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Law

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

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Losing a child is a devastating loss. But imagine if that death is followed by a legal battle. That’s what happened after a Mukilteo teenage died in 2016.

Now her mom is trying to change state law.

Will James / KNKX

King County is unique in the state because it requires an inquest to be held whenever there is a fatal shooting by police. But the process can be confusing and controversial, with some critics arguing that it's biased toward law enforcement.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scrapping Obama-era guidelines that essentially removed marijuana from the list of federal drug enforcement priorities as more states legalized it.

In guidance issued Thursday, Sessions rescinded those policies and instead will permit individual U.S. attorneys to decide how aggressively to go after marijuana in their jurisdictions.

Sessions, a former Alabama senator, has long viewed pot as a public menace and a source of street crime.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has upheld the claims of a Native American man from Washington state that he has the right to hunt in the province.

The long-running case concerned Rick Desautel, a member of the Colville Tribes and a descendant of the Sinixt, an indigenous group which once roamed the Northwest.

Christal Fields lost her childcare license after the Department of Early Learning found out she had a criminal record. Now she's suing in the Washington state Supreme Court to appeal the decision.
Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

Scammers have found a way to use fake caller ID information to pose as the Washington State Supreme Court Clerk and call people up to threaten arrest and demand money.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals say they'll rule "as soon as practical" on the state of Hawaii's legal challenge to President Donald Trump's latest travel restrictions.

A Colorado case before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday could have major implications for a similar case in Washington state. That case involves a Richland florist who’s been waging a multi-year legal battle.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The City of Tacoma's legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation is struggling to attract donors. 

Just under $2,000 has flowed in from 21 donors since the fund's creation in late October.

Updated 12/2, 11:47 a.m. ET

President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition, and he is cooperating with the special counsel's investigation into Moscow's interference in last year's election.

Flynn told investigators that he was instructed to engage with the Russians by senior members of the Trump transition team.

Many actors, politicians and executives, including at NPR, are now facing sexual-harassment allegations in the court of public opinion.

But in actual courts, such cases filed by workers against their employers are very often dismissed by judges. The standard for harassment under the law is high, and only an estimated 3 percent to 6 percent of the cases ever make it to trial.

Marijuana may be legal in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to bust illegal marijuana operations that are not licensed by the state.

The latest numbers from the Washington State Patrol show that 89 illegal marijuana growing operations were shut down in Washington over the past year. Some were indoor grows, most were outdoor.

The Washington State Supreme Court has decided that it believes in second chances and rehabilitation in a case involving a former drug addict who transformed into a promising future attorney.

The high court ordered that Tarra Simmons of Bremerton, an honors law school graduate with a criminal past, can take the bar exam to become a licensed lawyer.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” Simmons said shortly after receiving news of the order. “I went to my knees crying because it’s been such a long and painful journey. “

Tough new laws against handling a cell phone behind the wheel  took effect in Washington and Oregon this year. Each state’s legislature made it illegal to drive while holding an electronic device for most any reason.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

President Trump's would-be ban on transgender service members in the military has been blocked from going into effect for the foreseeable future.

A U.S. district judge in Washington, D.C., decided on Monday that trans members of the military have a strong case that the president's ban would violate their Fifth Amendment rights. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted a preliminary injunction to keep the policy from going into effect while the court case moves forward.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Joel’s Law allows families in Washington state to petition a court to involuntarily commit a mentally ill loved one. In Pierce County, home to Tacoma, nearly 100 percent of petitions are granted, but in Seattle’s King County, most are rejected.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

A federal judge in Hawaii has partially blocked President Trump's third attempt to restrict entry into the U.S. for citizens of certain countries. The Department of Justice says it plans to appeal.

The newest version of the travel ban was due to go into effect on Wednesday. Like two previous executive orders, it was challenged in multiple courts. The new ruling by Judge Derrick K. Watson is only one piece of the complicated legal puzzle over the long-term fate of the president's efforts to limit travel to the U.S.

In the living room of her Olympia home, Crystal opens up a large file box that contains her son’s life history.

“As a mom you keep those shot records and those test scores in their little file even if they’re in their 20s,” said Crystal, whose last name we’re not using to protect her son's identity.

But this plastic box has something else: a detailed record of her son’s battle with addiction and mental illness beginning when he was 12.

photosteve101 / flickr.com

If the recent Equifax data breach has you thinking it’s getting harder to protect your personal data, the Washington State Attorney General says you’re right. 

Almost three million Washingtonians were plagued with compromised data in a one-year period. That’s six times the number of consumers affected compared to the previous year, according to a report that tracks data breaches over a yearlong period, from July 2016 through this past July. 

The projected incarceration rate of Oregonians is expected to fall by 11 percent over the next decade. That’s according to the semi-annual prison population forecast issued by the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.

In 2014, Washington voters approved Initiative 594 to require background checks for person-to-person gun sales. But the law has only resulted in two prosecutions.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a challenge Monday to Washington’s voter-approved background check law for person-to-person gun transfers.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The legal troubles facing makers of prescription painkillers continue to grow as the City of Seattle and Washington state have each filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, arguing the companies downplayed risks of the drugs and deceptively marketed them to boost profits.

Recent numbers released by the Justice Department show a drop in overall youth incarceration rates in the United States. But a closer look at the data shows a widening gap between black and white youth confinement. Criminal justice reform advocates say a heightened police presence in communities of color — despite little difference in crime rates between black and white youths — is to blame.

The Trump administration is updating its travel ban, just hours before it was set to expire. In a proclamation signed by President Trump on Sunday, the travel restrictions now include eight countries, a couple of which are not majority-Muslim, as had been the case with all the nations in the original ban.

Simone Alicea / KNKX

Detainees doing work at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma are paid only $1 per day or sometimes only in snacks, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Washington state attorney general in Pierce County Superior Court.

It seems so simple. Equip police officers with body cameras to record their interactions with the public. But it turns out it’s actually quite complicated.

A legislative task force meets Tuesday in an ongoing effort to try to figure it out.

Teens who take an X-rated selfie and then text the image can be found guilty of trading in child pornography in some cases. That was the 6-3 ruling of the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday.

Vincent Milum Jr., Tacoma Fire Department / Flickr

Tacoma is suing Purdue Pharma and two other companies, Endo and Janssen, that make prescription opioids.

In its lawsuit, Tacoma says it’s had to bear the financial costs of the opioid crisis in many ways – in terms of fire and police response to overdoses as well as paying for the prescription drugs for employees who get health insurance from the city.

Several media outlets, including public radio, have filed an open records lawsuit against the Washington Legislature. The lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks access to lawmaker emails, text messages and calendars.

What was expected to be a two-day hearing on tribal sovereignty spilled into its third day Friday. The provincial government in British Columbia is appealing a landmark decision that reestablished hunting rights for members of an Indian tribe who live on both sides of the border.

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