Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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A drunk driver hit and disabled another vehicle, then fled. A Good Samaritan stopped to help the struck vehicle; while helping, the Good Samaritan was fatally injured when a second vehicle did not see the disabled vehicle in time to avoid striking it, pushing the disabled vehicle into the Good Samaritan, ultimately killing him. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether the drunk driver's acts were too attenuated from the Good Samaritan's death for criminal liability to attach. The Supreme Court concluded the drunk driver's (Joshua Frahm) acts were the legal cause of the Good Samaritan's death, because those acts were criminal, cause direct harm as well as risk of further harm, and occurred close in time and location to the ultimate harm that befell the Good Samaritan. Furthermore, the Court concluded the issue of intervening, superseding cause was proper for the jury to determine as a matter of actual cause using a reasonable foreseeability standard, and that the vehicular homicide conviction was supported by sufficient evidence. Frahm's conviction was affirmed. View "Washington v. Frahm" on Justia Law

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Seattle voters approved the "Democracy Voucher Program," intending to increase civic engagement. Recipients could give their vouchers to qualified municipal candidates, who could redeem those vouchers for campaign purposes. The city would find the program through property taxes. Mark Elster and Sarah Pynchon sued, arguing the taxes funding the program was unconstitutional. Because the program did not violate the First Amendment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Elster v. City Of Seattle" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Shacon Barbee "was a pimp who made money from prostitutes working under his supervision." He was convicted of multiple crimes, including the sexual abuse of minors, leading organized crime, and theft. Barbee had two sentencing hearings: (1) an initial hearing in 2013; and (2) a resentencing on remand in 2017. The issue his case raised for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether which sentencing hearing was to be used as the basis for restitution. RCW 9.94A.753(1) holds restitution had to be determined within 180 days of "the sentencing hearing." The Court of Appeals held in this case the operative "sentencing hearing" was the 2017 hearing. The Supreme Court concurred and affirmed the appellate court's judgment. View "Washington v. Barbee" on Justia Law

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The federal Supreme Court remanded a case involving Washington law to the Washington Supreme Court. The underlying matter involved Washington’s anti-discrimination law, RCW 49.60.215(1), banning discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. Barronelle Stutzman owned and operated Arlene’s Flowers, Inc., considered a place of public accommodation. Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts refused to sell wedding flowers to a same-sex couple. The federal Supreme Court remanded this case back to the State Court to determine whether the Washington law violated the federal Constitution’s guaranty of religious neutrality. After fully reviewing the record with this issue in mind, and substantial new briefing on the matter, the Washington Court held the answered the federal Supreme Court with a “no:” the adjudicators that considered this case did not act with religious animus when they ruled the florist and her corporation violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination. And, the Court determined, they did not act with religious animus when they ruled that such discrimination was not privileged or excused by the federal or state constitutions. View "Washington v. Arlene's Flowers, Inc." on Justia Law

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A juvenile challenged his suspended manifest injustice disposition. The Court of Appeals dismissed his claim on ripeness grounds; the juvenile disagreed his claim was not yet ripe. Furthermore, the juvenile argued the trial court applied the wrong standard of proof during his sentencing hearing, and as a result, improperly imposed the manifest injustice disposition. The juvenile was convicted on two counts of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, and one count of fourth degree assault without sexual motivation. Since he had no prior criminal history, the State recommended, and the trial court adopted, a manifest injustice disposition of 36 weeks' confinement to be suspended by a special sex offender disposition alternative (SSODA). The parties to this case agreed this case was moot, given the juvenile served his sentence by the time the matter reached the Washington Supreme Court. However, finding the issue presented was one of "continuing and substantial interest," the Washington Supreme Court considered the case, determining that the appropriate standard of proof, as found in controlling Washington case law, was "clear and convincing," or the civil equivalent of the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court held manifest injustice dispositions suspended by SSODA are reviewable when imposed - juveniles do not need to wait for the disposition to be executed before challenging it. Therefore, the Court of Appeals' ruling to the contrary was overturned. The Court affirmed the juvenile's conviction and sentence. View "Washington v. T.J.S.-M." on Justia Law

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Appellants Levi Guerra, Esther John, and Peter Chiafalo appealed a superior court decision upholding the imposition of a $1,000 file for failing to cast their votes in the United States Electoral College in accordance with the popular vote in the State of Washington. They argued the file was a violation of their Constitutional rights, specifically, the Twelfth Amendment and the First Amendment. The Washington Supreme Court determined the fine imposed pursuant to RCW 29A.56.340 fell within the authority of Article II, section 1 of the federal Constitution. Furthermore, the Court held nothing under Article II, section 1 or the Twelfth Amendment granted the electors absolute discretion in casting their votes, and the fine did not interfere with a federal function. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "In re Guerra" on Justia Law

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Leonel Romero-Ochoa was convicted by jury of burglary, unlawful imprisonment, assault, and multiple counts of rap all arising from an incident in which he broke into a woman's home, beat her, and raped her twice. At trial, Romero-Ochoa wanted to admit evidence that the victim was a U-visa applicant, which would grant her temporary legal resident status if she was the victim of a qualifying crime and helps law enforcement investigate or prosecute that crime. The trial court excluded the U-visa evidence. Romero-Ochoa argued that exclusion violated his constitutional rights to present a defense and confront witnesses. The Court of Appeals agreed and revered all but the unlawful imprisonment conviction, holding the constitutional error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as to that conviction but not the others. The Washington Supreme Court granted the State's petition for review, which raised only the harmless error issue. The Supreme Court reversed, finding any error excluding the U-visa evidence was harmless as to all of Romero-Ochoa's convictions. The convictions were reinstated, and the matter remanded to the Court of Appeals to consider the claim of sentencing error that was not previously reached. View "Washington v. Romero-Ochoa" on Justia Law

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David Morgan was convicted by jury of first degree assault, attempted murder and arson. A bloodstain pattern analysis performed on his clothing revealed he was in close proximity to the victim when she suffered her injuries. The question Morgan's case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the warrantless seizure of his clothing, which officers concluded contained evidence, was justified by an exception to the warrant requirement. The Court of Appeal determined the State was required to establish inadvertence as a separate element, and reversed Morgan's convictions. The Supreme Court, however, held inadvertence was not a separate element required under the plain view doctrine. The Court therefore reinstated Morgan's convictions and remanded the case back to the Court of appeals for further proceedings. View "Washington v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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Time Rikat Meippen was a juvenile when he was convicted in adult court of first degree assault, first degree robbery, and second degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced Meippen to the top of the standard sentencing range and imposed a firearm sentence enhancement. Several years after Meippen's sentencing, the Washington Supreme Court decided Washinton v. Houston-Sconiers, 391 P.3d 409 (2017). Meippen subsequently filed an untimely personal restraint petition (PRP), arguing that Houston-Sconiers constituted a significant and material change in the law that should apply retroactively. Even assuming Meippen could show that Houston-Sconiers was a significant, material change in the law that applied retroactively, the Supreme Court held he was not entitled to collateral relief because he did not demonstrate that any error actually and substantially prejudiced him: the trial court had the discretion to impose a lesser sentence under the Sentencing Reform Act, at the time, and instead sentenced Meippen at the top of the sentencing range. View "In re Pers. Restraint Petition of Meippen" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the Snohomish County, Washington sheriff was required to issue a concealed pistol license (CPL) to an individual whose juvenile record included adjudications for class A felonies. The Washington Supreme Court concluded: no, the sheriff was not required to issue a CPL to a person prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. The Court of Appeals was reversed and Barr was denied a writ of mandamus to require the Sheriff issue him a CPL. View "Barr v. Snohomish County Sheriff" on Justia Law