Washington Law Review Online

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Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court of Washington adopted a relaxed version of the nondelegation doctrine in a case called Barry and Barry v. Department of Motor Vehicles. The Barry rule, which only loosely restricts the delegation of policy-making power from the Legislature to other bodies, is now widely applied in Washington State. However, the Barry Court’s reasons for adjusting the nondelegation doctrine were based on an outdated understanding of the Legislature, especially its regular session schedule. While the Legislature’s regular sessions have changed since 1972—becoming longer and more frequent due to constitutional amendment—the Court has not considered how these changes in legislative operations may have undermined Barry’s lax approach to the delegation of legislative authority. Washington courts should take a fresh look at the Barry rule in the light of today’s legislative realities. A nondelegation doctrine that better aligns with the activities of the modern Legislature would help preserve the separation of powers in Washington State.