Pete Holmes (politician)

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Pete Holmes
Pete Holmes at roast of Dominic Holden 04.jpg
Pete Holmes, 2014
Seattle City Attorney
Assumed office
January 1, 2010
Personal details
Born Peter S. Holmes
(1956-03-21) March 21, 1956 (age 60)
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ann
Children Natalie
Residence Seward Park, Seattle, Washington
Alma mater Yale College (B.A. 1978)
University of Virginia School of Law (J.D. 1984)
Occupation Politician
Profession Attorney
Religion Catholic
Website City Attorney Pete Holmes

Pete Holmes is the Seattle City Attorney. He was elected in November 2009, defeating incumbent Tom Carr by a wide margin.[1]

Previous to his election, Holmes served as an original member of the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), a citizen review board which reviews police policy and procedures and maintains civilian oversight of the police department. He served as chair of OPARB between 2003 and 2008, where he advocated for public release of police records and OPARB reports.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Holmes was born in Richmond, Virginia, and grew up in Buckingham County. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Yale College, majoring in American studies with a concentration in energy and environmental sciences. After graduating in 1978, Holmes went to work at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington D.C. In 1984, he earned his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He remained in private bankruptcy practice in Ohio and Seattle for over 25 years.[3]

2009 Campaign[edit]

In March 2009, Holmes announced that he would challenge incumbent City Attorney Tom Carr,[4] largely because of disagreements over the handling public disclosure for OPARB and police records,[5] as well as the proper role of the City Attorney. Carr stated that he represented city government and provided "neutral legal advice," whereas Holmes stated that he would act as an advocate for the people of Seattle.[6]

Holmes promised not to prosecute marijuana possession, in line with a 2003 voter-approved initiative making it the lowest priority for law enforcement. Carr maintained that prosecution of possession "in conjunction with other crimes" was within his authority as City Attorney. Eventually, Holmes received endorsements from both The Seattle Times and The Stranger.[7][8]

Holmes won the election by a 26 point margin, and ran unopposed in 2013.[9]

In office[edit]

In the winter of 2010-2011, opponents of the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel collected signatures to place both an initiative and a referendum opposing the project on the ballot. The proposed initiative, I-101, sought to void the contracts made between the City of Seattle and the State of Washington,[10] while the referendum sought to approve or reject the contracts once they had been finalized by the City Council.[11] In March, Holmes filed a motion with the King County Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgment against the proposed referendum, on the grounds that referenda are typically used to seek citizen review of legislation, not administrative contracts.[12] The court allowed one of the eight sections of the referendum to go to ballot, where construction of the tunnel was eventually approved by voters.[13] Holmes also sued to prevent Initiative 101 from making the same ballot, arguing that a city initiative could not prevent the state from constructing a state highway.[14] The court agreed, and Initiative 101 was struck from the August ballot.[15]

Shortly after taking office, Holmes directed prosecutors to seek 364-day maximum sentences for misdemeanor crimes. By reducing sentences a single day, Holmes sought to avoid automatic deportations[16] and treat citizens the same as non-citizens. A year later, the Washington State Legislature changed the maximum sentence for misdemeanor crimes to 364 days, in part at Holmes' urging. Legal residents convicted of felonies, as well as misdemeanor domestic violence, still face deportation under the law.[17]

Marijuana Policy[edit]

Holmes addressing the crowd from the main stage of the 2012 Seattle Hempfest

In the months after Holmes was elected, arrests for possession of marijuana increased significantly, but none of these cases were prosecuted.[18] He authored an editorial in the Seattle Times calling for legalization, and thereafter sponsored Washington Initiative 502 to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use.[19][20]

As one of its earliest sponsors, Holmes edited drafts of the initiative and secured the support of John McKay, a former United States Attorney.[21] Holmes frequently provided his legal opinion in local press, radio, and television broadcasts, and took part in public debates as an advocate of legalization where he framed the issue as a method of confronting racially disproportionate drug enforcement.[22][23]

On Election Day, Initiative 502 passed by ten points.[24] In an August 2013 Department of Justice memo, the Obama Administration stated its intent to watch state legalization efforts unfold without intervention.[25] Holmes's involvement in I-502 led to what the state's Public Disclosure Commission characterized as inadvertent, minor violations of state law, due to his failure to consistently keep his advocacy completely separate from the marijuana policy aspects of his city work.[26]

Police Reforms[edit]

In 2011, the Seattle Police Department was investigated by the Department of Justice, which found that officers had engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive use of force. The Justice Department alleged that one in every five uses of force by an officer violated the Constitution's protections against illegal search and seizure, and further noted concerns about discriminatory policing. In two separate letters addressed to Holmes, Justice Department attorney Jonathan Smith accused City officials of negotiating in poor faith after several documents related to the investigation were leaked by the City.[27] Shortly after this, Holmes sent the mayor's office a strongly worded letter urging him and the City's negotiating team to cooperate with the Justice Department, and warning that the July 31 negotiating deadline set by the Department was likely the last chance for the City to avoid a federal lawsuit.[28] Following a series of last-minute negotiations, the City and Justice Department arrived at a workable compromise on July 26; a settlement agreement announced the next day included substantial reforms of police practices.[29]

Holmes and the mayor sparred over Merrick Bobb’s eventual appointment[30] as federal monitor and approval of the monitor’s first monitoring plan.[31] At the March 12, 2013 status conference, U.S. District Ct Judge James Robart approved[32] Mr. Bobb’s proposed monitoring plan, effectively ending the public feud between Holmes and the mayor. In the ensuing 2013 campaign, Holmes endorsed[33] the incumbent mayor’s opponent, Ed Murray. Murray won[34] the election, along with Holmes, who ran unopposed. Mayor Murray, the candidate endorsed by Holmes, has pledged to embrace federal reforms and recently appointed[35] Kathleen O'Toole to be Seattle’s Chief of Police.


  1. ^ Perry, Nick (2009-11-03). "Pete Holmes easily defeats incumbent Tom Carr in Seattle city-attorney race". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "About Pete Holmes". Seattle City Attorney's Office. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Holmes, Pete. "Briefly About Me". Washington State Bar Association. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Barnett, Erica C. (2009-03-24). "City Attorney Tom Carr gets a challenger". The Stranger. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Heffter, Emily (2009-06-02). "Carr gets Pflaumer, Judge Carroll endorsements in Seattle city attorney race". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Perry, Nick (2012-10-01). "Seattle city attorney candidates object -- to each other". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Vote Pete Holmes for Seattle city attorney". The Seattle Times. 2009-10-08. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  8. ^ The Stranger Election Control Board (2009-10-13). "2009 Endorsements". The Stranger. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Sanders, Eli, Holden, Dominic (2009-11-10). "Election 2009: Winners and Losers". The Stranger. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Holden, Dominic (2010-12-09). "One Anti-Tunnel Campaign Calls the Kettle Black". The Stranger. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Holden, Dominic (2011-02-28). "Campaign Will Run Referendum on Deep Bore Tunnel". The Stranger. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  12. ^ Thompson, Lynn (2011-03-29). "Seattle city attorney moves to block anti-tunnel referendum". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Thompson, Lynn, and Lindblom, Mike (2011-05-20). "Judge: Anti-tunnel measure going on August ballot". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Thompson, Lynn (2011-04-13). "Seattle City attorney files suit against another tunnel measure". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Thompson, Lynn (2011-07-18). "Judge keeps anti-tunnel Initiative 101 off Seattle ballot". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  16. ^ Editorial Staff (2010-07-16). "Law tweak injects fairness for noncitizens charged with misdemeanor crimes". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  17. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (2012-07-21). "New state law protects legal immigrants' rights". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  18. ^ Holden, Dominic (2010-08-17). "Pot Paradox". The Stranger. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  19. ^ Holmes, Pete (2011-02-16). "Washington state should lead on marijuana legalization". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  20. ^ Johnson, Gene (2011-06-22). "Activists: New Wash. pot push calibrated to voters". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  21. ^ Shapiro, Nina (26 September 2012). "Alison Holcomb: Pot Mama". The Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
  22. ^ Martin, Jonathan (10 October 2012). "Lively debate over I-502, the marijuana measure, draws big crowd at the UW". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  23. ^ Tan, Thanh (27 September 2012). "Rewind: Live chat on legalizing marijuana in Washington". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Martin, Jonathan (6 November 2012). "Voters approve I-502 legalizing marijuana". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  25. ^ Reilly, Ryan. "DOJ Marijuana Memo No Big Deal, Some Federal Prosecutors Insist". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  26. ^ Young, Bob (2013-01-18). "City Attorney Holmes cited for minor violations /". Seattle Times. 
  27. ^ Miletich, Steve (2012-06-26). "Records show deep split between federal, city officials on SPD fixes". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  28. ^ Miletich, Steve, Carter, Mike (2012-07-17). "City attorney rebukes McGinn's DOJ strategy". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  29. ^ Carter, Mike, Miletich, Steve (2012-07-27). "SPD faces new oversight, scrutiny of use of force". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  30. ^ Miletich, Steve. "Bowing to City Council, McGinn agrees to L.A. monitor for SPD". The Seattle Times. 
  31. ^ Miletich, Steve. "Monitor: SPD improves on paper, but rank-and-file not all on board". The Seattle Times. 
  32. ^ Carter, Mike; Miletich, Steve. "Federal judge approves blueprint for Seattle police reforms". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  33. ^ Conklin, Ellis. "UPDATE: Ron Sims, Tim Burgess and Pete Holmes All Jump On the Ed Murray Bandwagon". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  34. ^ "Ed Murray defeats Mike McGinn; wins Seattle mayoral race". Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  35. ^ Miletich, Steve. "Kathleen O'Toole confirmed as Seattle police chief". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Carr
Seattle City Attorney
2010 –
Succeeded by