Dogged Freedom County backers keep up fight to secede

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

They’ve gone to the state capitol. They’ve gone to court. They’ve even gone to the United Nations.

But so far, backers of a proposed new "Freedom County" have failed to find recognition for their breakaway government, except among themselves.

In recent years, local, state and federal courts have all addressed legal claims raised by Freedom County supporters. Each has been dismissed, in part because judges have ruled that Freedom County does not exist.

The state Supreme Court has twice fielded lawsuits brought by Thom Satterlee and David Guadalupe, two men who claim to be elected commissioners for Freedom County. The most-recent case was tossed out of court Jan. 28 in a tartly worded ruling from Supreme Court Commissioner Geoff Crooks.

"Once again, David Peter Guadalupe and Thom Satterlee invite this court to step through the looking glass into the strange world of Freedom County. On behalf of the court, I decline," Crooks wrote.

On April 19, 1999, the state Court of Appeals, ruling in another Freedom County case, upheld a Snohomish County Superior Court judge who threw out a 1997 lawsuit by Satterlee and Guadalupe.

"In the instant case, the trial court concluded that 1) Freedom County is not a lawfully established county of the state of Washington; 2) no action may be maintained in the name of Freedom County; and 3) this case presents no cause of action or any claim against Snohomish County for which relief may be granted," the appeals court ruled.

Freedom County backers began circulating petitions to create the breakaway government in 1993. In April 1995, they presented more than 12,000 signatures to state legislators, calling for creation of the new county. Backers of other secessionist counties did the same.

Legislators did not act on the petitions and in February 1998, a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled lawmakers hands could not be forced.

Among other things, the court found that the mere act of gathering signatures on petitions does not create a new county.

Satterlee has said that the court’s rulings are meaningless because people living in Freedom County have withdrawn their consent to be governed by Snohomish County and are now acting where state lawmakers did not.

Satterlee in 1997 accused state and federal officials of trampling on Freedom County backers’ rights by refusing to assist them in creating their secessionist county.

He and others filed complaints with the United Nations, asking for sanctions, including an economic boycott.

The United Nations Center for Human Rights in New York City declined to take any action.

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