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

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Nearly five years have passed since Maurice Clemmons gunned down four Lakewood police officers in a coffee shop. Clemmons’ aunt and cousin were convicted of helping him after the murders.

Now, their case is before the Washington Supreme Court on appeal. Oral arguments are scheduled for Thursday.

Chris Lehman

A federal judge in Eugene, Oregon has denied a national group's attempt to defend Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said the National Organization of Marriage failed to prove why it should be allowed to intervene in the case.

Austin Jenkins

Scott Johnson is one of those natural-born salesmen. He used to own a restaurant on the 15th floor of the Bellingham Towers, the tallest building in Bellingham.

“At first it was called ‘Top of the Towers, and then after about five years, I changed it to ‘City View Grill,’” he said.

Now Johnson comes to Bellingham Towers to see his lawyer, whose office is also here. Johnson has been sentenced to five years behind bars for his role in a long-running marijuana production and distribution ring.

Wednesday could be a big day in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Oregon. A federal judge in Eugene will hear arguments from a group that wants to defend a voter-approved ban on gay marriage. 

Four same-sex couples sued the state to overturn the 2004 ballot measure that defined marriage as only between one man and one woman. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum declined to defend the law. As a result, a national group filed a last-minute motion to be allowed to defend the measure on the state's behalf.

You could eventually be getting money back for that flat screen TV you paid too much for a decade ago.

That’s the goal of a long-running pric- fixing suit against the manufacturers who make LCD display screens for everything, from televisions to laptops.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

The May Day violence that happened in downtown Seattle two years ago is still affecting how one Olympia man is living his life.  Matthew Duran, a political activist, wasn’t even in Seattle when windows were smashed in the Nakamura Federal Courthouse in 2012. But he paid dearly for his refusal to talk about who might have been involved.

AP Photo

The path to marijuana legalization in Washington state is keeping even university math professors busy.

They played a key role in developing the lottery now under way to determine who gets a license to open a pot store.

Chantal Andrea

A national group that opposes same-sex marriage is trying to intervene in a case scheduled to go before a federal judge in Oregon this week.

Oregon voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage a decade ago and on Wednesday in Eugene, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane is set to hear oral arguments to overturn the law.

AP Photo

The lottery to determine who will get a license to open a marijuana retail store in Washington gets under way this week. But the results probably won’t be known until early next month. Meanwhile, as Washington and Colorado go where no state or nation has gone before, concerns remain about kids getting their hands on pot.

Steve Helber / AP Photo

Grocery store owners who are losing liquor to shoplifters could pay a hefty price. Under a new law that takes effect June 13, the state can take away the store's license to sell liquor.

The crack down is aimed at keeping liquor out of the hands of underage drinkers.

AP Photo

Some drivers from Washington and Colorado say they're being targeted by police when they cross into Idaho.

They claim it’s because their license plate shows they live two states that have legal marijuana, but that’s a hard thing to prove.

At least two Washington drivers say they were pulled over in Idaho on suspicion of using marijuana. In both cases, pot was not found and they were let go.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

The timeline for when Washington’s first marijuana retail stores will open has slipped from June to early July, the state Liquor Control Board announced Wednesday.

The next step in the process is a lottery to see who wins a license to open a pot store. The results of that lottery should be known by early May.

.v1ctor Casale / Flickr

If you were charged with shoplifting or another minor criminal offense as a teenager, you shouldn’t have to pay for it for the rest of your life.

That’s the reasoning behind a bill being signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. The law will seal the court records for most juvenile offenders.

Schulte Family

It was one year ago that repeat drunk driver Mark Mullan crashed into a family crossing a street in north Seattle, killing Judy and Dennis Schulte and critically injuring  their daughter-in-law, Karina, and newborn grandson, Elias.

The tragedy prompted the Washington Legislature to pass tougher drunk driving laws. 

On the anniversary of the crash on Wednesday, a crowd gathered for a walk and rally in memory of Judy and Dennis Schulte. 

Tax Foundation/Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Nearly half of the cigarettes smoked in Washington went untaxed by the state, according to a new study by two think tanks.

The study compared actual legal sales in a state against the level you would expect to see based on its smoking rate. From that, researchers came up with a smuggling estimate. The study pegs low-tax Idaho as a major source of smuggled cigarettes.

Austin Jenkins

It’s been nearly a year since a repeat drunk driver caused a horrific accident in north Seattle. A new mother, her 10-day-old baby and her in-laws were run down as they crossed the street. The grandparents were killed, and the mother and her baby were critically injured.

That tragedy and other high-profile drunk driving crashes prompted Washington lawmakers to authorize a pilot program to test repeat drunk drivers twice-a-day to see if they have been drinking.

But the 24/7 Sobriety program has run into legal and financial snags.


You might assume that after voters passed Initiative 502, making adult possession of marijuana legal, the number of prosecutions for pot would drop. Now, there’s proof to back up that assumption.

The American Civil Liberties Union analyzed court data from around the state, looking specifically at filings for low-level marijuana offenses. The numbers show a huge decrease.

Mercy For Animals


A lawsuit led by the ACLU is challenging Idaho's brand new so-called “ag-gag” law aimed at stopping undercover animal rights activists from making videos of abuse at farms and slaughter houses.

And Idaho's law isn't the first to be challenged on free speech grounds.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The FBI is refusing to run nationwide background checks on people applying to run legal marijuana businesses in Washington state, even though it has conducted similar checks in Colorado — a discrepancy that illustrates the quandary the Justice Department faces as it allows the states to experiment with regulating a drug that's long been illegal under federal law.

A major south Sound hospital chain has agreed to give back pay to nearly 800 nurses.

The deal settles a class-action lawsuit filed by nurses against MultiCare Health System, the nonprofit entity that runs Tacoma General Hospital, Auburn Medical Center and others.

zeraien / Flickr

Following a decision by the Seattle City Council this week, the Seattle Police Department will soon use facial recognition software. 

The ACLU of Washington doesn't think the move will encroach on citizens' rights, but privacy advocates, including Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, aren’t fond of the new policy.

Judge: Some Immigrants Can't Be Held Without Bond

Mar 12, 2014

A federal judge in Seattle says certain immigrants can't be held in detention without bond hearings.

Tuesday's ruling stems from a complaint filed by immigrant advocates on behalf of three men who were held for months at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma without a chance of a bond hearing, in which a judge determines whether immigrants present a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

President Barack Obama wants to expand a program pioneered in Washington to reform probation and parole. The new state law dramatically changed its approach to ex-offenders, and even the experts who back the new approach have been surprised at the promising results.

In the past, ex-offenders on probation or parole could often rack up a bunch of violation before they’d be punished. And by then the sanctions could be harsh: many months in jail.

The idea behind the new approach, called "swift and certain," is that a minor violation triggers an immediate but moderate punishment, such as a couple of days in jail for failing a drug test.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

Washington and Colorado are embracing their role as “laboratories of democracy” when it comes to drug policy, but as Washington’s marijuana consultant points out, “Dr. Frankenstein had a laboratory, too.”

AP Photo

A measure to overhaul the state's medical marijuana system cleared the Senate as the state moves to merge that largely unregulated market with the still-developing legal recreational market.

Brennan LinsleyA / AP Photo

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians has passed a resolution that rejects marijuana use and legalization efforts in the region.

The resolution, drawn up at the groups recent Winter Convention, points out that Native Tribes have higher rates of marijuana and drug use than other ethnicities in the U.S., and the negative impacts of marijuana use can cause many health related problems.

Ed Andrieski / AP Photo

Washington state's first legal marijuana license is going to a guy named Green.

The Associated Press has learned that Spokane grower Sean Green, the chief executive of a company called Kouchlock Productions, is due to be issued a producer-processor license at the state Liquor Control Board meeting in Olympia on Wednesday morning.

Silvia Izquierdo / AP Photo

Washington's Supreme Court says people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the text messages they send from their phones — even if they can't know for sure who might be reading them.

Paula Wissel

Former state Sen. Debbie Regala says when her brother-in-law was strangled in 1980, her family had to ponder what they would want to have happen when the murderer was found.

She says she was angry, but in the end, it didn't change her long-standing opposition to capital punishment.

"Executing them doesn't make me feel any better. It doesn't bring them [the victims] back. It doesn't heal the terrible hurt that you feel," she said during an interview in her Tacoma home.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Family members of murder victims gathered in Olympia Wednesday to express anguish over Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to halt the state’s death penalty.

They testified before lawmakers considering curbs on the governor’s authority to grant reprieves. They told of their daughters and sisters, a mother, an aunt all taken cruelly from them. And they expressed outrage that they should be forced to pay, as taxpayers, for the killers to live.