Lawmaker wants to prevent criminals from suing their victims

Staff writerJanuary 16, 2014 

A Tacoma lawmaker says convicted criminals should have to get permission from a judge before suing a victim of their crimes.

House Bill 2102 sponsored by Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma, would require offenders convicted of a serious violent offense to obtain a court order before commencing civil action against their victims or their victims’ family members.

Sawyer said the legislation is in response to the 1995 killing of Robert Henry, who was shot and killed by Larry Shandola in a Tacoma parking lot. Shandola was not convicted of the crime until 2001.

Last year, the victim’s wife, Paula Henry, was served with a civil lawsuit by Shandola, who is imprisoned for the crime. Shandola contends that Henry inflicted emotional distress when she told Department of Corrections officials that Shandola should not be able to move to a prison in his native Canada.

Henry had already moved out of the state when she was served with the lawsuit. She testified at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday that she had just started to move on from the loss of her husband when she got a knock on the door telling her she’d been served.

She said the lawsuit — which she described as “being sued by the person who blew my husband’s head off” — was the culmination of years of harassment from Shandola.

“It’s ruined my life, ruined a great career,” she told committee members. “Please don’t let people live in the fear I do.”

Sawyer said the state needs to do everything in its power to protect victims like Henry.

“Our responsibility is to make sure this doesn’t happen again to someone that is reeling from her own traumatic past,” Sawyer said.

Henry’s attorney, John Ladenburg, said Thursday that while Shandola’s lawsuit is frivolous, it has cost his client more than $15,000. But the monetary cost is far outweighed by the emotional distress inflicted on the victim of such a violent crime.

A court dismissed the lawsuit against Henry in April 2013. Shandola is appealing the decision.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee have yet to vote on whether to advance Sawyer’s proposal. Rep. Laurie Jinkins, a Tacoma Democrat who chairs the committee, said a few technical clarifications need to be made before the bill can move on.

Annaliese Davis: 360-943-7240

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