Law

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

Chris Campbell / Flickr

Secretly-recorded phone calls are not protected under law even when done in the course of gathering evidence for a lawsuit, law firms were told in a state court ruling.

The Court of Appeals case grew out of the surreptitious recording of a former executive with a technology-engineering firm by lawyers at the Seattle law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine.

AP Photo

Some lawmakers in Washington state want to prevent marijuana producers from qualifying for agriculture tax breaks.

A state House committee heard a bill Tuesday that would block the new marijuana industry from tax breaks for 10 years. Officials estimate that the industry could otherwise qualify for three dozen different tax breaks, largely surrounding the agriculture industry.

Some streets in Tacoma will be in the dark for at least another six weeks, maybe longer. Thieves have been stealing copper wire from street lamps and city workers haven’t been able to keep up with repairs.

The theft of copper wire is nothing new. But this winter, Tacoma has been especially hard hit. Curtis Kingsolver, director of public works for the city of Tacoma, says for the first 10 months of the year, the city had about one copper wire theft-related street light outage a month.

“But, in the last two months of 2013, we had 56 outages, so we just had this huge rash of occurances that it’s been very demanding for us,” he said.

Associated Press

Washington’s Attorney General buoyed local governments looking to block pot businesses with a legal opinion issued Thursday. His argument cites the intentions of those who wrote the state’s the pot law, but the initiative’s primary author said he got it wrong.

Matilde Campodonico / AP Photo

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says cities and counties can block licensed marijuana businesses from operating.

In a long-awaited opinion Thursday, Ferguson says the state's legal marijuana law, Initiative 502, leaves local governments the option of adopting moratoriums or bans that prohibit licensed grow operations, processing facilities or retail shops from their jurisdictions.

Clean Slate For Tribal Fishing Rights Protestors?

Jan 15, 2014
Taylor Winkel

Some 40 to 50 years ago, American Indians in Western Washington were repeatedly arrested during protests over treaty fishing rights.

Now, convicted tribal fishermen may gain the opportunity to clear their records of misdemeanors and felonies from before 1975.

Paula Wissel

One Seattle man says he’s on a quest to expose why the Seattle Center blocked off use of power outlets in public spaces, and he is arguing his case before the Washington state Appeals Court today.

In September of 2012, Howard Gale noticed Seattle Center staff putting covers and padlocks on all of the electrical outlets, not long after the center had been remodeled and the outlets had been installed. 

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

Some Washington lawmakers concerned about a possible pot-business freeze-out want to keep cities and towns from adopting marijuana-business bans.

Ten representatives in the House on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require cities and counties to cooperate with the state Liquor Control Board in terms of allowing licensed recreational marijuana gardens, processing facilities and stores within their jurisdictions. Local governments would have to treat those enterprises the same as any other business that attempts to locate within their boundaries.

AP Photo

Leaders of the Yakama Nation in central Washington say they see little benefit to sales or farming of legalized marijuana on their traditional lands. And the tribes are making moves to prevent anyone from operating a pot business on an area that adds up to one-fifth of the state’s land mass.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

Legal marijuana is expected to go on sale by this spring in Washington cities like Seattle and Spokane.

Some municipalities, including Federal Way, have put moratoriums in place to give officials more time to determine how to implement the new law in their community. But in some cases, the moratoriums are more severe. 

AP Photo

Washington state could be facing a curious economic problem: too many pot growers.

More than 2,600 applications have been submitted to produce the marijuana that will be sold at state-licensed stores when Washington's legal marijuana industry opens for business this year.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Pierce County law enforcement officials say they’ve cracked a cold case murder that happened more than 20 years ago, and the investigation has ensnared a high-profile Tacoma marijuana activist.

Michael Schaef is a self-styled cannabis consultant who’s run medical marijuana dispensaries and co-founded a Tacoma “vape bar” that operated, until it was shut down, in a gray area of Washington’s pot law.

Mel Evans / AP Photo

If you’re caught with cocaine, meth or heroin, you can be charged with a felony and face up to five years in prison. But there’s a proposal in Washington, prefiled HB 2116, to make possession of hard drugs a misdemeanor if they are for the defendant's personal use. It would also reduce the penalty for the possession of more than 40 grams of cannabis from a felony to a misdemeanor.

LM Otero / AP Photo

Repeat drunk drivers in Washington who get arrested in the new year may find themselves ordered to blow into a breathalyzer twice a day. Starting Jan. 1, three counties and two small cities will begin piloting a 24/7 sobriety program modeled after one in South Dakota.

Isabel Esterman / Flickr

 

After Jan. 1, rioting will still be a crime in Washington, but it will get a new name. And Seahawks fans will have a new way to show their loyalty to the team.

IPNW

After spending more than 10 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, Brandon Olebar of Seattle is home in time for Christmas.

Olebar had been convicted of robbery and burglary in 2003. The conviction was based on an ID by the victim, his sister's boyfriend, two days after the crime. 

But that identification turned out to be a case of "memory transference."

AP Photo

Washington state is looking at a major overhaul of its medical marijuana system, to avoid competition with the recreational market and to avert any crackdowns from the federal government.

The state's Liquor Control Board on Wednesday approved its final recommendations to the Legislature about how it believes the largely unregulated medical system can be brought under the umbrella of Initiative 502.

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

Nearly a decade has passed since Washington state banned smoking in public areas and workplaces. 

But smoking has evolved since, and that leaves health officials with challenges as they try to enforce a law that didn’t foresee the rise of new products.

As Washington moves to legalize recreational pot, the U.S. Department of Justice is prioritizing preventing so-called “leakage” to other states like Oregon and Idaho.

Barcodes will help the state track marijuana from seed to sale. But technology alone won’t keep Washington pot in Washington. And some think the concern about leakage is overblown.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Human rights advocates rallied in front of the Mexican consulate in Seattle on Tuesday on behalf of a Renton woman being held in a Mexican prison.

Nestora Salgado, who was the commander of a community police force, was arrested in the Mexican state of Guerrero in August and charged with kidnapping. Her family in the Seattle area say the charges are trumped up in retaliation for her efforts to combat corruption in Mexico.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

The nation's largest freight rail carriers have announced they will provide health benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees, one day after legally married, gay engineers filed a federal lawsuit in Seattle.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., read the statement from the National Railway Labor Conference to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The conference represents the railroad companies in dealings with labor groups.

A federal judge has ruled that two Washington cities have systematically violated the rights of poor defendants to have legal representation.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued Mount Vernon and Burlington two years ago, alleging that public defenders there were so overworked that they amounted to little more than "a warm body with a law degree."

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Two workers are suing BNSF, one of the nation's largest rail companies, saying their same-sex spouses have repeatedly been denied health benefits even though gay marriage is legal in Washington state.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle states BNSF refused to add the spouses of locomotive engineer Michael Hall and conductor Amie Garrand to their plans.

Peace Corps

The King County sheriff wants to make his police force more culturally aware. So he’s come up with a plan that includes putting former Peace Corps volunteers on the payroll.

Sheriff John Urquhart says the force is “becoming more male and more white every single year," and that's a problem because the force should better reflect the increasingly diverse community.

"And that means we need all colors, we need all races, we need all genders, and we need LGBT, you name it,” Urquhart said.

Associated Press

New figures from the Washington State Patrol show that more drivers have tested positive for marijuana since the state legalized the drug last year.

In the first six months of 2013, the patrol's crime lab says, 745 people tested positive for marijuana. Typically there are about 1,000 positive pot tests on drivers in a full year.

Austin Jenkins

The 30-day window for marijuana business licenses applications has opened in Washington. Would-be growers, processors and retailers applied online and in-person Monday.

At the Department of Revenue business licensing office, the flow of in-person applicants was more of a trickle, not a torrent on this historic day.

“This is absolutely amazing,” said Jeff Gilmore, who was among the first to apply for a license to grow legal pot after a career of growing illegally. “The state of Washington took two years of my life for growing marijuana two decades ago.”

Associated Press

Pot entrepreneurs in Washington can apply for a business license beginning Monday, Nov. 18. The state now has a team of 14 license investigators ready to vet the applicants.

Becky Smith with the Washington Liquor Control Board says investigators will be sleuthing for hidden owners and out-of-state financial backers, as well as other violations of the rules.

Lawyers are finding themselves facing the same pressures recording artists and journalists have had to contend with: free content on the Internet. 

Technological changes and a DIY culture are also changing the legal profession in fundamental ways. And how to adapt has been a hot topic at law schools in Washington and at the Washington Bar Association.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

When is someone too stoned to drive? Washington's new marijuana law includes a new way to answer that question: a blood limit for the drug.

It's supposed to set a standard just as clear as the .08 blood alcohol content police use for drunk drivers. But one year after voters legalized pot, the line is looking almost as blurry as ever.

Associated Press

Seattle attorney Kurt Boehl is happy to think he's contributing to the success of Washington's grand experiment in regulating marijuana by advising his clients on how to navigate the industry's legal complexities.

But there's a worry that his efforts could earn him an ethics complaint. After all, marijuana is illegal under federal law, and lawyers aren't supposed to help their clients break the law.

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