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Judge blocks sale of National Archives in Seattle

The National Archives building Seattle.
National Archives
The National Archives building Seattle.

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction Friday to stop the sale of the National Archives at Seattle.

The Seattle Times reports U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour asked Brian C. Kipnis, an assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle, if anybody on the five-person Public Buildings Reform Board was from the Pacific Northwest.

That’s the little-known entity which recommended the archives be shuttered in Seattle. The board was created in 2016 to find what it deems to be excess federal property.

Kipnis said he didn’t know.

Coughenour said the federal government could have avoided a “public relations disaster” if they had “displayed some sensitivity” to how the closure affected the Northwest.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, along with 29 tribes and various groups, filed a lawsuit Jan. 4 seeking to declare the sale illegal. But that lawsuit could take a while to wind its way through the courts, prompting the request for the preliminary injunction.

Having declared the 10-acre site in as surplus, the federal government plans to move archival records from Seattle to facilities in Kansas City, Missouri, and Riverside, California.

The archives hold millions of boxes of documents, and only a tiny fraction of them have been digitally scanned. Set to be moved are the histories of 272 federally recognized tribes in Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Idaho, as well as all federal records generated in the Pacific Northwest, including military, land, court, tax and census documents.

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