Law

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

zeraien / Flickr

A survey shows more than 60 percent of Seattle residents approve of the job the Seattle Police Department is doing. But it’s a far more problematic picture when you break down responses by race.

While the vast majority of whites and Asians give high marks to the Seattle Police Department, when you talk to African-Americans and Latinos, the approval rating drops dramatically.

Paula Wissel

Last weekend’s random killing of Shoreline Community College English Professor Troy Wolff in Pioneer Square has prompted Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to call for more money to be spent on mental health resources, including a possible tax dedicated to mental health.

Donnell Jackson has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the stabbing of Wolff and Kristin Ito, who survived the attack.

Paula Wissel

The Space Needle’s labor practices are on trial in a federal hearing room in Seattle. All week, the National Labor Relations Board(NLRB) has been presenting its case against the privately-owned Seattle icon.

Acting on a complaint from Unite Here Local 8, which represents several hundred Space Needle food and banquet workers, the NLRB is making its case that the company engaged in unfair labor practices, including encouraging employees to resign from the union and stop paying union dues.

Associated Press

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is tightening up its proposed regulation on where marijuana businesses can be located. Stores, processors, and grow operations will have to be at least 1, 000 feet from schools, parks and daycares—not by common path of travel, but as the crow flies, the board said Friday. 

The board had considered using streets and sidewalks to measure the distance instead of a straight line on the map. But board director Rick Garza says it has become obvious that the federal government did not agree.

Paula Wissel

The state attorney general has compiled a new Military and Veteran Legal Resource Guide aimed at helping active-duty soldiers and veterans learn about their legal rights.

Military personnel and veterans have a number of special legal rights when it comes to such things as interest rates on home loans or getting out of rental agreements. The problem, according to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, is too many people are unaware of these protections.

Associated Press

The Department of Justice has let it be known that it won’t interfere with Washington’s legal marijuana industry. But when pot stores do come to Washington, they won’t be able to deposit their money in a bank or accept credit cards. That’s because the pot business, still illegal under federal law, is off-limits to federally-regulated banks.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C. Tuesday. He says businesses that deal only in cash present problems for police.

Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee is set to meet Tuesday with the two top federal prosecutors in Washington to discuss the Justice Department's concerns about the state's legal marijuana law.

U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Mike Ormsby of Spokane are traveling to Olympia to speak with Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

Associated Press

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws in Washington D.C., and King County Sheriff John Urquhart will be there to testify.

AP Photos

The state of Washington can produce, at most 40 metric tons, or 2 million square feet, of marijuana per year, the state Liquor Control Board said in its revised proposed rules for recreational pot on Wednesday.  

A total of 334 pot stores will be allowed statewide, the board said, and each county will have its own cap.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

We’re about to find out the number of marijuana retail store locations that will be allowed in each of Washington’s 39 counties. The state’s Liquor Control Board plans to release that information Wednesday as part of the latest draft rules for Washington’s new legal pot marketplace.

Paula Wissel

It’s a place with plenty of vacancies. And the price might be right—about $130 a night.

But you probably don’t want to book a room.

I’m talking about the King County Jail where there are now a lot more beds than inmates.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

County officials who issue marriage licenses in Washington state are gearing up for a possible influx of new applicants following the Internal Revenue Services’ ruling that states gay marriage will be recognized across state lines for federal tax purposes.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Legal pot? Not so fast. That’s the message from a growing number of Washington cities.

Several municipalities are considering whether to pass a moratorium on pot-related businesses. Others, like Bellingham and Olympia, have already enacted temporary bans. 

Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Taxi drivers are finding more competition on the road these days.  New smartphone-based ride-sharing services are giving consumers a lot of options.

But the highly-regulated taxis call the development unfair since the new companies don’t have to play by the same rules. Both King County and the city of Seattle are trying to figure out how to respond.

Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

At a White House ceremony Monday, President Barack Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, a Spokane native currently stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Carter was honored for his actions during the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan.  President Obama said Carter repeatedly put his own life on the line to save others. But Obama also talked of Carter's courage in another battle, a battle here at home.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee wants to look into the conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's invited Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to talk to the committee about the issue on Sept. 10.

Marco Garcia, File / AP Photo

If lawmakers in Hawaii have their way, homeless people there will get a free ride back home to the mainland. The Hawaii state Legislature has set aside money for free flights.  

With Seattle’s close proximity to the state, the city could become a destination for homeless hoping to get back on their feet. But some say the plan won’t solve any problems.  

If you are a distracted driver, then it’s time to put the phone down.

Over the next few weeks, Washington State Patrol and local law enforcement officers will be putting more resources into ticketing drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road. Between now and Aug. 23, officers in unmarked cars will be solely focused on scanning the roads to see if drivers are talking on cell phones or texting.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Washington’s marijuana consultant says police should act fast to squash the black market once state-sanctioned stores open. But in Seattle, that could conflict with the will of the voters.

Associated Press

As the state continues to hone its licensing rules for recreational marijuana businesses, local governments are working on land-use regulations that will determine where they can go. King County has drafted a new zoning law for unincorporated areas and is seeking public comment before it’s finalized. 

Joe Grande / Associated Press

The Somali pirates were convicted earlier this month of shooting Bob Riggle and Phylis Macay of Seattle and Jean and Scott Adam of Marina Del Rey, California. The couples were sailing in the Indian Ocean on the Adams' yacht, the Quest, when the vessel was hijacked by the pirates in February 2011.

The sentencing hearing for the Somali nationals is taking place this week in a Virginia courtroom, and could stretch into early next week. 

Eleven other Somalis involved in the incident have pleaded guilty and are serving life sentences. 

Get caught on camera speeding through a school zone, and you may find yourself with a $189 ticket in your mailbox. Those fines add up fast: The city has collected more than $3 million as of last month.

So what happens to all that money? The Seattle City Council voted Monday to direct all of it into a special fund, to pay for safety improvements near schools. That could include sidewalk repairs, better lighting and fixing curbs.

Washington State Patrol

Summer is a great time for a road trip. But if you’re someone who tends to put the pedal to the metal, spending more time on the highway probably increases your chance of being pulled over for speeding. Which raises the question: what does it take to avoid getting issued a ticket?

By state law, bars in Washington have to stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. And when bars close down, people who’ve been drinking hit the streets all at once. In Seattle last weekend, that phenomenon became extreme in the Belltown neighborhood, reviving a public policy debate.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Bellingham is the latest local government in Washington state to place a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses.  Some cities say it’s important to put a hold on things while the state works out the details of legalizing the retail sale of pot. Initiative 502, which passed last November, legalized the sale of  marijuana for recreational use.

An independent panel that oversees the state’s foster care system is going away. And it isn’t because of budget cuts. The panel was scheduled to disband this year.

The Braam Foster Care Oversight Panel, which held its final meeting earlier this week, was put in place seven years ago as part of a landmark legal agreement requiring foster care reform in Washington.

Paula Wissel

Spending a semester abroad is often a highlight of college life. But for one University of Washington graduate, it was anything but.

Grace Flott is still dealing with scars from a tragedy she suffered while overseas. Now she’s working to help others learn from her experience.

JBLM PAO

Seattle is stepping up its police presence for tomorrow’s Rock and Roll Marathon in the wake of the Boston bombings two months ago. Twenty-thousand runners are expected along a course that snakes through downtown, south along Lake Washington and over to Mercer Island and back.

Renee Witt is a Seattle Police Department detective. She says there will be bomb-sniffing dogs and police on bicycles. And the police department requests that spectators take certain precautions.

Hanging drywall is a dirty, hard job. And 250 workers at Summit Drywall, Inc., based in Issaquah, say it was even worse for them because they didn’t get paid the wages they were due.

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing Summit Drywall on behalf of the workers, claiming the company failed to pay minimum wage and time and a half for overtime.

In a decision that could have broad-reaching effects on the future of science and medicine, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that:

-- "A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated."

-- But, synthetically created "strands of nucleotides known as composite DNA (cDNA)" are "patent eligible" because they do not occur naturally.

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