Law

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

The Supreme Court suggested Tuesday it could find a way out of the case over California's ban on same-sex marriage without issuing a major national ruling on whether America's gays have a right to marry.

Several justices, including some liberals who seemed open to gay marriage, raised doubts during a riveting 80-minute argument that the case should even be before them. And Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss it with no ruling at all.

Richard Drew / Associated Press

The tiny dynamo asking the U.S. Supreme Court to turn the world upside down looks nothing like a fearless pioneer. At age 83, Edith Windsor dresses in classic, tailored clothes, usually with a long string of pearls, and she sports a well-coiffed, shoulder-length flip. She looks, for all the world, like a proper New York City lady.

Proper she may be, and a lady, but Windsor, who likes to be called Edie, is making history, challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The law bans federal recognition and benefits for legally married same-sex couples.

University of Washington

If cyber crime is a growth industry, so is fighting cyber crime.

The University of Washington Tacoma is the latest school to join the ranks of colleges and universities offering degrees in fighting cyber crooks.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Predicting marijuana usage rates in Washington might come down to a test Cheech and Chong would appreciate: the size of the joint. That’s according to one of the state’s new pot legalization consultants.  

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Green thumb? Check. Extensive knowledge of the black market? Check.

Throw in impeccable academic credentials and decades of experience with government agencies, and you have Washington's marijuana consultant — a team advising officials on all things pot as they develop rules for the state's new industry in legal, heavily taxed marijuana. 

Associated Press

 Washington state has tentatively chosen a Massachusetts-based firm led by a University of California, Los Angeles, professor to be its official marijuana consultant.

Botec Analysis Corp. is based in Cambridge, Mass., and has evaluated government programs and provided consulting relating to drug abuse, crime and public health. Losing bidders for the contract can protest the award, but if it stands, Botec will advise Washington state officials as they develop rules for the state's new industry in legal, taxed marijuana.

Eric Gay / Associated Press

Immigrant advocacy groups have filed nearly a dozen complaints and lawsuits against U.S. Customs and Border Protection across the country, claiming federal agents and officers mistreated and discriminated against illegal immigrants and U.S. citizens alike.

The groups alleged Wednesday that officers at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., were complicit in sending a 4-year-old American girl to Guatemala without giving her parents a chance to retrieve her. Officers also detained a naturalized citizen who had been working with farmworkers in New York, kept women in cold detention cells in Texas and lied on an arrest report that led to an illegal immigrant's detention in Washington state, the advocacy groups said.

Alexodus via Compfight / Flickr via Compfight

How do you build a whole new industry – and undermine a black market -- without increasing its customer base?  

That’s the challenge state regulators are facing as they write the rules that will govern recreational marijuana in Washington. The American Civil Liberties Union is urging caution.

Washington lawmakers consider new pot regulations

Mar 12, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state regulators could consider the criminal backgrounds of people looking to legally sell marijuana. That’s one provision of a bill rolled out Tuesday in Olympia to regulate pot sales.

The Seattle Police Department needs to hire more sergeants to work closely with rank-and-file officers. That’s the view of an independent monitor, Merrick Bobb, who's looking into excessive use of force. He'll present his monitoring plan to a federal judge tomorrow for approval.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The fate of a universal background check measure in the Washington state House could be decided this week. Wednesday is a key cut-off deadline. But recently the gun control measure lost a pivotal “yes” vote.

Maureen Walsh was one of two Republicans who signed onto the measure to require background checks for all gun sales. She says she did so thinking it sounded like a reasonable response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In the world of state legislatures, there’s a powerful breed of players who normally shun the spotlight. They prefer to work behind the scenes to influence policy outcomes. We’re talking about business lobbyists. Inside this often hidden world, you’ll meet two of the most successful corporate contract lobbyists in the Washington state capitol. And learn some of their tricks of the trade.

A federal judge has declared Idaho’s so-called “Fetal Pain Law” unconstitutional. Idaho is one of eight states with a law banning abortions after 20 weeks. As Jessica Robinson reports, the case stems from a woman’s arrest under a separate statute for having an abortion.  

Judge B. Lynn Winmill says the 20-week limit on abortions is unconstitutional because it doesn’t seek to inform the pregnant woman, nor improve her health, as the Supreme Court has allowed. Rather, he writes, it’s solely intended to put an insurmountable obstacle in the path of women seeking abortions. 

Morgan / Flickr

Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration still hasn't decided on how the federal government will respond to the new legal-marijuana laws passed by voters in Washington and Colorado.

Holder appeared Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was asked about the issue by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

The attorney general reiterated what he has said recently — that a policy decision will be announced "relatively soon." He also said he's had good conversations with elected leaders from Washington and Colorado.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. He will likely get questions about Washington and Colorado’s new marijuana laws. Pressure is mounting on the Obama administration to block the pot legalization measures.

The new push for federal invention comes from a United Nations-based drug agency and nine former DEA chiefs. They say Washington and Colorado's new recreational pot laws violate international treaties.

Elaine Thompson / AP

A U.N.-based drug agency says the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Colorado violates international drug treaties.

The International Narcotics Control Board is urging the Obama administration to challenge the legalization measures. It made the appeal in its annual drug report released Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that he was in the last stages of reviewing the state laws. Holder said he was examining policy options and international implications of the issue. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Efforts to get gun rights leaders in Washington to support -- or at least not oppose -- universal background checks appear to have hit a stumbling block. At issue is a state database that tracks pistol sales. Second Amendment advocates want it shut down, but the state’s sheriffs and police chiefs say it’s a vital law enforcement tool.

Courtesy OneAmerica

Imagine living your life in a legal limbo, with fear of deportation looming and constant uncertainty about your future.

That’s the reality for many immigrants in Washington State. Several dozen of them are boarding a bus that will criss-cross the state this week to tell their stories and demand comprehensive immigration reform. 

Paula Wissel

Should going to prison mean losing your parental rights forever?  Legal advocates say that’s what’s been happening in Washington State, especially to women who are incarcerated.

Legal Voice and other groups are pushing a bill, HB1284, that would give judges more discretion in deciding whether to put children up for adoption when a mother or father is behind bars.

Manuel W. / Flickr

Red jumpsuits might be the usual jail uniform in King County. But a new policy has the jail issuing headscarves and yamulkes to inmates.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Imagine you could predict crime the same way weather forecasters issue storm warnings.  

It’s happening – with new software recently deployed in Seattle and Tacoma. Police precincts in both cities hope it will help them allocate patrols more effectively.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Research shows if you use a tanning bed before the age of 35, you are more likely to get skin cancer. That’s why legislators in Washington, Oregon and Idaho have been considering proposals to bar teenagers from indoor tanning salons. A bill in the Washington legislature to do this has died for the fourth year. But the idea is still alive in Salem and Boise.

Jessica Hewlett is just 22 years old and already a cancer survivor. Last March, her primary doctor sent her to a dermatologist because of a mole on her stomach.

Fate of abortion coverage bill uncertain in Olympia

Feb 25, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. − A bill to require insurance companies to offer plans that cover maternity services and abortions passed the Washington House Friday. It is unclear, however, whether the legislation will make it through the Senate’s Republican-majority caucus. Majority Leader Rodney Tom has said he doesn’t want to vote on divisive social issues.

In the House debate, Rep. Laurie Jinkins said this bill would provide options for abortion coverage after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - What if you could just start your car, tell it where you want to go and then sit back and relax until you get there? Well, Google and many automobile manufacturers are hard at work on self-driving "robocars." Now lawmakers in Salem and Olympia are trying to figure out how to update the rules-of-the-road to keep pace with the cars of the future. But automakers are flashing a stop sign, saying it's too soon for new regulation.

Det. Monty Moss / SPD

Seattle city council members said today they want new laws on the books before police turn on a string of surveillance cameras. The network of 30 or so waterfront cameras is being installed in the name of port security, but citizens say those cameras could also turn around and peek into neighborhoods.

Idaho is now hemmed in by four states where marijuana is legal in some form, and a panel of state lawmakers fears Idaho could be next. A state Senate committee approved a pair of measures against marijuana, including one asking the federal government to crack down on Idaho’s neighbors.

Oregon, Montana and Nevada allow medical marijuana, while Washington legalized it for recreational use.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A proposal to raise Washington’s gas tax by ten cents faces a bumpy road in Olympia. House Democrats rolled out the idea Wednesday as part of a $10 billion transportation funding package, but it faced immediate opposition.

The plan comes from House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn. It would increase Washington’s gas tax two-cents per gallon per year for five years. House Republicans quickly pointed out that when fully implemented, the state’s fuel excise tax would be 47.5 cents per gallon – higher than any other state today.

The Obama administration on Wednesday released its final rule on essential health benefits, which sets out the coverage insurers must offer starting in 2014.

Insurers must cover 10 broad categories of care, including emergency services, maternity care, hospital and doctors' services, mental health and substance abuse care and prescription drugs.

Maybe you don't like your mobile phone carrier, but you like your phone and you want to keep it but change providers. An obscure change in federal law makes it illegal to switch without permission from your carrier.

If you have, for example, AT&T, in order to switch to T-Mobile you have to unlock the phone, and AT&T can now stop you from doing that.

The change in the copyright law has some people upset, and they're petitioning the White House for a fix.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A bill to require background checks for private gun sales is one step closer to a final vote. Tuesday, members of a Washington House committee voted seven to six.

Republican Rep. Jay Rodne opposed the bill, saying it would not be enforceable.

“We’re going to drain precious law enforcement resources to policing this measure,” he says.

But, Republican Rep. Mike Hope, a police officer, said this measure could help prevent shootings like what happened in Newtown, Conn.

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