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

Associated Press

Maybe you didn't get the word that the law changed last June: Using your cellphone while driving -- unless you have a hands-free connection -- is a primary offense in Washington.

That means officers can pull you over and write you a $124 ticket, even if you're otherwise obeying the traffic laws. It used to be only a secondary offense, meaning police had to see you speeding, or making an illegal turn, for example, before ticketing you.

The Seattle Times has figured out that Seattle Police have issued about six times as many cellphone tickets since the law changed, compared to the previous year, and the Washington State Patrol has issued about five times more tickets. 

Associated Press

The details are heartbreaking. A lesbian couple subject to unspeakable horror after a stranger breaks into their home in the middle of the night. The high profile case happened in 2009 in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. Now, the man accused of rape and murder, Isaiah Kalebu,  is on trial.

The young man accused of one of Seattle's most heinous murders in recent years sat strapped in a heavy green smock, his hands and legs shackled to the restraint chair used to bring him to court. He looked up and told the judge, "Get the (expletive) out of here."

Mic Smith / AP

Three employees at Boeing Co.'s North Charleston, South Carolina plant want roles in a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board.

Meredith Going Sr., Dennis Murray and Cynthia Ramaker say in a motion filed Wednesday that they are sure to lose their jobs if the federal agency is successful in its suit against Boeing and the plant shuts down.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

It’s late Saturday night and you get a phone call. Your teenage son has been arrested. You show up for court on Monday morning unsure what to do or say.  Now there’s help for parents in this predicament. It's called Juvenile Justice 101.

Elaine Thompson / AP

This week, the state legislature took the first step toward privatizing liquor distribution. The new legislation allows private companies to submit bids to be the sole distributor of liquor in the state. In Olympia, Bryan Buckalew reports not all advocates of privatizing liquor are happy with the development.

Red light camera opponents in Longview and Monroe submitted initiatives Monday against the automatic traffic ticketing system. If approved, the Monroe initiative would require the city to remove its cameras and ask for voter approval before installing more.

Seattle voters will have a chance to chime in again on the planned deep-bore tunnel that's supposed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. 

That's the word from Judge Laura Middaugh who this afternoon sided with the supporters of a referendum, saying  her goal is to make sure that the voices of the people are heard when a policy decision is made.  She said she had not been able to find any precedents in case law to support her stance.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

How do you convince someone not to text or talk on the cell phone while  driving?  How about an in-your- face reminder of what can happen if you do?  That's the tactic Seattle Police have been using this week. 

They've been parking a black Honda, with the driver's side smashed in, outside area high schools.  A Tumwater teenager, Heather Lerch, died in the car in February of 2010 while texting and driving.

It’s do-or-die week in the Washington Legislature. A budget deal will have to come together over the next several days if lawmakers are to finish business within the 30-day special session.

A vote on whether to build a tunnel to replace the aging Alaskan Way viaduct can take place, a King County Judge ruled today (Friday).

King County Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh said some parts of the agreements that cover utilities, insurance, right-of-way and other issues can be in the referendum but others can't. She'll hear arguments next Friday on which parts could be included in an August vote and whether she has the authority to partially rewrite language in the referendum.

Lakewood gang sweep

May 12, 2011

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has charged eleven people with gang-related crimes. The defendants are all alleged to be members or associates of the Tillicum Park Gangsters, also known as the TPG. The Lakewood Police Department says the TPG is a criminal street gang associated with the Tillicum neighborhood of Lakewood.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Governor Chris Gregoire says she wants all the states that allow medical marijuana to ask the federal government to reclassify the drug. She scheduled a conference call among those states Thursday. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on a last ditch effort to pass an overhaul of Washington’s medical marijuana law.

Decades after the federal government stopped taking Native American children from their homes and putting them in boarding schools, Native families still face challenges staying together.

Paula Wissel/KPLU

A lesbian Air Force Major who was trying to get her job back has decided to retire instead.  Under an agreement reached with the Pentagon, flight nurse Margaret Witt will retire with full benefits and her discharge will be removed from her record.