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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Bellamy Pailthorp / knkx

Washington state is suing the nation's largest student loan company, joining the federal government and the state of Illinois in alleging unfair and deceptive practices with lending and debt collection.

A top Egyptian court has ruled against the government's bid to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

It's an embarrassing ruling for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who has argued that the islands of Trian and Sanafir are historically Saudi. The Supreme Administrative Court disagreed, saying that they are Egyptian sovereign territory.

"It's enshrined in the court's conscience that Egypt's sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir is beyond doubt," presiding judge Ahmed al-Shazli told the court, according to The Associated Press.

On Jan. 20, 2016, exactly a year before a new president would be sworn into office, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia announced the court's 8-to-1 decision reinstating the death penalty for two Kansas brothers.

It was the last time the 79-year-old Scalia would announce an opinion. Three weeks later, on a hunting trip in Texas, the conservative icon died in his sleep.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a jury verdict finding that State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. defrauded the federal government after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.

In the years before the hurricane, State Farm issued both federal government-backed flood insurance policies and general homeowners policies. After the hurricane, the company ordered its claims adjusters to misclassify wind damage as flood damage to shift liability to the government and spare the insurance company's coffers.

The Supreme Court has weighed in on a patent battle between Samsung and Apple, siding with Samsung by declaring that the patent infringement for an element of a design should be treated differently from the infringement of an entire design.

The dispute between the two tech giants isn't about whether Samsung violated Apple's patents, but rather about how much money it's reasonable for Samsung to pay for the infringement.

Granting the request of relatives of victims of the Newtown school shootings, Connecticut's Supreme Court has accepted their lawsuit against Remington Arms, maker of the rifle that killed 20 students and six teachers in 2012.

Congress had a full seven months to block a rule change for federal courts that lets judges authorize the hacking of digital devices well beyond their districts.

But after a September attempt in the Senate to vote on the measure failed, opponents on Capitol Hill waited until the day before the rule change was to take effect to introduce three motions aimed at shooting it down or at least delaying its implementation.

What happens when someone who’s not supposed to have a gun lies about their background and tries to buy one? In Washington state, the answer is not much.

FBI records show that between January and August of this year, 3,259 would-be gun buyers in Washington failed a federal background check. But police and prosecutors rarely, if ever, pursue these people.

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.

Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, Pool

Advocates for equal rights and gender equity are among those most concerned about the victory of President-elect Donald Trump.

Lisa Stone is executive director of Legal Voice, a non-profit that advocates for women and LGBTQ people throughout the Northwest. The morning after the election, she called an impromptu staff meeting.

“So that people could express how they felt and what they thought and what the feared and what they hoped. And so we did,” she said. “And there was a lot of crying and a little bit of laughing and an enormous amount of resolve.”  

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday takes up the case of a girl, her service dog and a school that barred the dog from its premises.

It's now official: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been formally charged with criminal contempt of court, with prosecutors saying he disobeyed a judge's order in a racial profiling case. The sheriff for much of the Phoenix metro area could face up to six months behind bars if convicted.

The misdemeanor charge against Arpaio, 84, was formally lodged Tuesday, after U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton signed an order to show cause.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about a road study that would create a traffic nightmare — and used the advance notice to ask about his office's relationship with the local mayor, former top aide Bridget Kelly testified in court Friday. Kelly also said that Christie had cursed and thrown a water bottle at her.

In what’s believed to be the first prosecution under a 2014 voter-approved background check law, a former Oak Harbor, Washington, resident has been charged with illegally transferring a .22-caliber pistol that was later used in a homicide.

The practice of automatically charging 16 and 17-year-olds as adults for serious crimes is coming under scrutiny. The issue will come up Monday at a youth justice conference in Seattle and Tuesday during a Washington Supreme Court hearing.

In oral arguments on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court enters the smartphone wars.

The case, which pits Samsung against Apple, could have major repercussions for tech products across the board.

The two smartphone giants have been battling each other — not just in the marketplace but also in the courts — since 2011, a year after Samsung unveiled a new set of smartphones, including the Galaxy. Like iPhones, the Samsung products, for the first time, had rounded corners and square icons on a touchscreen.

The Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that might decide whether the government can deny Washington's NFL team a trademark because it has deemed the team name is offensive.

The court granted certiorari on Lee V. Tam. If you remember, The Slants, an Asian-American rock band, sued the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because it refused to trademark their name saying it proved offensive.

A panel of judges Tuesday is hearing a case that could change the future of the power industry.

The D.C. Circuit is hearing an appeal of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule that would restrict carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused Wednesday to reinstate a set of voter restrictions enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature in the battleground state of North Carolina.

Last month a federal appeals court invalidated the restrictions, declaring that they were deliberately targeted at making it more difficult for African-Americans to vote.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Licenses for scientific research on marijuana could soon be available in Washington state, despite strict federal rules about research on the drug. Under the new state license, labs could grow pot for scientific study. Reporter Melissa Santos wrote about this issue for The News Tribune in Tacoma, where she covers state government. She spoke with KPLU's Ed Ronco.

The American Bar Association has passed a resolution prohibiting lawyers from making sexist remarks, following the lead of many U.S. states.

Now, it is deemed professional misconduct to "engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination," including "sexual harassment and derogatory or demeaning verbal or physical comment," the resolution states.

The public defenders office in Missouri says it's been overloaded for years: too many cases, too few attorneys, too little funding.

The U.S. Supreme Court is temporarily blocking a transgender male high school student in Virginia from using the boy's bathroom.

All summer long, the clock has been ticking on voting rights cases. Judges don't like to change voting rules too near an election, and November is creeping ever closer.

And the last two weeks, in particular, have been eventful: Five courts in five states ruled against voter ID and proof-of-citizenship laws.

There's still time for appeals and stays. But for now, advocates for voting access are celebrating.

"It's been like Christmas Day," one activist told CNN on Monday.

In light of John Hinckley Jr.'s release from a psychiatric hospital 35 years after attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, Shots is exploring the use of the not guilty by reason of insanity plea. We're talking with legal and medical professionals about how the plea works, and how it doesn't work. In this second of a four-part series, we look at how juries respond to insanity defenses.

David Nogueras / KPLU

Washington state law protects reproductive rights, such as emergency contraception, but that doesn’t always mean you can go to your local hospital in an urgent situation and get what you need. Advocates hope a new website will help patients navigate the fine print.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told NPR's Nina Totenberg that earlier comments she made about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump were "incautious."

As the Supreme Court's term comes to an end, here are some takeaways:

The Supreme Court this week delivered its strongest affirmation of a women's right to abortion in years. By a margin of 5-3, it struck down two key provisions of a Texas law restricting the procedure.

Almost at the last minute, a federal judge has declared a controversial Mississippi law unconstitutional.

The law, HB 1523, would have protected religious objections to gay marriage, extramarital sex and transgender identities. The judge says it favors some religious beliefs over others and would codify unequal treatment of LGBT people.

The state's governor has said he looks forward to an appeal, but Mississippi's attorney general has expressed hesitation over appealing the case.

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