Davis, et al. v. Cox, et al.

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

September 2, 2011

Current Status 

On March 9, 2018, Judge Murphy granted our clients’ motion for summary judgment from the bench, dismissing the case. Plaintiffs appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals, and oral argument was held on October 22, 2019 in Lacey, Washington.

Co-Counsel 

Bruce Johnson and Brooke Howlett of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Barbara Harvey, CCR cooperating counsel
Steven Goldberg, CCR cooperating counsel

Client(s) 

Grace Cox
Erin Genia
T.J. Johnson
Jayne Kaszynski
Jackie Krzyzek
Jessica Laing
Ron Lavigne
Harry Levine
Eric Mapes
John Nason
John Regan
Rob Richards
Julia Sokoloff
Joellen Reineck Wilhelm

Case Description 

Davis, et al. v. Cox, et al. is a lawsuit filed against 16 current and former members of the Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors over their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The boycott is part of the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel for violations of international law and the denial of Palestinian human rights. The lawsuit was filed in a Washington State court by five co-op members seeking to block the co-op's boycott and to collect monetary damages against the board members, claiming that they acted beyond the scope of their authority and breached their fiduciary duties. The Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel Davis Wright Tremaine LLP argue that this action is an illegal Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and should be dismissed as it attempts to chill the board’s public statements on an issue of public interest. For more on the right to boycott, see our factsheet. This case is part of CCR’s efforts to support activists and grassroots organizations facing legal attacks for their advocacy on behalf of Palestinian human rights.

In line with a long history of social justice work, the board of the Olympia Food Co-op, a nonprofit corporation formed in 1976, passed by consensus a boycott of Israeli goods in protest against human rights abuses in Palestine. Subsequently, the co-op held annual board elections, and the five candidates endorsed by Olympia BDS won overwhelmingly. Three of the people who brought the case ran for the board opposing the boycott and lost. Instead of seeking a member vote on the boycott, they filed this lawsuit against board members.

Case Timeline

October 22, 2019
Oral argument in Washington State Court of Appeals
October 22, 2019
Oral argument in Washington State Court of Appeals
April 25, 2018
Plaintiffs appeal their loss to Washington State Court of Appeals
April 25, 2018
Plaintiffs appeal their loss to Washington State Court of Appeals
Plaintiff-appellants file their opening brief on August 13, 2018. Former co-op board members file their brief on October 3, 2018. Plaintiff-appellants file their reply on November 2, 2018.
March 9, 2018
Court dismisses case at hearing on summary judgment motions
March 9, 2018
Court dismisses case at hearing on summary judgment motions
Judge Murphy grants the former board members’ motion for summary judgment from the bench, ruling that the plaintiff Co-op members have failed to demonstrate any injury.
December 19, 2017
Former co-op board members file motion for summary judgment
December 19, 2017
Former co-op board members file motion for summary judgment
Former board members argue that the case should be dismissed because the board had the authority to approve the boycott, they cannot be held liable for protected expression, and they are not current board members. The former board members additionally note that plaintiffs essentially abandoned prosecution of the case, and include in their filing a resolution passed by the current co-op board stating that the lawsuit is not in the interest of the co-op and should be dismissed. The plaintiffs oppose the motion for summary judgment on February 12, 2018 after filing their own motion for summary judgment on February 9, 2018, which the former board members oppose on March 1, 2018. Both parties file their reply briefs on March 5, 2018.
February 19, 2016
Hearing on motion to dismiss
February 19, 2016
Hearing on motion to dismiss
Following the hearing, in an oral ruling on February 25, 2016, Judge Murphy denies the co-op board members' motion to dismiss the case.
January 14, 2016
Plaintiffs file second motion to compel discovery
January 14, 2016
Plaintiffs file second motion to compel discovery
At a discovery hearing on January 22, 2016, the judge rules that the defendants must produce all documents that they had sought to withhold under the associational privilege, despite their argument that disclosure of those documents would infringe upon their First Amendment right to freedom of association.
January 8, 2016
Plaintiffs file amended complaint
January 8, 2016
Plaintiffs file amended complaint
September - October 2015
Plaintiffs move to compel discovery
September - October 2015
Plaintiffs move to compel discovery
Plaintiffs file a motion to compel discovery from co-op board members on September 11, 2015, in advance of a decision on the board members' motion to dismiss the case. Board members file their opposition, as well as a motion for a protective order, on September 16, 2015, and plaintiffs file their reply on September 17, 2015. On October 2, the court grants limited discovery, staying depositions until the resolution of the motion to dismiss.
September 3, 2015
Former and current co-op board members file motion to dismiss
September 3, 2015
Former and current co-op board members file motion to dismiss
The motion to dismiss argues that the plaintiffs do not have standing to bring the case and that the defendant board members had the authority to boycott Israeli goods. The plaintiffs file their opposition and supporting declaration on January 29, 2016, and the defendants file their reply on February 5, 2016.
January 20, 2015

Oral argument takes place in Washington Supreme Court

January 20, 2015

Oral argument takes place in Washington Supreme Court

December 2014 - January 2015

Amici briefs are submitted to Washington Supreme Court

December 2014 - January 2015

Amici briefs are submitted to Washington Supreme Court

Six amici briefs are submitted by: Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, the National Lawyers Guild, American Muslims for Palestine, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; the ACLU of Washington; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; the State of Washington; the Washington Employment Lawyers Association; and the Washington State Association for Justice Foundation on December 5, 2014. CCR and co-counsel file their answer to amici briefs on January 8, 2015; petitioners also file their answer to amici briefs that day.

November 21, 2014

Supplemental briefing to Washington Supreme Court

November 21, 2014

Supplemental briefing to Washington Supreme Court

CCR and co-counsel file their supplemental brief on behalf of the co-op board members to the Washington Supreme Court, and plaintiffs also file their supplemental brief.

January 11, 2012

CCR and co-counsel file brief opposing plaintiffs’ cross-motion for discovery as well as supporting declaration

January 11, 2012

CCR and co-counsel file brief opposing plaintiffs’ cross-motion for discovery as well as supporting declaration

December 15, 2011

CCR and co-counsel file reply to plaintiffs' opposition as well as four declarations in support of Anti-SLAPP motion

November 1, 2011

CCR and co-counsel file Anti-SLAPP motion to strike complaint

November 1, 2011

CCR and co-counsel file Anti-SLAPP motion to strike complaint

CCR and co-counsel file a special motion to strike the lawsuit, urging the court to strike down plaintiffs’ effort to silence the co-op’s principled stand on Israel’s human rights violations through a policy of BDS. The special motion to strike requires parties who bring a lawsuit to demonstrate that it is not a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit targeting constitutionally-protected free speech. SLAPPs are civil complaints or counterclaims that target the constitutional rights of free speech and petition in connection with an issue of public concern, as well as lawful conduct in furtherance of such rights. While many cases that qualify as SLAPPs are without legal merit, they can effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending against a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and can divert attention away from the public issue and intimidate and silence others. 

September 2, 2011

Five plaintiffs file case against 16 current and former board members of Olympia Food Co-op

September 2, 2011

Five plaintiffs file case against 16 current and former board members of Olympia Food Co-op

Five plaintiffs – members of the Olympia Food Co-op in Olympia, Washingto – file a lawsuit against 16 current and former members of the Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods. In the complaint, plaintiffs seek to prevent the enforcement of the co-op's boycott policy and to collect damages, claiming the board members acted beyond the scope of their authority and breached their fiduciary duties, despite the fact that adopting the boycott was fully within the board's powers. Moreover, plaintiffs failed to utilize the co-op's member-initiated ballot procedure, which allows any member to put an issue to a full membership vote by collecting signatures from 300 members. Instead of seeking a member vote on the issue, plaintiffs decide to sue the board members in court.