Law

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

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Marijuana will be among the top agenda items when the Washington legislature convenes Monday.

Specifically, lawmakers will consider what to do about the state’s unregulated medical marijuana industry.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Death penalty cases in Washington state cost the public one-and-a-half times as much as those where capital punishment isn’t on the table, Seattle University researchers have found.

The seven-month study was authored by Seattle University professors Robert Boruchowitz of the School of Law and Peter Collins of the criminal justice department.

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Voters have legalized recreational marijuana in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to find illegal marijuana grows on public lands.

In fact, Washington authorities report an uptick in plant seizures and arrests this year.

George Wesley & Bonita Dannells / Flickr

A federal ruling has paved the way for adjunct and part-time faculty at Pacific Lutheran University to unionize. The decision also sets a new precedent that could affect religiously-affiliated colleges and universities across the nation, including Seattle University.

M Glasgow / Flickr

 

Washington’s new voter-approved background check law appears to have prevented the sale of a rifle to a man with a warrant out for his arrest.

It could be the first time the new law was put to the test.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

It’s been nearly two months since the deadly shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Five students died, including the 15-year-old gunman.

Since then, 68 families have turned to the state of Washington for financial help to deal with the tragedy. They've received $23,000 from Washington’s Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

Alliance Defending Freedom

 

A closely-watched court case dealing with whether religious business-owners must provide services to gay couples is headed to oral arguments Friday in Kennewick, Washington.

Barronelle Stutzman said she was following her religious convictions in 2013 when she declined to do the flower arrangements for a gay couple’s wedding.

The state of Washington said she was violating state consumer protection laws.

Paula Wissel

As police departments across the country struggle with how to be transparent, police in Seattle are looking to get help with this issue from local digital activists. A records request from a young programmer led to Seattle police trying to accomplish something no other department has been able to do.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Several hundred gun rights activists rallied at Washington’s capitol Saturday to protest the new voter-approved law that requires background checks for person-to-person gun sales and transfers. Most participants in the "I Will Not Comply" rally were openly carrying handguns or rifles or both.

Kevin P. Casey / AP Photo

A group of defense lawyers argue that when you are called to be on jury duty, you are working and therefore should be paid minimum wage. These attorneys say a diverse cross section of society would sign up for jury duty if the pay was better.

Paula Wissel

The National Security Agency’s bulk collection of cell phone data is at the heart of a case before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were heard Monday in Seattle.

The plaintiff is an unlikely candidate to take on the U.S. government. Anna Smith is a nurse and mom who lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Austin Jenkins

 

Washington’s new background check law for person-to-person gun sales and transfers takes effect Thursday.

The law puts federally-licensed gun dealers in the role of conducting the checks. But Don Teague, the owner of Private Sector Arms, a gun store in Thurston County, said it’s not a role he’s comfortable with.

Jim Mone / AP Photo

 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says police don't need permission to record their interactions with citizens using cameras worn on their uniforms.

In an opinion issued Monday, Ferguson says interactions with on-duty police are presumed to be public, and therefore officers are under no obligation to turn off the cameras if people object to being recorded — even if the conversation is being recorded in someone's home.

Courtesy of Emilie Jackson-Edney

 

Over the weekend, the story of a transgender woman in Idaho whose family had buried as a man lit up social media.

LGBT legal advocates say there continues to be a gap in how end-of-life issues are handled, even for people who have legally changed their gender.

Tent cities would be allowed to stay longer on land in King County under a proposal before the King County Council.

Under current law, the homeless encampments are required to move every three months. A King County ordinance would extend that to four months.

Women who work at Dream Girls at Foxes, a strip club in Tacoma, don’t want Pierce County to release personal information about them. They say doing so would violate their right to privacy.

But the Pierce County auditor says Washington’s Public Records Act requires her to release information contained in the women’s business licenses on file with the county.

Jessica Robinson

Religious conservatives around the country are rallying to the defense of a wedding chapel in north Idaho whose owners don’t want to perform gay marriages.

The mayor of Coeur d’Alene and governor of Idaho are being inundated by hundreds of calls and thousands of emails even though neither has taken any action against the wedding chapel.

Austin Jenkins

The fate of a human-trafficking lawsuit against Backpage.com is now in the hands of the Washington Supreme Court. The justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that involves three underage victims of sex trafficking. The justices must decide if the lawsuit can proceed.

Sean MacEntee / Flickr

A city department has enforced Seattle’s mandatory sick leave ordinance mainly by sending violators a polite letter. Now the city auditor says it’s time to get tougher.

Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights used a pretty light touch during the first year of requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave for workers. The department would typically respond after a worker complained, sending the employer a “non-adversarial letter.”

Otto Kitsinger / AP Photo

Same-sex couples across Idaho headed to county courthouses Wednesday, the first official day of legal gay marriage in the state since a court overturned Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In Boise, there was a long line of couples at the Ada County courthouse. Among them were some of the plaintiffs who took the state to court for refusing to marry them.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Law enforcement authorities in King County have announced a major change in how they go after prostitution. They said they plan to stop targeting prostituted women, and train their sites instead on the men paying for sex.

Police and advocates say prostituted women have long been targeted for arrest – 10 times more often than the buyers, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

Law enforcement groups in Washington state are pushing back against possible limits on police use of drones.

A task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee continued to wrestle Monday about how to regulate small unmanned aircraft.

Otto Kitsinger / AP Photo

Same-sex couples in Idaho can start getting married and have those marriages legally recognized by the state starting Wednesday morning, according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The Pacific Northwest isn’t immune to home grown terrorists. That’s what FBI director James Comey told reporters during a stop in Seattle.

Comey, who’s been in his position for a year, is visiting all 56 FBI field offices.

Paula Wissel

Imagine spending ten years of your life behind bars for a crime you didn’t commit. 

That's what happened to Brandon Redtailhawk Olebar. Now, Washington state is paying him more than half a million dollars.

Olebar is one of the first exonerees to receive a monetary award under a Washington law passed in 2013. The law makes it possible for people wrongfully incarcerated in the state to receive up to $50,000 for each year in prison as well as tuition waivers for themselves and their families to state universities and colleges.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

At some point today, depending on where you live, you are likely to pass by a medical marijuana collective garden, which is more commonly known as a dispensary.

These places have been allowed to flourish in cities like Seattle. But according to a ruling last March by Washington’s State Court of Appeals, dispensaries are actually illegal and communities have the authority to ban them.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

People are lining up to buy legal marijuana in Washington state. Now the question is how to convince kids not to touch the stuff.

A panel of experts briefed Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday on the topic of youth marijuana use.

Paula Wissel

Charges of racial discrimination are being aimed at a Sound Transit contractor. 

A group of African American laborers who worked on the Sound Transit Link Light Rail project at Husky Stadium are suing, seeking class action status in federal court.

Washington State Department of Enterprise Services

The state of Washington paid out nearly $50 million last fiscal year to people who were somehow harmed by the state. The numbers were released Tuesday in an annual report on tort claim payouts.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says he isn’t promoting the use of marijuana in public, but he is calling for all the tickets issued for public pot smoking between Jan. 1 and July 31 to be thrown out.

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