Friends of Mukai Win Court Appeal
We won our appeal in the state Court of Appeals and now, finally, the situation at the Mukai House and Garden will be dealt with at a full trial.
On December 23rd, the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued its decision, agreeing with Friends of Mukai arguments that Judge Monica Benton was mistaken when, in November of 2012, she issued a "summary" judgment and dismissed our case against the Matthews' Board without a trial. It may seem odd but after all this time we have never had an opportunity to put in front of a trial court judge any evidence about the neglect of the Mukai property under the Matthews board's leadership. Now we will, literally, have our day in court.
As you may recall, over 70 islanders paid dues and joined Island Landmarks in the spring of 2012. They were following the bylaws adopted by the Matthews' Board and they convened a special meeting which occurred on June 4th of that year. At the meeting, the members voted unanimously to remove Matthews and the four other board directors. The Matthews group refused to acknowledge the results of the election so we filed a lawsuit in King County superior court, naming ourselves as plaintiff "Island Landmarks" because of the election results. We argued that the special election was valid and that the Matthews board no longer had control over the non-profit and, instead, the newly elected board was in control.
Judge Benton's summary judgment ruling had the effect of dismissing our lawsuit so an appeal was necessary. The Court of Appeals has now ruled in our favor, saying that Judge Benton misread the bylaw on how to give notice of a special meeting. The three judge panel's decision is 18 pages long, and available for review here. The Court of Appeals accepted our arguments that Judge Benton was incorrect and rejected all the arguments of the Matthews board, characterizing them as "simply misleading" and "not logical" and "wholly unreasonable."
"Now the case goes back to King County Superior Court for trial," said Lynn Greiner, the lead attorney who has been working as a volunteer for the community side of the case. "This is what we've been fighting to achieve: An opportunity to prove our claims and to make the case that the Matthews Board should be replaced by our island based community group." A new judge will be assigned to our case as Judge Benton left the court. We will soon be given a case schedule including a trial date. We promise to update you on developments in this phase of the legal case.
Click here to read the full Court of Appeals decision
An injunction was filed on Thursday, October 24th to stop the sale of the Mukai house and garden. Go to our Legal Status page for more information and to read the injuction
Three historic preservation organizations filed a brief in support of Friends of Mukai. Go to our legal Status page for full details
Seattle Times Seattle Now and Then: The Mukai Farm Matters
The July 13, 2013 Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine feathered the Friends of Mukai “This Place Matters” event in Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s “Seattle Now and Then” series. “The historic Mukai Farm and Garden on Vashon island is now the focus of a dispute between the current ownership group and a citizens' group decrying the property's neglect.”
Pacific NW Magazine Tuesday July 16, 2013
The historic Mukai Farm and Garden on Vashon island is now the focus of a dispute between the current ownership group and a citizens' group decrying the property's neglect.
Why Mukai Matters
Visiting Mukai, you immediately see that it’s a place where stories live, hundreds of them. Japanese immigrants making their way in America overcoming adversity and discrimination to build a new life. A woman’s unique vision of blending two cultures. Generations of Japanese Americans who became part of our culture and yet maintained their own. One of the birthplaces, some say, of the Northwest’s agricultural industry from strawberries to food processing.
Why Change Is Needed
Just look at the place, as best you can since there’s a chain link fence with a no trespassing sign around it. Plastic nailed over the leaking roof. Paint covering windows. Crumbling cement and stone ponds and walkways. The plants that have been allowed to die. It’s a sad case of demolition by neglect. Everyone acknowledges that this was a great idea but the property was acquired for restoration 13 years ago and nothing’s happening.
We want to make the original restoration vision happen. We want to tell the stories that live at the Mukai site. These unique, historic buildings and gardens can’t be lost and they will be if nothing is done. The site needs to be stabilized, restored and preserved. We want to open it up so the community and scholars can gather here to celebrate this place…its stories, the once beautiful gardens that Kuni Mukai created, the thriving farm that once existed here along with a family bungalow home where people lived and gathered with their neighbors.
What We Are Doing NowWe decided to take action now, as best we can given the chain link fence around the property. For example, we had the founder of the Bainbridge memorial of the internment here for a community talk. We’re planning a full schedule of that type of program, including an Obon festival in July to carry on the long tradition of Japanese cultural celebrations at Mukai. Our garden committee has been going full speed on research about the plants that Kuni Mukai grew in her garden and studying options for restoration. A committee has started work on a business plan for future restoration, once we gain access to the site.