Friday, February 10, 2012

Washington Constitutional Research Online!

Delegates to the Washington Constitutional Convention
When you base an argument on the Washington State constitution, one of the factors you need to address is its history. State v. Gunwall, 106 Wn.2d 54, 61, 720 P.2d 708 (1986). But, lacking a time machine to take to you 1889, how do you find out what went on in the constitutional convention?

Take heart: you won't be the first person to explore this segment of the past. An essential tool for researchers is The Journal of the Washington State Constitutional Convention, 1889, edited by Beverly Paulik Rosenow in 1962 (reprinted in 1999) (KFW 401 1889 .A223 at Reference Area). This volume includes an analytical index, prepared by Quentin Shipley Smith, that examines the constitution, section by section, printing each section, then referring to the Journal (which is chronological) and citing contemporary newspaper articles and later secondary sources about the constitution.

Robert F. Utter & Hugh D. Spitzer, The Washington State Constitution: A Reference Guide (2002) (Catalog record) takes you through, section by section, discussing each provision's history and important cases interpreting it. There are also a number of law review articles about the use of state constitutions generally and our constitution in particular. 

Now you can do a lot of state constitutional research online, starting from our web page, Washington State Constitution: History. You'll find the Journal, links to contemporary newspaper articles, links to other states' constitutions that influenced the Washington drafters, law review articles, and more. A separate page lists the constitutional amendments (we've had 106 so far). Because it was so influential in Washington, we even have a page for the Oregon constitution.

If you have suggestions for developing this site, please let us know.

Graphic: Composite photo of the delegates for the Constitutional Convention in Washington State, July 4, 1889. Item Number AR-28001001-ph00278, General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives (accessed Sept. 12, 2011). Original images held at the Washington State Archives, Olympia, WA. Same image,credited to photographer Merle Junk, available as Item Number AR-25501080-ph004713, Susan Parish Photograph Collection, 1889-1990.

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