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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School districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, "appropriately ambitious" progress, the Supreme Court said Wednesday in an 8-0 ruling.

The decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District could have far-reaching implications for the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the United States.

Tina Fineberg / AP Photo

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court suggested Tuesday that it is sympathetic to Microsoft Corp. in a dispute with disgruntled owners of the Xbox 360 video-game system who sued saying the console has a design defect that scratches game discs.

The justices heard arguments Tuesday in a case that involves the Xbox 360 owners' attempts to get class action status for their lawsuit, which was filed several years ago in the state of Washington, where Microsoft is headquartered.

A state Supreme court decision Thursday gives a Washington tribe the right to transport goods and services across state lines without taxation. Attorneys and tribal members said the case is a win on the side of tribal sovereignty.

With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to open hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, the game of confirmation cat and mouse is about to begin. Senators will try to get a fix on Gorsuch's legal views — and the nominee will try to say as little as possible.

Supreme Court scholars and practitioners on the right and left may disagree about whether they want to see Gorsuch confirmed, but in general there is little doubt about the nominee's conservatism. Indeed, his conservative pedigree is the reason he was picked.

The man at the heart of the legal resistance to the Trump agenda works in an unfinished office a block away from the White House.

David Cole, the new national legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, hasn't had time to hang pictures on the wall or remember to bring a mug to hold his morning tea.

"I get to wake up every morning and I get paid to think about how to respond in ways that will preserve our basic rights and liberties," Cole said. "That's a tremendous privilege."

In a reversal, the Supreme Court will not decide Gavin Grimm's lawsuit over a school policy that requires students to use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex. The court was scheduled to hear the case this month.

A measure under consideration in the Oregon Legislature would allow juries to award unlimited damages in lawsuits alleging negligence.

Juries can already award unlimited damages that are tied to actual economic harm done to victims. But the state has a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages, sometimes referred to as "pain and suffering."

In 2010, Lester Packingham was convicted of having a Facebook account. That's a crime in North Carolina, which bars registered sex offenders from "accessing" certain social media sites, including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether that law violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Packingham contends the statute, instead of being narrowly targeted, encompasses a "vast amount" of speech that is protected by the Constitution.

With security at the U.S.-Mexico border at the center of a seething controversy, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed torn at oral arguments on Tuesday — torn between their sense of justice and legal rules that until now have protected U.S. Border Patrol agents from liability in cross-border shootings.

Thirty-three states have passed criminal justice reform in an attempt to reduce prison populations and save money.

But although voters in Oklahoma approved ballot initiatives enacting reforms in November, some lawmakers have filed bills to repeal the reforms.

Prisons in Oklahoma are at a 109 percent capacity, creating safety issues and budget problems. There's no money for treatment, and things are so dire, many inmates are sleeping in makeshift spaces like the cafeteria.

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.

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