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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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.

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday evening that the Trump administration can't ban grandparents and other family members of citizens and legal residents from coming to the U.S. from six mainly Muslim countries.

The Justice Department downplayed the ruling, looking ahead to a higher-ranking court considering the case: "The Supreme Court has stepped in to correct these lower courts before, and we will now return to the Supreme Court to vindicate the Executive Branch's duty to protect the Nation."

Members of the Sinixt Indian tribe reside on the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville in Washington. Last spring, one of them won a landmark court case in Canada reestablishing their tribal rights there.

Paula Wissel / knkx

Two Seattle police officers recently filed a lawsuit against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant for defamation of character.

They say she defamed them when, shortly after it happened, she referred to the police killing of Che Taylor, an African American man, as a “brutal murder.” They point out they were eventually cleared of wrongdoing in the killing by an inquest jury. 

Human rights groups filed two federal lawsuits Monday against President Trump and other top members of his administration, alleging that a ban against transgender people serving in the military is unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs include both transgender people who are currently serving in the military and transgender people who wish to serve but are no longer able to because of the ban.

Two Washington state inmates at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center near Aberdeen have filed a civil rights complaint in federal court over prison shaving policies.

A Washington state high school football coach took advantage of his position when he prayed on the field after games, and he's not entitled to immediately get his job back, a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

Seth Perlman / AP Photo

Washington law prevents domestic violence abusers from possessing guns. But advocates for victims say the courts aren’t doing enough to enforce the law.

Passed by the Washington state legislature in 2014, the law requires people with protection orders against them because of domestic abuse to temporarily surrender their firearms to law enforcement. 

Los Angeles sued the Justice Department on Tuesday over the Trump administration's threat to cut millions in federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities, which limit their cooperation with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.

Simone Alicea / KNKX

Tensions over high-profile police shooting deaths have led to ongoing conversations about bias, police culture and use of force.

Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing back against the federal government.

On Monday, the city is filing suit against the Department of Justice, which announced it would withhold millions of dollars in police grant money from so-called sanctuary cities.

Emanuel is suing because he says new rules for a federal crime-fighting grant go against the Constitution and the city's values.

"Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate," Emanuel said.

Courtesy of King County

Updated at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1. Original story follows update.

The Burien City Council ended a meeting Monday night without taking a critical vote on the future of a local law aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants.

By failing to vote, City Council members missed an Aug. 1 deadline to put a repeal of the immigration law on the November ballot.

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