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News / Northwest

Court upholds protective order against lobbyist who stalked Washington lawmaker

By Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times
Published: July 10, 2023, 8:29am

The Washington Court of Appeals has upheld a protective order against a prominent lobbyist barred from the state Capitol and required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet after stalking state Rep. Lauren Davis.

In a decision that domestic violence prevention experts say could lead to more widespread use of tracking technology to protect women, the appeals court rejected lobbyist Cody Arledge’s argument that such monitoring is unconstitutional.

The unanimous ruling by the three-judge appeals panel, issued June 26, found “substantial evidence” supporting an earlier King County Superior Court finding that Davis’ fear of Arledge was reasonable.

Davis, D-Shoreline, obtained the protective order against Arledge last year, citing his repeated and obsessive efforts to contact her after she broke off their romantic relationship in mid-2021. In court filings, she said she feared for her life and had fled her home to live for months in a series of safe houses.

The protective order prohibits Arledge from going within 1,000 feet of Davis’ home or her workplace on the state Capitol campus. He was ordered to wear an ankle bracelet with GPS monitoring that alerts authorities and Davis via a phone app if he violates those conditions.

He also had to surrender 17 firearms located in his house.

Arledge denied in court filings that he represented any threat to Davis, saying he “never committed any act that would cause her to believe I intended to injure her.”

Arledge was arrested last July after he twice triggered his monitoring bracelet by driving on a street adjacent to the Capitol. He faces charges of violating the protective order in Thurston County District Court.

Davis said in an interview she’s gratified by the recent appeals court decision because of what it could mean for other people facing threats of harassment or potential violence from ex-partners.

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“I think the significance is really what it means for other survivors and other women in similar situations. That’s where my hope and focus really has been this whole time,” said Davis, who has cited her own experience pushing for laws strengthening protections for domestic violence survivors.

Courts in Washington are allowed to require electronic monitoring as a condition of domestic violence protective orders. A 2020 law called the Tiffany Hill Act, named after a Clark County woman killed by her estranged husband after repeatedly violating a no-contact order, specifically authorizes such monitoring with GPS victim notification. But in practice, the monitoring has rarely been used.

Domestic violence prevention experts and advocates had closely watched the Davis-Arledge case, with several organizations weighing in with an amicus brief urging the court to uphold the constitutionality of the GPS monitoring, noting it could save lives.

“Survivors of intimate partner abuse and stalking deserve to feel safe, and this technology allows survivors a tool to reclaim their safety,” attorneys for the groups, led by the King County Bar Association’s domestic violence unit, wrote in their legal brief.

Yvonne Chin, legal director for the Sexual Violence Law Center, said in an interview that the recent court decision, assuming it stands, could pave the way for more adoption of the life-saving technology.

“I think it’s really important because this case has the opportunity to have a really wide impact to better protect survivors and victims of sexual violence and stalking,” she said.

Arledge could still appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

David Donnan, an attorney who represented him in the appeals case, did not respond to requests for comment.

In a court filing, Donnan argued the electronic monitoring of Arledge “constitutes an unreasonable trespass and invasion of his right to privacy guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions.”

The court of appeals decision, written by Judge Bill Bowman, agreed that while such monitoring “disturbs Arledge’s private affairs,” the intrusion was justified by the facts of the case and that he’d failed to prove his due process rights were violated.

Previously one of the state’s best paid lobbyists, with his firm earning nearly $1.2 million over the past two years, with clients including the city of Seattle and labor unions, Arledge’s business has evaporated in the wake of his ban from the Capitol. Public Disclosure Commission filings showed him with no paid clients for the 2023 legislative session.