relating to washington, passed by the United States Congress, are organized by subject matter arrangements in the United States Code (U.S.C.; this label examines washington topics), to make them easy to use (usually, organized by legal areas into Titles, Chapters and Sections). The platform provides introductory material to the U.S. Code, and cross references to case law. View the U.S. Code’s table of contents here.


See Also

Washington: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Washington. This part provides references, in relation to Washington, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Washington by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Washington and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Washington or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Washington and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Washington. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Washington should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Washington when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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