Legacy & Philosophy

Van Siclen Stocks & Firkins (VSSF) has handled numerous high-profile cases. We’ve pioneered changes in the law, influenced media coverage, shedding light on key issues and achieved significant settlements and verdicts for our clients. We don’t shy away from the tough cases and in some instances have even helped to create new law that will protect both our clients and their communities.

The cases below signify the type of aggressive, determined and driven representation you can expect from the attorneys at Van Siclen Stocks Firkins.

 

THE WENATCHEE SEX-RING CASES

VSSF fights on behalf of clients – ruling helps shape legislation for DSHS

In 1994, Bob Van Siclen and John Stocks were the first private attorneys from west of the mountains (King County) willing to look into the now highly publicized, notorious cases. With the media already fervently covering this once labeled, but now discredited alleged “sex ring,” VSSF pounced on the cases aggressively and swiftly, holding public officials accountable and forcing prosecutors to show their hand, which at best, held only flimsy and false evidence.

Headlines in the local paper hysterically proclaimed that children were being molested in a local church – a child sex ring. At the outset, there were very few who had the courage to question the fantastic allegations. Only a few were willing to stand up for the innocent and challenge authorities; but those few brave citizens were arrested next and accused. 43 adults were swept up in the frenzy — arrested, charged and prosecuted, resulting in convictions due to either incompetent defense work or the fact that many were illiterate and/or poor.

When VSSF was contacted, we were asked to consider the case of a Sunday school teacher because local criminal defense attorneys were afraid and were not doing justice by their clients. When we took on her case, it was clear that she was arrested and charged with crimes largely because she was vocal against the investigations.

VSSF’s first case involved defending the church’s Sunday School teacher. Our investigation revealed the true depth of police misconduct. Children were coerced into making allegations against friends and family, CPS had moved two of the accusers in with the detective investigating the allegations. The misconduct was rampant.

Because of our aggressive and tireless research, VSSF’s representation of the Sunday School teacher achieved the first acquittal in the ordeal. It was then that the dominoes tipped. Our firm then went on to represent the local pastor and earned yet another acquittal. Joining forces with the Northwest Innocence Project (The Innocence Project – Home www.innocenceproject.org/), we were able to achieve the release of nearly all of those falsely accused, thus completely discrediting law enforcement’s investigations and turning the tide of public opinion.

The firm went on to file significant lawsuits on behalf of many more of those accused in the witch hunts. Our work resulted in a number of changes in the law passed by the legislature and through case law to protect the rights of groups and individuals.

But, our work didn’t stop there. In the course of these various civil rights cases, we also uncovered documents that had been hidden by the City. The Court of Appeals affirmed on appeal the largest known award of sanctions against a government in the history of Washington state—nearly one million dollars.

Of the 43 people accused, 42 were later deemed innocent after appeals due in large part to the hard work and determination of VSSF.

WENATCHEE: THE MEDIA AFTERMATH

In the aftermath of the barrage of local, state and national media, the cases from Wenatchee became a leading source for documentaries, studies and new discoveries. Scientists, therapists, criminal justice educators, practicing law enforcement and Pulitzer Prize winning reporters followed the cases for years. For three months, the leading Seattle newspaper covered the story and the 1998 trial on its front page, which resulted in the publication of an award winning series called, “THE POWER TO HARM.”

ZINA LINNIK

VSSF currently represents the family of Zina Linnik – a 12 year-old girl abducted from her backyard by a registered sex offender on the Fourth of July. Our investigation revealed countless government errors that led directly to multiple kidnappings and rapes of children in Pierce County, finally culminating in the death of Zina.

Through the course of our intensive investigation, VSSF discovered that the sergeant in charge of issuing an Amber alert fell asleep while on duty, delaying the issuance of the Amber alert. We also revealed that the perpetrator had avoided registering as a sex offender for years simply because the City and County had refused to obey a law passed by the legislature requiring government to proactively track sex offenders.

Additionally, we learned that CPS had previously received a report accurately indicating that the perpetrator was living with a child he had purchased – yes, “purchased” – for $2,000 and was sexually abusing her. CPS and Pierce County acted negligently.

But, the negligence did not end there. Our investigation also revealed that the Department of Corrections had failed to inform INS and the superior court judge supervising the offender of new convictions including a weapons charge. The perpetrator was released into the community and he abducted and murdered children.

VSSF continues to pursue this case through the courts in an effort to protect children from the negligence of CPS, DOC and law enforcement. Our firm obtained a confidential settlement for the family from a private defendant.

We will never give up until there is justice for Zina.

VINSON V. FEDERAL WAY SCHOOL DISTRICT

VSSF was hired to represent a teacher fired by a school district. Most firms presented with this case would have tried to simply work out a deal. We’re not most firms.

VSSF took on the school district, and learned that the district was discharging the teacher because of his sexual orientation.  After a trial in which the school district’s real motivations were revealed, Mr. Vinson won.  The school district appealed but lost at the Superior Court.  The school district appealed yet again.  The Court of Appeals, after a great deal of legal wrangling, ruled in favor of the school district.  But, we didn’t take it sitting down. VSSF filed a petition for review to the Supreme Court on behalf of our client.  In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the teacher and re-wrote the law in teacher discharge cases.

VSSF was not done. We filed a civil rights action on behalf of the teacher claiming wrongful termination and retaliation. The case is still being litigated today for our client.

BELLEVUE JOHN DOES V. BELLEVUE SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Seattle Times began an investigation into the actions of coaches who abuse children. In the process, the newspaper sought the records of nearly every teacher in school districts across the state of Washington. VSSF obtained an injunction preventing the newspaper from fishing through the private records of good, reputable teachers around the state.

The Seattle Times appealed the injunction all the way to the Supreme Court. Once again, VSSF won for our clients in a landmark decision that acknowledged and protected a teachers right of privacy.

PROTECTING THE DISABLED FROM DISCRIMINATION

In the case of Barfield v. Kent School District, a blind school teacher was fired from his job because of his disability. VSSF filed a discrimination lawsuit against the district and seeking injunctive relief to ask a Superior Court to block the district’s effort to terminate the teacher. Using our media contacts, VSSF was able to shine a light on the district’s actions eventually resulting in a confidential but successful settlement for our client.

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