Law

Stories about law and politics in the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Law and Justice reporter, Paula Wissel.

Brian Cox / City of Tacoma

The City of Tacoma has launched a program to improve the relationship between police and the community. Project Peace will involve a series of meetings to be held over the next several months. The plan is that, with the help of facilitators, people will sit down with police and brainstorm how best to improve trust.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Ferrians

Amid the arts and crafts and concerts of Hempfest in Seattle this weekend, there will be one group of people delivering a somber message. Friends and family of Keaton Farris, the young man who died of dehydration and malnutrition in an Island County jail earlier this year, will hand out water bottles with his picture on the label as a way to raise awareness about the disturbing circumstances of his death.

Paula Wissel

Some of those giant ads on buildings in downtown Seattle may be coming down. The city sued outdoor advertising company, Total Outdoor,  charging it with violating the city’s sign ordinance.

Now, a settlement has been reached.

Seattle’s sign ordinance is a decade old and is meant to help beautify the city by limiting billboards. The city contended Total Outdoor defied the law by marketing space on the sides of buildings to corporate clients, such as Apple and T-Mobile.

About two dozen gun retailers are located in Seattle. Opponents of the proposed tax on sales of firearms and ammunition say it would cause buyers and ultimately shops to go outside the city.
Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle’s City Council will take aim at gun violence Monday with a vote on a pair of gun safety measures. One would tax sales of firearms and ammunition. The other would require owners to report lost or stolen guns.

City Council President Tim Burgess proposed the measures. The former Seattle police detective says firearms put an undue burden on communities.

“Gun violence begets gun violence,” Burgess said, “which is a huge problem in our city and frankly in our entire state. And we’re trying to take common sense, reasonable steps to address that.”   

He argues getting sellers to chip in to break the cycle of violence is one such step.

The revenue from the tax would be dedicated to prevention programs and research, such as was carried out in 2013 by doctors at Seattle’s Harborview Medical center, where last year alone, the city says the cost for treating victims of shootings totaled $17 million.

Her husband was murdered. Now, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, the killer is suing her from prison for causing him emotional distress. The lawsuit of Washington Department of Corrections inmate Larry Shandola against Paula Henry goes to court in Tacoma on Friday.

Paula Wissel

Seattle wants to shut down all of the hookah lounges in the city because of ongoing violence near the clubs. The most recent example was the murder of Donnie Chin, a well-liked community figure in Seattle’s International District. But, club owners say it’s unfair to punish them for what happens outside their establishments.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gun shop owners in Seattle say a proposed tax on sales could force them to move or go out of business. The Seattle City Council is considering placing a $25 tax on every gun sold and a 5-cent tax on every round of ammunition purchased in the city.

The money from the guns and ammo tax would be used to pay for gun violence research and prevention, which would be conducted at Harborview Medical Center. 

City officials estimate the new tax would collect between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. But, at a city council hearing, bun shop customer Ken Stok, said the measure is unlikely to bring in much money at all.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

There won’t be private cannabis clubs in Washington anytime soon. State lawmakers outlawed the establishment of such clubs, places where people could go to legally use marijuana. The ban caught legal pot advocates by surprise.

In the waning days of the Washington legislative session,  an amendment  banning cannabis clubs was added to a bill, House Bill 2136, meant to tweak the laws regarding the state’s fledgling legal marijuana industry.

Among other things, House Bill 2136 simplified taxes on marijuana, moving to a single point of sale tax, and loosened the restrictions on the location of pot businesses.

Jennifer Wing / KPLU

 


 

The King County Prosecutor’s office is sending a message to the operators of Medical Marijuana shops in unincorporated areas: Shut your business down or face serious consequences.

 

Paula Wissel

One year ago, Cannabis City owner James Lathrop stood outside his Seattle store, one of the first to sell legal recreational marijuana in Washington, and declared “free the weed.”

A year later, he says his pot business has had its highs and lows.

John Froschauer / AP Photo

It’s illegal to set off fireworks in Tacoma, Seattle and most other cities in the region. But, every 4th of July, so many people ignore the law there’s little police can do. They say calling 911 about violations just overwhelms the emergency system.

AP Images

To much fanfare last week, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and upheld Obamacare subsidies. But those decisions overshadowed another ruling – one that has Washington state legal aid lawyers cheering.

The case has to do with the Fair Housing Act, which aims to eliminate discrimination in housing. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said plaintiffs don’t have to prove intentional discrimination. Instead, they can use statistics to show that even neutral-sounding policies can have discriminatory effects.

WA State Dept. of Corrections

A federal court said it’s OK for Washington state to require that only women be allowed to guard female prisoners in certain situations. Male correctional officers had sued the state saying denying them access to those jobs was a violation of their civil rights.

This story began back in 2007 when women prisoners at Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor and Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair sued the Washington Department of Corrections alleging a pattern of sexual abuse by male correctional officers. 

AP Images

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has launched a criminal investigation into state auditor Troy Kelley. Kelley is already under a federal indictment for tax evasion and fraudulent practices related to his former real estate business.

Now, the state is looking into his hiring practices in the auditor’s office.  The state is investigating Kelley's hiring and employment of Jason JeRue, a long time business associate.

Simen Svale Skogsrud / Flickr

After sharp criticism from advocates for the homeless, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, Seattle's plan to ban smoking in public parks has been softened to reflect concerns it would unfairly target the homeless and minorities.

Under the new proposal from the Seattle Parks Department, a violator will get a warning for lighting up instead of a $27 fine. Two or more warnings could lead to an arrest. Using e-cigarettes and vape pens would still be allowed.

Auntneecey / Flickr

A new law signed by Governor Jay Inslee eliminates most legal fees for juvenile offenders, removing a burden that’s been particularly hard for low-income families.

Democratic Representative Ruth Kagi, who sponsored the bill in the state House, says there's a long list of court fees that are getting eliminated for people under age 18.  

"Criminal conviction fee, juvenile criminal conviction penalty, criminal filing fee, juvenile crime victim penalty fee," Kagi said. "And there are many, many more."

These add up.

King County Sheriff's Department

Who speaks for the murder victim when there’s no family left to tell their story?  That's a question the Washington state legislature is considering.

A bill in the legislature, Senate Bill 6099, would make it possible for law enforcement officers to be appointed to speak on behalf of deceased victims.

The impetus is a 38 year old murder case and a  Washington Supreme Court ruling that came down in 2010.

CSL Plasma Kent Facebook page

A blood plasma bank in Kent, Washington is being sued by a transgender woman who was barred from donating because of her sexual identity. The lawsuit targets CSL Plasma Inc., a profit making company based in Florida that pays plasma donors as much as $200 a month and often offers gift cards as an added incentive.

When  Jasmine Kaiser, who was born male but now identifies as a woman, went to CSL Plasma in Kent in June of 2014 with the intent of donating plasma, she was turned away. According to the complaint filed in King County Superior Court, she was told she'd be banned for life because she is transgender.

And, Attorney David Ward, with the Seattle based women's rights group Legal Voice, says that's not all.

Frank Franklin II / Associate Press

 

The City of Seattle is preparing to recommend a smoking ban for its parks. If approved by the Superintendent of Parks, smokers must cease lighting up in the city's more than 400 parks and open spaces by the end of June.

Seattle would join a growing list of other cities that don’t allow smoking in parks, including Portland, San Francisco and New York. But not everyone agrees the ban is needed.

 

in a letter to the city, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State argued that the proposal is both redundant and disproportionately affects the poor and homeless. The current law that restricts smoking within 25 feet of another person is sufficient, said Doug Honig, a spokesman for the ACLU.

 

Moreover, he said, the smoking ban would punish the homeless.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Seattle police could have been much more effective in how they handled May Day protesters when violence erupted on Capitol Hill Friday night, said the head of the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee.

It was during a debrief before the Public Safety Committee that chair Bruce Harrell laid into incident commander Captain Chris Fowler.

Harrell went so far as to say it seemed like police provoked the riot. He referred to a video, that’s gone viral, of a cop on a bike ramming a protester from behind and knocking him down.

Paula Wissel

Local Somali immigrants are continuing to pressure the federal government to allow them to once again send money to relatives back home.

Now, the Seattle City Council has gotten behind their cause.

Kyle Stokes

Seattle Police say they’re prepared for whatever happens at protests tomorrow for May Day, the international day to celebrate workers that has become a rallying point locally for all sorts of activists.

In the past few years, there have been some arrests on May Day for property damage, although protest marches have been mostly peaceful. The biggest problem  this year could be traffic.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Local and federal law enforcement officers in Seattle announced Thursday the arrests of more than 90 suspects in a targeted effort to end street-corner drug deals and related violence in the downtown corridor around Third Avenue & Pine Street.

Seattle Police also announced stepped-up enforcement and outreach efforts in the nine-and-a-half blocks flanking Third & Pine. The swath is marked by the highest concentration of criminal activity in the city, including what Mayor Ed Murray called an "open-air drug market" not far from the city's world-class farmer's market.

Pavan Vangipuram / One America

A bill to aimed at protecting voting rights in Washington isn’t dead but it’s barely breathing. And immigrant and civil rights organizations are scrambling to keep it alive.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley is choosing to remain mostly silent about his legal troubles.

Ansel Herz / The Stranger

For the past few years, Seattle has experimented with a different approach to handling low-level drug and prostitution crimes, and new research shows that it’s paying off.

Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program aims to end the revolving door for people who cycle in and out of the justice system. It offers job training, housing and drug treatment to some offenders instead of prosecution. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The father of the teenager who killed four students and himself at Marysville-Pilchuck High School has been arrested. Raymond Lee Fryberg, 42, is charged with illegally purchasing the gun used in the mass shooting.

A Richland, Washington, florist will pay $1,000 in fines to the state. The flower shop had discriminated against a same-sex couple that wanted flowers for their wedding in 2013.

According to a spokeswoman with the Washington Military Department, an ongoing federal probe has not affected Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley’s status as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard.

An attorney who once sued Troy Kelley says the Washington State Auditor has known about a federal probe into his past for nearly two years.

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