Law

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

Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

The practice of "boarding" mental health patients in hospital emergency rooms is unlawful, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.

The justices upheld a lower court ruling in the case of 10 psychiatric patients who were involuntarily detained under state law, then placed in non-psychiatric beds.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Passersby in several Seattle neighborhoods might notice the benign-looking billboards picturing a fit young couple with backpacks atop a mountain, or a bearded, flannel-clad man in front of a tent. You have to look a little closer to notice that the billboards are doing something brand new: openly advertising a cannabis company.

Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

A north Idaho teenager accused of killing his father and brother is no longer being held in solitary confinement at an adult county jail. A judge on Tuesday approved an agreement allowing 15-year-old Eldon Samuel to be moved back to juvenile detention, overriding a previous judge’s decision.

Nati Harnik / AP Photo

This week marks the one-year anniversary of a multi-state AMBER Alert involving a kidnapped California teenager.

A group of Idaho backcountry horsemen came across 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her abductor James Lee DiMaggio last August. When the four horsemen got home, they saw the news of the kidnapping and called police. Anderson was ultimately rescued and DiMaggio was shot to death by a federal agent.

Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

You’ve heard of your Miranda rights, but did you know that most state constitutions also give you a right to a bail bondsman?

In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed that criminal defendants can go to a third-party, like a bondsman, who will put up bail for a fee.

Courtesy of the Ransdell family.

These days, you can often find contract firefighters on the front lines. They’re usually indistinguishable from government firefighters.

But a recent court ruling has made it clear: if they’re killed in the line of duty, their families are not eligible for federal survivor benefits.

Provided by Zach Featherstone

A Northwest medical school has been ordered to reinstate a deaf student who took the school to court after it wouldn't let him begin classes.

As KPLU reported last month, Zachary Featherstone sued Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima after it admitted him, then wouldn’t let him attend. The university said his admission might harm the training of other students and put patients at risk.

Kootenai County Sheriff's Office

In north Idaho, a 15-year-old boy sits in an isolated jail cell awaiting trial for murder. Eldon Samuel III is accused of shooting to death his father and younger brother in March

Juveniles accused of crimes like this are automatically charged as adults in Idaho. But now, Samuel’s lawyer and the ACLU are trying to get him moved out of solitary confinement at the adult county jail. They say his isolation amounts to “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Flickr

Of the 82 tickets Seattle police officers issued for public marijuana use in the first six months of this year, 38 of them — nearly half — went to people who were probably homeless.

For Seattle City Council member Nick Licata, that raises a question: Don't the economically-distressed need a place to go to smoke pot legally, without doing so in public?

"What we don't want to create is a situation where we literally are giving citations away to people that are going to end up having their record affected for engaging in activity that otherwise would be legal, except that it's just done outside," Licata said.

While marijuana is legal in Washington, it remains illegal under federal law.

So a recent encounter in front of the Federal Bureau of Investigation offices in Seattle proved a little awkward for the new special agent in charge of the Seattle division.

A judge in Bellingham has ordered the state of Washington to do more to locate foster children who run away.

A Washington man whose loaded gun went off in a school backpack, critically injuring a student can’t be charged with third-degree assault, Washington state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The split decision stems from a high-profile case in 2012 in Bremerton.

Natalie Wilkie / Flickr

The federal monitor charged with overseeing reform of the Seattle Police Department says there’s finally reason for optimism.

“The glass is now looking half full to me rather than half empty,” Merrick Bobb said during a briefing before the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee Wednesday.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

In just a few years, Washington will need another 1,000 prison beds. There’s been talk of building a new state lock-up, but that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when the Supreme Court has said school funding must be the priority.

So what’s the solution? Washington could release some older inmates who are serving long sentences. But lawmakers are wary of a political backlash. The state abolished parole in the 1980s.

That leaves clemency as the remaining pressure-relief valve on the prison system. And that system of mercy may not be up to the task.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Support for a gun rights measure on Washington’s fall ballot is flagging, according to a new Elway poll released Tuesday. Meanwhile, a dueling measure that would expand background checks remains popular.

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