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Washington State Supreme Court

Artist Alfredo Arreguin, left, talks about his painting of former Washington state Supreme Court Justice Charles Z. Smith, standing in the middle with his wife, Eleanor Martinez Smith, and Justice Steven Gonzalez at the May 2014 unveiling of the portrait.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press file

When Steven González was first named to the Washington state Supreme Court, as an associate justice in 2011, he brought his family to the Temple of Justice – that large, sandstone building in Olympia where the court meets.

They were in a hallway looking at portraits of the previous justices – black-robed white men with serious expressions on their faces, staring out from the walls.

Washington Supreme Court Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, left, reacts to applause after she was sworn in, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. Montoya-Lewis wrote the unanimous opinion calling for the Indian Child Welfare Act to be more broadly applied.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

More than a century ago, a Yakama Nation fisherman named Alec Towessnute was stopped while fishing near Prosser, and prosecuted for using a gaff hook, a traditional fishing method.

He cited his treaty rights, and the county court dismissed the charges. But the state Supreme Court, in 1916, reinstated them, ignoring the treaty and using racist, demeaning language.

Justice Steven Gonzalez listens to testimony, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, during a Washington Supreme Court hearing in Olympia.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

The state Supreme Court has a new leader.

Chief Justice Steven González was sworn in Monday as the court began its new term in Olympia. González, who is Latino, becomes the first chief justice of color in state history. He’s also the first Jewish chief justice.

Temple of Justice in Olympia
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This year, Washington voters have a say in who they'd like to see on the state Supreme Court. The two justices most recently appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee drew challengers in this election. Two incumbents are running unopposed.

Hugh Spitzer teaches state and federal constitutional law at the University of Washington. He also has the perspective of having run for a seat on the court in 1998. He spoke with KNKX All Things Considered host Ed Ronco about who is on the court, why it matters, and how he thinks about this choice.

A car registration tab is shown on a vehicle parked at the Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. The Washington Supreme Court unanimously struck down Tim Eyman's Initiative 976 in a ruling issued Thursday.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

The Washington Supreme Court unanimously struck down Tim Eyman's Initiative 976 in a ruling issued Thursday. The measure would have steeply discounted the price of car registrations, while gutting transportation budgets statewide.

Temple of Justice in Olympia
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

An innovative program that allows non-lawyers to be licensed to give limited legal advice has been touted as a national model. As reported by KNKX in 2016, it was created as a way to provide inexpensive legal help for people without a lot of money.

But now, with no official warning, the Washington Supreme Court has voted to kill the LLLT program, as it’s known.

From left, Justice Mary I. Yu, Chief Justice Debra Stephens, and Justice G. Helen Whitener
Washington Supreme Court

The state Supreme Court issued a letter earlier this month calling on the legal profession, themselves included, to do the hard work of addressing systemic racism. 

In a barrier-breaking appointment, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has selected a Whatcom County judge to serve as the first known Native American justice on the state Supreme Court since its founding in 1889.

Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis, 51, who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta tribe of New Mexico, will replace Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst when she retires in January.

Tarra Simmons, an attorney who previously served time in prison, plans to run for the Washington Legislature.
Courtesy of Tarra Simmons

A Washington attorney and criminal justice reform advocate who previously served time in prison is seeking to become the first formerly incarcerated person elected to the Washington Legislature, at least in modern times. 

Tarra Simmons, of Bremerton, who in 2017 won a Supreme Court fight to sit for the state bar exam, despite her prior criminal conviction, formally announced her candidacy for the state House on Monday.

Lois Martin / The Associated Press

The state Supreme Court has sided with a woman who was permanently barred from working in child care because of a criminal conviction.

Six years ago, Steven Gonzalez's last name likely cost him votes in his first race for the Washington Supreme Court. He won nonetheless.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty violates the state Constitution.

Two candidates for the Washington Supreme Court have been disqualified from appearing on the November ballot.

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

Christal Fields thought she had finally shaken the decades-old conviction that had complicated much of her life. When she was banned from working in childcare two years ago, it was plain that wasn't the case.

A bipartisan effort to repeal the death penalty fell short in the Washington Legislature this year. But a separate effort to overturn the state's capital punishment statute through the courts is ongoing.

The constitutional challenge to the death penalty in Washington involves the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, 45, who was sentenced to die for the 1996 rape and murder of Geneine Harshfield in Tacoma.

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.

The Washington Legislature enacted a new state property tax this year to shift the burden of school funding off local levies. But the question before the state Supreme Court Tuesday was whether Washington lawmakers fully funded schools as required by the court .

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Tuesday is a big day in Olympia for people concerned about school funding issues in Washington. That’s when the state Supreme Court will hold a hearing on whether the legislature has met the court’s requirements to amply fund basic education in the long-running McCleary case.

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.

Nuclear Reactor Building
Flickr photo "UW Nuclear Reactor Building" by Max Morley is licensed under cc by 2.0 http://bit.ly/2uO7n5B

A legal fight between the City of Seattle and the University of Washington has ended in a victory for the city. The state Supreme Court said university buildings can be designated as city landmarks.

Washington state lawmakers face a daunting task as they convene on Monday for the 2017 legislative session: how to fully fund public schools by 2018. And that job might have just gotten harder.

The Washington Supreme Court Tuesday heard the case of a florist versus a same-sex couple who wanted flowers for their wedding in 2013. The owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, refused to take the job, saying it was against her religious beliefs.

A political action committee largely funded by three wealthy Washingtonians has unleashed a hard-hitting attack on a state Supreme Court justice up for re-election. The TV ad suggests Justice Charlie Wiggins is soft on crime.

Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Bill Gates, and Steve and Connie Ballmer are among a growing list of wealthy Washingtonians who want to change the makeup of Washington’s Supreme Court. They are the top donors to a new political action committee called Citizens for Working Courts.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

For the first time in decades, all of the Washington Supreme Court Justices up for re-election are facing serious opposition. Much of it has to do with the court’s controversial rulings on charter schools and public school funding.

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You could call Michelle Cummings a pioneer. The Bonney Lake woman is the first person in Washington to be licensed as a limited-license legal technician. So far, Washington is only state that allows non-lawyers to give legal advice.Obtained License A Year Ago

The Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday morning about the legality of anti-tax activist Tim Eyman's latest voter-approved initiative.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Fifty-six former and retired judges in Washington state are urging the Washington Supreme Court to declare the death penalty unconstitutional. They signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in a case  being heard tomorrow in Olympia.

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.

Michael Baumgartner's website

Washington lawmakers may be tired of the state Supreme Court telling them how to do their job. At least one bill targeting the court is in front of lawmakers this session. 

The Legislature is under mandate by the State Supreme Court to increase state funding for education. Last year, the court told lawmakers to spend more, and lawmakers responded by upping education funding by $1 billion. Then a month ago, the court gave them even more specifics where the spending should go.

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