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

Austin Jenkins


At a Tuesday news conference, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Washington’s unregulated medical marijuana industry is “unworkable” and “needs to be fixed."

Austin Jenkins


The Washington House has joined the state Senate in banning openly carried guns in the public viewing galleries.

House leaders made that announcement Monday morning following an incident in the House gallery last week.

Seattle police arrested 19 people after marchers blocked a portion of Highway 99, triggering heavy delays on Monday afternoon. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo


In the years before Washington and Oregon legalized recreational pot for adults, thousands of people were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Now Washington state lawmakers are considering whether to make it simple to expunge that crime, which is no longer a crime, from a person's record. The same issue could also come up in Oregon as the legislature examines implementation of its voter-approved legalization measure.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Umbrellas, strollers and backpacks were already banned from the public viewing galleries in the Washington House and Senate.

Now Senate leaders have added a ban on openly-carried guns. The House may soon follow suit.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo


The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new trial for the getaway driver in the 2009 killings of four Lakewood, Washington police officers.

Dorcus Dewayne Allen, who is also known as Darcus Allen, drove Maurice Clemmons to and from the scene of the Thanksgiving weekend shooting at a coffee shop. Allen was charged with four counts of aggravated murder.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo


Guns are allowed in the Washington state Capitol, but state law makes it illegal to carry a firearm in a manner designed to intimidate.

That made for some tense moments Thursday in the spectator gallery of the Washington House.

Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

After a woman is raped, she undergoes a long, invasive process at a hospital where DNA is collected and a “rape kit” is put together.

Law enforcement agencies in Washington state estimate there are more than five thousand kits containing DNA taken from rape victims sitting on the shelf, never making it to a lab for further analysis. Kits often don’t go anywhere if the victim can identify the suspect. Other times, often in domestic violence cases, the victims won’t press charges.  

Kristen Wyatt / AP Photo

Hemp advocates have launched a renewed bid to make hemp farming lawful in Washington state.

The non-drug variety of the cannabis plant has already been legalized in Oregon and California, but it is not commercially grown there yet.

Adam Cotterell


Legalizing marijuana in Idaho has been a complete no-go, even as its neighbors have started licensing pot dispensaries and retail shops.

But now Republican leaders in Idaho say they're willing to consider a very narrow version of a medical marijuana law.

Jennifer Wing / KPLU

A man convicted in the murder of Seattle’s beloved "Tuba Man" will serve more than 18 years in prison for a separate murder at a Bellevue nightclub.

In a packed courtroom in downtown Seattle, 21-year-old Ja’Marie Jones was sentenced in the fatal shooting DeShawn Milliken, 30, at a bar in Bellevue on Christmas Eve 2012. Jones pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and apologized to Milliken’s family.

Wikimedia Commons


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.

Wikimedia Commons


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 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.”