Federal judge temporarily halts sale of National Archives building in Seattle

A white brick building with a blocky entrance and plants around it
The National Archives and Records Administration facility in Seattle is earmarked for closure and to be sold in an effort to cut federal spending. Washington state’s Attorney General filed a motion to seek a preliminary injunction to block the sale. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

A federal judge temporarily stopped the sale of a National Archives building in Seattle, Washington.

In a written order filed Tuesday morning, U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour ordered a halt to the imminent sale of the National Archives building — and removal of an immense archival collection.

In a news release, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “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.”

In January 2020, a five-person panel identified the archives building in Seattle — and 11 other facilities — as excess properties and opportunities for the federal government to cut costs.

The archives building houses a collection that includes historical documents and records for 272 federally recognized tribes in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

A sale of the building could move the archive’s records as far away as Kansas City, Missouri and Riverside, California.

In January 2021, Washington state’s attorney general and 40 tribes, states and community organizations filed a motion to block the sale of the building.

The building also houses documents regarding the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese internment camps of World War II.

It would be the second time that Alaska documents and records have been moved from a National Archives facility.

In 2014, a building in Anchorage was closed, and the materials transferred to Seattle.