Washington State ConstitutionThe State Constitution is the master plan for the operation of our state government. It sets out the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial). It also defines what rights are guaranteed to the people. For example, the Constitution may be referred to when individual rights are violated, when the validity of a state statute or law is questioned or when the authority of the State to act is in doubt. The State Constitution is the highest law of the State although it must also work in compliance with the federal Constitution.
The Constitutional Convention of 1889 approved the original text of the Constitution. It was amended 102 times, the last time in 2007. The State Constitution and all of its amendments may be found in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), the Revised Code of Washington Annotated (RCWA), and the Annotated Revised Code of Washington (ARCW).
Annotations to the Washington Constitution are notes about materials which interpret the Constitution. The noted materials aid in understanding how sections of the Constitution are applied. Two printed sources for annotations are:
The Washington Digest 2d abstracts court opinions discussing the State Constitution. The Digest indexes opinions by subject and gives a brief summary of the law of the case. The general subject is "Constitutional Law" but cases may also be indexed under other topics, such as "Civil Rights," "Discrimination," and "Searches and Seizures." Check the "Descriptive Word Index" of the Digest for additional topics. (See also our research guide entitled Digests for Case Law.)
A source for historical research on articles and sections of the Constitution is:
The first part of the book, entitled "Minutes of Proceedings," is a daily chronicle of matters discussed by the delegates. The second is a section-by-section analysis showing sources and citations to articles in Territorial newspapers. Also noted are discussions, votes, and other floor actions. Separating the two parts is a roster of delegates with portraits and biographies. A detailed index is available at the end of the book.
Other traditional avenues of legal research to consider are:
Note.—See our "Internet Legal Research Guide" for further information; an interactive edition is available at the Library’s website.
11/90;Rev. 7/00;Rev. 5/03; Rev 1/07; Rev. 6/08
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