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NARA Seattle sale on hold

Yep, The Legal Genealogist survived the server swap yesterday and all is well.

At least as well as it ever is around here.

And there’s more cautiously good news to report, this time on the will-there-be-a-NARA-regional-repository-in-Seattle front.

more good news

Readers will recall that in January 2020 some obscure public agency tucked away in the bowels of the federal government decided that the National Archives building in Seattle, Washington, should go on the chopping block.

Sold off strictly for its property value, the federal Public Buildings Reform Board said, all other values notwithstanding.

The facts that records already moved from Anchorage to Seattle would have to be moved again, that records specific to the Pacific Northwest could end up more than 1000 miles away in California or in the heartland somewhere, that records of the indigenous peoples wouldn’t be anywhere near those peoples — those weren’t important.

Nor was consulting with anybody affected: the decision was made without a single opportunity for a single member of the public impacted by this decision to be heard.1

The pandemic slowed things down until late last year when it was discovered that the sale had been put on a fast track by the agency — and notice wasn’t given to anybody. It was buried in 74 pages of minutes of an agency meeting.

So Washington State sued, with a coalition of tribal leaders and governments and community organizations working together.2

And today Washington Attorney General Robert W. Ferguson and the coalition secured the agreement of U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour that the sale should not go forward now — a formal order entering an injunction is expected Monday.3

Ferguson praised the decision: “Today’s legal victory blocks the federal government’s unlawful plan to sell the Archives and scatter the DNA of our region thousands of miles away. This victory preserves our ability to physically connect to our history by visiting the Archives and accessing the un-digitized records that are deeply personal to so many. The federal government callously ignored deep concerns raised by the decision to ship these records to California and Missouri, including issues related to racial equity, tribal relations, conservation, good government, and the rule of law. The judge just did what these federal agencies should have done – consider the facility’s importance to our region and apply the law.”4

Now… like the news earlier this week about the USCIS fee increase,5 this isn’t a full-on win. But it is an initial determination that the lawsuit has merit and means the sale isn’t going to happen any time soon

Coupled with statements of the Biden Administration pledging consultation with tribal authorities before taking actions impacting the tribes, it’s very promising.

And every bit of good news we can get — cautious or otherwise — is a Good Thing these days.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “More cautiously good news,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 12 Feb 2021).


  1. See Judy G. Russell, “2020 alphabet soup: B is for…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 23 Jan 2020 ( : accessed 12 Feb 2021).
  2. See ibid., “Saving Seattle,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 7 Dec 2020.
  3. See Nick Bowman, “Federal judge to halt closure, sale of Seattle’s National Archives facility,”, posted 12 Feb 2021 ( : accessed 12 Feb 2021).
  4. FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS SALE AND CLOSURE OF SEATTLE’S NATIONAL ARCHIVES FACILITY,” Washington State Office of the Attorney General, News Releases, posted 12 Feb 2021 ( : accessed 12 Feb 2021).
  5. See Judy G. Russell, “Cautious good news,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 8 Feb 2021 ( : accessed 12 Feb 2021).
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