Sale and Closure of Seattle’s National Archives Facility Blocked by Federal Judge

NARA in Seattle.
NARA in Seattle.
NARA in Seattle.

RPAC thanks Barbara Mathews for alerting us to this action.

As reported in the 6 December 2020 RPAC blog by Jan Alpert, RPAC chair, the Public Buildings Reformed Board of the Federal Government announced that the National Archives and Public Records (NARA) Regional Facility in Seattle, Washington would be sold with the records transferred to either Kansas City, Missouri or Riverside, California (https://www.recordsadvocate.org/state-of-washington-plans-to-fight-plans-to-sell-the-seattle-national-archives-branch-building/). On 12 February 2021, Judge John C. Coughenour, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, announced that he would agree to block the sale of the Seattle National Archives facility with a preliminary injunction because the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s “coalition was likely to prevail in its lawsuit asserting that the federal government acted unlawfully when it moved to sell the National Archives facility and scatter the archival records thousands of miles away.”1

On 8 January 2021, Attorney General Ferguson along with regional Native American tribes, the city of Seattle, and many others filed suit to block the sale. The litigation included 600 pages of declarations opposing the sale by 79 individuals.

Also, on 19 January 2021, Attorney General Ferguson held a virtual public meeting to allow affected individuals and organizations to testify. The public meeting was attended by more than 300 people over Zoom and by phone. Testimony was given by many Native Americans, Asian Americans, genealogists, medical and historical researchers, public officials, and local and regional organizations. Each person testifying was allowed two minutes. Jan Alpert, Chair of RPAC, testified and RPAC member Teven Laxer representing IAJGS was also on the call. Only one person who testified was in favor of a different location for the NARA Seattle facility in the area. Attorney General Ferguson recorded the meeting which lasted two and a half hours and stated he intended to have all the comments transcribed and sent to the Public Buildings Reform Board.

The actions of Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, with broad support from local, state, and regional users of the Regional Archives, has made it possible for the facility to remain in Seattle while the litigation continues. If the lawsuit ultimately has a favorable decision and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the NARA Regional Facility will be available for research in Seattle for years to come.

 

1    “FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS SALE AND CLOSURE OF SEATTLE’S NATIONAL ARCHIVES FACILITY,” Washington State Office of the Attorney General, News Releases, posted 12 Feb 2021 (https://www.atg.wa.gov/news/news-releases/ : accessed 12 Feb 2021).

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Former FGS FORUM columnist for Records Preservation and Access Committee, RPAC charter member, and NGS Life Member.

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