Paula Wissel

Law & Justice Reporter

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KPLU since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KPLU, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.

Paula's most memorable moment at KPLU: “Interviewing NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr about his ability to put current events in historical context. It’s something I aspire to.”

Ways To Connect

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

The union that has been trying to organize T-Mobile workers says a recent action by the federal government will boost its efforts.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered the various labor complaints against the telecom giant to be consolidated into one case.

.v1ctor Casale / Flickr

If you were charged with shoplifting or another minor criminal offense as a teenager, you shouldn’t have to pay for it for the rest of your life.

That’s the reasoning behind a bill being signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. The law will seal the court records for most juvenile offenders.

Schulte Family

It was one year ago that repeat drunk driver Mark Mullan crashed into a family crossing a street in north Seattle, killing Judy and Dennis Schulte and critically injuring  their daughter-in-law, Karina, and newborn grandson, Elias.

The tragedy prompted the Washington Legislature to pass tougher drunk driving laws. 

On the anniversary of the crash on Wednesday, a crowd gathered for a walk and rally in memory of Judy and Dennis Schulte. 


You might assume that after voters passed Initiative 502, making adult possession of marijuana legal, the number of prosecutions for pot would drop. Now, there’s proof to back up that assumption.

The American Civil Liberties Union analyzed court data from around the state, looking specifically at filings for low-level marijuana offenses. The numbers show a huge decrease.

Paula Wissel

Former state Sen. Debbie Regala says when her brother-in-law was strangled in 1980, her family had to ponder what they would want to have happen when the murderer was found.

She says she was angry, but in the end, it didn't change her long-standing opposition to capital punishment.

"Executing them doesn't make me feel any better. It doesn't bring them [the victims] back. It doesn't heal the terrible hurt that you feel," she said during an interview in her Tacoma home.

Three western Washington high schools are among the 15 finalists in the annual Essentially Ellington competition and festival in New York.

Garfield High School, Roosevelt High School and first-timer Mount Si High School will compete against other finalists from around the country at the Lincoln Center in May. 

Ashley Gross

A street in Seattle’s central area has been named Reverend Dr. S. McKinney Avenue, for the local civil rights leader.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an ordinance  Wednesday, February 12, designating 19th Avenue, from East Union to East Madison Street, Reverend Dr. S. McKinney Avenue.

Paula Wissel

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and Columbia Legal Services claims court imposed fees in Washington state have resulted in modern-day debtors’ prisons.

The report documents cases of people being locked up because they couldn't make payments on their fines.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

The 12th Man showed up in full force for the Seattle Seahawks’ victory parade on Wednesday. Seattle police estimated some 700,000 people braved the cold to line the streets and cheer for the Super Bowl champions. 

"I think it just gives us a sense of pride. It's given everyone something to rally around and be excited about. It's just brought joy to so many people here," said Lesli Burns, a fan.

Paula Wissel

Some fans who will be watching the Seahawks victory parade today are remembering another time when the city turned out to celebrate a major sports victory.

It was June of 1979 and the Seattle SuperSonics had just won the NBA championship.

Wikimedia Commons

The Seahawks will be riding the Ducks in Wednesday’s parade through downtown Seattle, but there's no word yet on whether they’ll be issued quacker noisemakers.

City spokesman Kyle Moore says the players, coaches and dignitaries, including Gov. Jay Inslee, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine, will be in about two dozen amphibious Ride the Duck vehicles, which are more often associated with tourist excursions.

Paula Wissel

The day after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, the team store at CenturyLink Field was doing brisk business. Fans crowded into the space, buying everything from towels to shirt to hats sporting the Super Bowl XLVIII logo.

Arby Asatorrians, who'd already waited in line to buy a hat, was holding a souvenir football he planned to purchase. 

“We were already downtown last night, celebrating after the game. I was wanting something to commemorate having a piece of the Super Bowl,” he said.  

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The rain didn’t dampen the spirit of Seahawks fans who turned out in force for a rally and flag signing at the Seattle Center on Wednesday.

After Mayor Ed Murray and former Seahawks players spoke from an open air stage, a 12th man flag that had flown on top of the Seattle Space Needle was taken down and put in a tent. Fans lined up to sign it.

City of Seattle

Seattle is suing Total Outdoor, a national advertising company, over the giant ads the company puts on the sides of buildings in the city. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says the signs are a flagrant violation of a long-standing Seattle ordinance meant to limit billboards in the city.

Chris Campbell / Flickr

Secretly-recorded phone calls are not protected under law even when done in the course of gathering evidence for a lawsuit, law firms were told in a state court ruling.

The Court of Appeals case grew out of the surreptitious recording of a former executive with a technology-engineering firm by lawyers at the Seattle law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine.

Some streets in Tacoma will be in the dark for at least another six weeks, maybe longer. Thieves have been stealing copper wire from street lamps and city workers haven’t been able to keep up with repairs.

The theft of copper wire is nothing new. But this winter, Tacoma has been especially hard hit. Curtis Kingsolver, director of public works for the city of Tacoma, says for the first 10 months of the year, the city had about one copper wire theft-related street light outage a month.

“But, in the last two months of 2013, we had 56 outages, so we just had this huge rash of occurances that it’s been very demanding for us,” he said.

Matilde Campodonico / AP Photo

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating.

In a long-awaited opinion Thursday, Ferguson says the state's legal marijuana law, Initiative 502, leaves local governments the option of adopting moratoriums or bans that prohibit licensed grow operations, processing facilities or retail shops from their jurisdictions.

Paula Wissel

One Seattle man says he’s on a quest to expose why the Seattle Center blocked off use of power outlets in public spaces, and he is arguing his case before the Washington state Appeals Court today.

In September of 2012, Howard Gale noticed Seattle Center staff putting covers and padlocks on all of the electrical outlets, not long after the center had been remodeled and the outlets had been installed. 

Paula Wissel

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has appointed retired assistant police chief Harry Bailey as the new interim chief for the Seattle Police Department.

Murray said Bailey, a 35-year veteran of the force who retired in 2007, will help implement the court-ordered consent decree while the hiring process for a permanent chief moves forward.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle’s new Mayor Ed Murray and city council member Kshama Sawant promised to work to improve the city as they took their oaths of office on Monday.

Hundreds gathered to watch the city’s first gay mayor and first modern-day Socialist council member, who were among several city leaders sworn into office during a public ceremony.

AP Photo

As many as 2,000 people are expected to attend the inauguration of the city's first gay mayor and its first modern-day socialist council member at City Hall today.

Both candidates were officially sworn in during a private ceremony on Jan. 1. Today's ceremonial event is open to the public, and takes place in the City Hall lobby at 3:30 p.m.

Mel Evans / AP Photo

If you’re caught with cocaine, meth or heroin, you can be charged with a felony and face up to five years in prison. But there’s a proposal in Washington, prefiled HB 2116, to make possession of hard drugs a misdemeanor if they are for the defendant's personal use. It would also reduce the penalty for the possession of more than 40 grams of cannabis from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Seattle’s newly-elected Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant isn’t wasting any time. At a news conference Tuesday, Sawant boldly promised “2014 will be the year of the $15-an-hour minimum wage.”

Sawant, who won’t be sworn in until January, has already been meeting with council members and labor leaders. But she says she’s also looking for support from ordinary people on the street.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

There’s no question more and more people are using Skype and FaceTime to connect with family and friends. And businesses are finding the technology to be a convenient way to interview job candidates to connecting with clients.

But what about how we look staring into those tiny computer and phone cameras? It seems everyone I talk to has a story about looking at themselves on Skype or FaceTime and thinking, “I look terrible.”

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Human rights advocates rallied in front of the Mexican consulate in Seattle on Tuesday on behalf of a Renton woman being held in a Mexican prison.

Nestora Salgado, who was the commander of a community police force, was arrested in the Mexican state of Guerrero in August and charged with kidnapping. Her family in the Seattle area say the charges are trumped up in retaliation for her efforts to combat corruption in Mexico.

Courtesy MOHAI

It was 80 years ago on Dec. 5 that Prohibition ended. But in Washington state, restrictions on alcohol were around long after Prohibition was repealed, and some remain in effect even today.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Two workers are suing BNSF, one of the nation's largest rail companies, saying their same-sex spouses have repeatedly been denied health benefits even though gay marriage is legal in Washington state.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle states BNSF refused to add the spouses of locomotive engineer Michael Hall and conductor Amie Garrand to their plans.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

University of Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian has accepted a coaching job at the University of Southern California, USC announced on Monday.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the news "wasn't a surprise."

“I believe I wrote when he was hired five years ago that he would last in this job until USC has a head-coaching vacancy,” said Art. 

Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

A worsening unemployment rate in Washington state is leading to extended unemployment benefits for some.

The state's Employment Security Department said Monday that the state's three-month unemployment rate average has risen back to 7 percent. That means some additional federally-funded emergency unemployment compensation will restart Sunday, extending benefits for nine weeks.

Paula Wissel

The lack of actual cash in our pockets is putting the squeeze on vendors trying to sell the Seattle street newspaper Real Change.

Real Change founding Ddrector Tim Harris says vendors, who are homeless or low income, are hearing customers say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money.”

“We think it’s more than people putting them off; we think people aren’t carrying cash with them," Harris said.

Real Change is turning to technology for a solution.