Washington: Supreme Court citation practice | Citation rule(s)


Examples from Dot Foods, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue, 166 Wash. 2d 912, 215 P.3d 185 (2009)

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v. Dep't of Licensing, 95 Wn. App. 653, 657, 976 P.2d 185 (1999).

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¶1 C. Johnson, J. - This case involves a challenge to the Department of Revenue's (Department) interpretation of RCW 82.04.423, which provides a tax exemption for certain out-of-state sellers. Until 2000, the Department treated Dot Foods, Inc. Click for Enhanced Coverage Linking Searches, an out-of-state seller, as exempt from Washington's business and occupation (B&O) tax. At all relevant times, Dot sold consumer and nonconsumer products through its direct seller's representative, Dot Transportation, Inc. (DTI), and some of the consumer products ultimately ended up in permanent retail establishments. In 1999, in amending WAC 458-20-246, the Department revised its interpretation of the qualifications needed for the exemption. This revision changed the Department's prior interpretation, and under the new interpretation, Dot no longer qualified for the exemption for any of its sales. Dot filed suit challenging this interpretation, and the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the Department, which the Court of Appeals affirmed. We reverse.

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¶3 For many years, Dot received a B&O tax exemption for 100 percent of its sales pursuant to RCW 82.04.423, which exempts from the tax “gross income derived from the business of making sales at wholesale or retail” if the seller meets several criteria listed in the statute. RCW 82.04.423(1). Among these criteria, the out-of-state seller must “[m]ake[?] sales in this state exclusively to or through a direct seller's representative.” RCW 82.04.423(1)(d). Under the statute, a “direct seller's representative” is one who buys, sells, or solicits the sale of consumer products in places other than a permanent retail establishment. RCW 82.04.423(2). Between 1997 and 2000, Dot received B&O tax-exempt status even though it sold both consumer and nonconsumer products. Also, Dot received this tax exemption during this time even though some of the products purchased from Dot were later sold to permanent retail establishments without Dot's or DTI's involvement.

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¶14 The Department argues that its statutory interpretation is entitled to judicial deference. While we give great deference to how an agency interprets an ambiguous statute within its area of special expertise, “such deference is not afforded when the statute in question is unambiguous.” Densley v. Dep't of Ret. Sys., 162 Wn.2d 210, 221, 173 P.3d 885 (2007). The Department's argument for deference is a difficult one to accept, considering the Department's history interpreting the exemption. Initially, and shortly after the statutory enactment, the Department adopted an interpretation which is at odds with its current interpretation. One would think that the Department had some involvement or certainly awareness of the legislature's plans to enact this type of statute. As a general rule, where a statute has been left unchanged by the legislature for a significant period of time, the more appropriate method to change the interpretation or application of a statute is by amendment or revision of the statute, rather than a new agency interpretation.

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Wash. R. App. P. 10.3, http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.display&group=app&set=RAP&ruleid=apprap10.03.

Rule 10.3. Content of Brief

(a)  Brief of Appellant or Petitioner.  The brief of the appellant or petitioner should contain under appropriate headings and in the order here indicated:

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(2)  Tables.  A table of contents, with page references, and a table of cases (alphabetically arranged), statutes and other authorities cited, with references to the pages of the brief where cited.

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(6)  Argument.  The argument in support of the issues presented for review, together with citations to legal authority and references to relevant parts of the record.  The argument may be preceded by a summary.

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Wash. Gen. R. 14, http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.display&set=GR&ruleid=gagr14.

Rule 14. Format for Pleadings and Other Papers

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(d) Citation Format. Citations shall conform with the format prescribed by the Reporter of Decisions. (See Appendix 1.)

The opening brief of appellant shall contain:

(a) A table of contents and table of authorities with cases alphabetically arranged. Citations of all authorities shall include the year thereof.


Note: While a prior rule more explicitly requiring that citations in a brief conform to the form used in the current volumes of the Washington Reports has been rescinded, the style sheet of the state's Office of Reporter of Decisions, referred to above, continues to be a useful guide. The Bluebook is largely incorporated by reference, modified by a set of local abbreviations in the Appendix 1 to Rule 14(d), http://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/supreme/?fa=atc_supreme.style.

A 2004 order of the Washington Supreme Court directs the publisher of Washington appellate decisions to add paragraph numbers to them. Order No. 25700-B-447, http://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/supreme/?fa=atc_supreme.paraOrder. The order authorizes but does not require the use of those paragraph numbers for pinpoint citations. "After an opinion is published in the official reports, a pinpoint citation should be made to page numbers in the official reports, to paragraph numbers from the official reports, or to both." Id.