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

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Bellingham is the latest local government in Washington state to place a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses.  Some cities say it’s important to put a hold on things while the state works out the details of legalizing the retail sale of pot. Initiative 502, which passed last November, legalized the sale of  marijuana for recreational use.

An independent panel that oversees the state’s foster care system is going away. And it isn’t because of budget cuts. The panel was scheduled to disband this year.

The Braam Foster Care Oversight Panel, which held its final meeting earlier this week, was put in place seven years ago as part of a landmark legal agreement requiring foster care reform in Washington.

Paula Wissel

Spending a semester abroad is often a highlight of college life. But for one University of Washington graduate, it was anything but.

Grace Flott is still dealing with scars from a tragedy she suffered while overseas. Now she’s working to help others learn from her experience.


Seattle is stepping up its police presence for tomorrow’s Rock and Roll Marathon in the wake of the Boston bombings two months ago. Twenty-thousand runners are expected along a course that snakes through downtown, south along Lake Washington and over to Mercer Island and back.

Renee Witt is a Seattle Police Department detective. She says there will be bomb-sniffing dogs and police on bicycles. And the police department requests that spectators take certain precautions.

Hanging drywall is a dirty, hard job. And 250 workers at Summit Drywall, Inc., based in Issaquah, say it was even worse for them because they didn’t get paid the wages they were due.

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing Summit Drywall on behalf of the workers, claiming the company failed to pay minimum wage and time and a half for overtime.

In a decision that could have broad-reaching effects on the future of science and medicine, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that:

-- "A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated."

-- But, synthetically created "strands of nucleotides known as composite DNA (cDNA)" are "patent eligible" because they do not occur naturally.

The opening gavel has once again fallen in the Washington legislature.

"The second extraordinary session of the 63rd legislature will now be in order,” said a deadpan Lt. Governor Brad Owen Wednesday morning in the state Senate.

The second overtime session is necessary because lawmakers have yet to find agreement on a budget for the next two years. Taxes and controversial policy measures are the chief hang ups.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee will call lawmakers back into a second special session beginning at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday. He’s also beginning preparations for a government shutdown on July 1 if there’s no deal by then.

The moves come as the 30th and final day of the first overtime session comes and goes with still no budget deal.

At a news conference, Democrat Inslee blamed the stalemate on the mostly Republican Senate Majority for insisting on several controversial policy measures he says are unrelated to the budget.

Workers near Sea-Tac Airport, who prepare the meals served on many airlines, say their employer is failing to accommodate their religiously-based dietary needs. Gate Gourmet provides meals for employees who are not allowed for security reasons  to bring their own food into the facility or to eat lunch off-site.

Paula Wissel

It’s been twenty years since Tacoma lost its only law school. Now, civic leaders are hoping they can bring back a legal-degree program to the South Sound.  They say it will help train lawyers who stay and work in Tacoma and add energy to the city's intellectual climate.


Everyone waits until the last minute. That apparently was the case with reaction to proposed rules for the legal sale of marijuana in Washington. 

As Monday's deadline for public comment approached, the  Washington Liquor Control Board received so much input on its first draft of rules that it plans to delay the final draft of the regulations. 

Minority leaders were among those expressing concern about how the new marijuana law will be implemented.

Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant who has stepped forward to say he's the source of explosive leaks about government surveillance programs was among "thousands upon thousands" of such analysts hired to manage and sift through "huge amounts of data," NPR's Tom Gjelten

President Obama says he's not Big Brother. The author who created the concept might disagree.

Addressing the controversy over widespread government surveillance of telephone records and Internet traffic Friday, Obama said, "In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance."

GGtimeshares / Flickr

The state’s attorney general says an Olympia couple ripped off thousands of people, including about 1,500 in Washington, in a series of timeshare and travel scams. He’s suing the couple as part of a nationwide crackdown.

Some Democrats in the US Congress are pushing measures to bring marijuana dispensaries in the Northwest under the federal tax code. Since federal law prohibits possession and sale of marijuana, dispensaries can't take advantage of any federal tax deductions.

Working jointly with the FBI, Microsoft says it has disrupted a botnet responsible for stealing more than $500 million from bank accounts worldwide.

zeraien / Flickr

It’s the stuff of bad movies: a masked man snatches a toddler, tucks him under his arm and runs off. And yet the King County Sheriff’s office says that’s exactly what happened Sunday in White Center.

It was one of four attempted kidnappings reported in the area over just a few days. All the kids were returned safely, and the incidents appear to be unconnected. But the rash of seeming abduction attempts have Seattle-area police and parents on edge. But just how much should people worry? 

Alan Cleaver / Flickr

Violent crime has gone up in our region, according to the latest statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the FBI's Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report for 2012, Seattle and Tacoma saw more murders, robberies and aggravated assaults in 2012 than in 2011. Some other Washington cities, including Bellevue, also saw more crime.

Jessica Robinson

Even if you've never visited a jail, you probably have a pretty clear image of what inmate visitation is like: a shatterproof glass barrier, two people sitting on either side, speaking into telephones. But that's changing in some parts of the Northwest.

More and more county jails are switching to privately-operated video conferencing systems that are not unlike Skype for inmates. But these systems have technical difficulties, and come with costs for the inmates’ families.

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of private retail liquor sales in Washington. According to the Liquor Control Board, 1,680 retailers now stock vodka, whiskey, and other spirits.

Dean Hasegawa, manager of the Red Apple supermarkets on Seattle’s Beacon Hill and in the Central Area, says the biggest problem for him and other retailers has been theft. 

"That was an expensive learning curve, I’m going to tell you," said Hasegawa, reflecting on the past year.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

For Walt Stawicki, the past year has been one of grieving and what-ifs. Exactly one year ago, his 40-year-old son Ian Stawicki, killed himself in West Seattle after fatally shooting five people, including four at Café Racer.

Stawicki is pleased the Legislature passed a law making it easier to commit someone involuntarily for psychiatric care. He says he and his wife struggled to find the right care for their son, especially after they took a trip and noticed their son had deteriorated.  

Associated Press

United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny Durkan faced tough questions from senators in Washington D.C. on Wednesday when she testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.

Durkan, who was speaking as chair of the U.S. Justice Department Task Force on Cyber Crime, was asked why more isn't being done to stop thieves who use the Internet to steal everything from credit card numbers to trade secrets.

A new state audit is calling for automatic notifications when someone like a foster parent or childcare worker is suspected of committing a crime any time after they've already passed an initial background check.

The automatic checks are being recommended to improve public safety. State Auditor Troy Kelley says this kind of check-back service is being developed or is already in use in 37 other states.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Prosecutors have charged five May Day protestors with felonies following last week’s confrontation with police in downtown Seattle.

The standoff between anti-capitalist marchers and Seattle police escalated quickly around dusk on May 1, and before long, bottles and rocks were flying toward police, pepper spray and blast balls toward protesters.

Wikimedia Commons

Last week’s tumultuous May Day protests got many of us wondering: What is May 1 all about, anyway?

It’s been a workers’ holiday in Europe for years, but when did it become a big deal in the U.S.?

SUNY Empire State College history professor Jacob Remes says last week’s hubbub—from the union involvement to the spotlight on immigration, to the anarchist presence and police response—all fit right in to May Day’s radical history.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Seattle police said they’re continuing to investigate crimes committed in the course of an unruly May Day demonstration, but that they’re proud of how officers handled themselves.

Capt. Chris Fowler said Seattle police incorporated some important lessons from last year’s May Day protests. They had much longer to plan this year, even treating a small March 15 protest as a “rehearsal.” 

Schulte family

A Seattle man who lost his parents and whose wife and infant son were critically injured by a drunk driver says these tragedies must be stopped. 

"This is preventable and it should be prevented," said Dan Schulte at a news conference Tuesday. "I don't know what that means yet. I don't know if I'm going to dedicate my life to this cause, which I might, but I do know that things need to change."

Justin Steyer

Seattle police insist they’re ready for whatever happens on May Day, that they are better staffed, better organized and better trained than last year.

“We’re as prepared as we can be, given our resources,” said Captain Chris Fowler, the designated commander for police May Day response.

Last year on May Day, there was widespread confusion among officers on duty about how to respond to black-clad vandals smashing windows downtown.

What’s different this time?

Reverberations from last year's May Day melee in downtown Seattle are still being felt among some activists in the Pacific Northwest.

You could say what happened after the window-smashing by black bloc anarchists on May 1, 2012 has spawned a whole new protest movement, the grand jury resistance movement.

Gun control advocates in Washington are launching an initiative campaign after state lawmakers declined to expand background checks on gun sales.

The group Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility announced its plans Monday. Supporters will need to collect nearly 250,000 valid signatures, with state officials recommending the submission of more than 300,000 to account for duplicates and invalid signatures.