law and courts | KUOW News and Information

law and courts

President Trump says if he had known ahead of time that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, he would have chosen someone else for the post, calling the move "very unfair."

In an interview with The New York Times, he also accused James Comey, the FBI director that he fired in May, of trying to save his job by leveraging a dossier of compromising material on Trump.

The debate over whether the president of the United States can be charged with a crime is as old as the country itself.

Early evidence comes from the diary of a Pennsylvania senator, who recorded "a heated debate on this very issue" in September 1789, said Hofstra University Law School professor Eric Freedman.

"For those who believe in original intent, we have pretty good evidence of original intent," Freedman said. "The founders just disagreed on the very question."

Texting or holding a phone to your ear while driving is already illegal in Washington state. But starting Sunday, Washington state troopers and local police will begin enforcing a toughened law against distracted driving.

Diontae Moore-Lyons, 17, right, is escorted back to his unit by manager Shawn Northcutt at Green Hill School in Chehalis, Wash., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Green Hill School is a medium/maximum security, fenced facility for teenage male offenders.
KUOW Photo/Dan DeLong

When black youth enter the criminal justice system, most of the people in authority they come into contact with — social workers, lawyers, the jury — are white.

Diontae Moore-Lyons, 17, is currently incarcerated at Green Hill School in Chehalis, Washington, the state's maximum security facility for juveniles.

Updated 2 p.m.

A day late, the Justice Department complied this morning with a federal court order and released part of a security clearance form dealing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' contacts with foreign governments.

On June 12, a judge had ordered the agency to provide the information within 30 days, a deadline that passed on Wednesday.

In a filing Thursday morning with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department released that part of Sessions' form which poses the question:

Manuel stands next to a window in his English class.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Every year tens of thousands of children unlawfully cross the border without parents or guardians. They’re fleeing violence and poverty.


A free speech law center says President Trump and his staff are breaking the law when they block his critics on Twitter. The Knight First Amendment Institute has filed a lawsuit saying the president's Twitter feed is a public forum protected by the First Amendment.

When Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last June, did he break any U.S. laws?

Temple of Justice, Washington Supreme Court, Olympia
Flickr Photo/Aidan Wakely-Mulroney/https://flic.kr/p/dsJvKb

The Washington State Supreme Court has raised the bar for removing jurors of color from an all-white panel.


Andre Taylor, brother of Che Taylor, who was killed by Seattle Police on Feb. 21, 2016 addresses a crowd of protesters on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

An organization advocating to reduce police violence launched a campaign for a measure that would change law enforcement training. De-Escalate Washington introduced the measure Thursday.

Attorneys general from Massachusetts, New York and 16 other states filed suit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department Thursday, accusing DeVos of breaking federal law and giving free rein to for-profit colleges by rescinding the Borrower Defense Rule.

Fourteen states — including Oregon and Washington — are threatening to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act.

In a letter to the EPA sent Thursday, the group argues Director Scott Pruitt broke the law when he ordered his agency to halt part of the rule-making process for regulating methane and other air pollution from oil and gas facilities.

A grand jury indicted three Chicago police officers on felony charges on Tuesday, accusing them of conspiring to cover up the facts of a fatal police shooting in October 2014 of a black teenager in order to shield their fellow officer.

Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, according to prosecutors.

Note: This story contains a description of the alleged sexual assault at the center of the case.

A juror in the criminal trial of Bill Cosby says testimony from a second woman who said she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby did not weigh heavily on the panel's 52 hours of deliberations. That statement comes in spite of prosecutors' hope that hearing from an additional accuser would have shown jurors that Cosby had a pattern of behavior.

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

A portion of President Trump’s travel ban on six majority Muslim nations is set to be reinstated on Thursday. Much has changed since the initial ban rolled out in late January, leading to a weekend of chaos and protest at Sea-Tac Airport. This time around is likely to be more subdued.


Updated at 7 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that taxpayer-funded grants for playgrounds available to nonprofits under a state program could not be denied to a school run by a church.

"The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.

The Supreme Court says it will decide the fate of President Trump's revised travel ban, agreeing to hear arguments over immigration cases that were filed in federal courts in Hawaii and Maryland and allowing parts of the ban that has been on hold since March to take effect.

The justices removed the two lower courts' injunctions against the ban "with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States," narrowing the scope of those injunctions that had put the ban in limbo.

Updated 12:30 p.m. ET

President Trump kept one of his campaign promises, signing a bill Friday to make it easier for the secretary of veterans affairs to fire and discipline employees. It came in response to the 2014 VA scandal in which employees covered up long wait times while collecting bonuses.

The bill, which passed earlier this month with strong bipartisan support, also gives the secretary authority to revoke bonuses and protects whistleblowers who report wrongdoing.

Two government watchdog groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive, filed a lawsuit Thursday against President Trump and the Executive Office of the President.

For the second time in less than a year, the state of Washington has been sanctioned for failing to turn over evidence in a civil court case.

The Slants
Courtesy of The Slants

Bill Radke speaks with Simon Tam of Portland band The Slants and Robert Chang, professor of law at the Seattle University School of Law, about the Supreme Court decision that allowed Tam's Asian-American band to trademark their name, which some argued was too offensive for the designation.

Tam explains how he feels this decision allows people to empower themselves against slurs and thinks this is a huge win for social justice.

Professor Chang disagrees with the SCOTUS decision, claiming that this could open the doors to discriminatory  trademarks that slip past civil rights laws. He also argues that trademarking names may in fact harm future social justice movements. 

Russia's efforts to interfere with last year's elections will be front and center during two hearings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence while the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hear from current U.S. intelligence officials and state election experts.

Here are five questions likely to be on lawmakers' minds as they listen to witnesses and ask questions.

A state senator from Seattle is renewing his call to rewrite Washington’s police deadly force law. Democrat David Frockt represents the legislative district where Seattle police shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of four on Sunday.

Members of the Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name, the Supreme Court says, in a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases.

The Slants' frontman, Simon Tam, filed a lawsuit after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office kept the band from registering its name and rejected its appeal, citing the Lanham Act, which prohibits any trademark that could "disparage ... or bring ... into contemp[t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead," as the court states.

Delvonn Heckard's legal team: Julie Kays, left, and Lincoln Beauregard.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Delvonn Heckard, the man who accused Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of abusing him, withdrew his lawsuit this week. But he said he did it at his attorneys' behest; if it were up to him, he would have forged ahead. 

“I put my college on hold and everything just to deal with this, and then for this to happen, it’s just a lot to take in,” he said. “But I guess my attorneys know what they’re doing.”

After more than 30 hours of jury deliberations, there is still no conclusion to the sexual assault trial of comedian Bill Cosby.

The members of the jury say they are deadlocked and "cannot come to a unanimous consensus on any of these counts." The judge has ordered jurors to return to deliberations and try — again — to reach a decision.

Cosby has been charged with multiple felony counts of aggravated indecent assault, over allegations that he drugged and molested Andrea Constand, then a Temple University employee, in 2004.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration failed to follow proper environmental procedures when it granted approval to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project.

It's a legal victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists, who protested for months against the pipeline. Oil started flowing through it earlier this month. The tribe fears that the pipeline, which crosses the Missouri River just upstream of its reservation, could contaminate its drinking water and sacred lands.

Detainees are shown inside a holding cell at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., Friday, Oct. 17, 2008.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

If you’re convicted of a first-time DUI in Washington state, you could be sentenced to one night in jail, pay up to $5,000 in fines, and lose your driver’s license for 90 days.

The director of Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office over the Flint water crisis. Both are felonies in Michigan.

The state's chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, will be charged with obstruction of justice. Four other officials, including the former Flint emergency manager and former director of public works, were also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

More than 190 Democrats in Congress joined together to sue President Trump on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

They say Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution by profiting from business deals involving foreign governments — and doing so without congressional consent. And they want the court to make it stop.

Trump has "repeatedly and flagrantly violated" the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters on a conference call.

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