law and courts | KUOW News and Information

law and courts

President Trump signed a measure into law Tuesday that rescinds an Obama-era rule aimed at blocking gun sales to certain mentally ill people.

The GOP-majority Senate passed the bill by a 57-43 margin earlier this month, following a House vote to overturn the rule.

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."

Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it illegal to check your social media feeds while you're behind the wheel. A House panel takes up the bill Monday afternoon.

During a sentencing hearing in Texas two decades ago, a defense attorney for a man named Duane Buck called on an expert who said his client's race made it more statistically likely that he would commit violent crimes in the future.

Because of that statement, the Supreme Court has ruled 6-2 that Buck, who is black, can appeal his death sentence.

It's the latest development in a case that Chief Justice John Roberts describes as "a perfect storm" of circumstances that he says culminated in a lower court "making a decision on life or death on the basis of race."

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.

The cellphone video is vivid. A Border Patrol agent aims his gun at an unarmed 15-year-old some 60 feet away, across the border with Mexico, and shoots him dead.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a case testing whether the family of the dead boy can sue the agent for damages in the U.S.

Between 2005 and 2013, there were 42 such cross-border shootings, a dramatic increase over earlier times.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, his choice for Supreme Court associate justice in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

How would U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch handle the case of the Eastern Washington florist who refused to sell wedding flowers to a same-sex couple?

It’s not completely clear, but there are some hints, Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick told KUOW’s David Hyde.

A federal appeals court says doctors in Florida must be allowed to discuss guns with their patients, striking down portions of a Florida law that restricts what physicians can say to patients about firearm ownership.

The Washington State Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a florist who declined to do flowers for a same-sex wedding broke the state’s anti-discrimination law. But the same-sex couple who won the case, isn’t celebrating too enthusiastically just yet.

‘We want youth out of the criminal justice system’

Feb 16, 2017
KUOW Photo / Natalie Newcomb

“April, do you think youth easily get away with committing crimes?

“In certain cases, yes, because adults think that we’re still learning right from wrong. What do you think, Melissa?”

“To be honest, I don’t think so. I always hear about young people getting into trouble on nationwide news or at school.”

In the RadioActive podcast, hosts Melissa Takai and April Reyes share their thoughts and experiences about the criminal justice system. 


The highest court in Washington state says a florist violated the state's anti-discrimination law when she refused to provide floral services to a gay couple.

A bipartisan proposal to repeal the death penalty in Washington state will get a hearing Wednesday morning. But the Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee said there’s no plan to hold a vote on the measure.

A jury in New York City has found Pedro Hernandez guilty of murder in the kidnapping and death of Etan Patz, who was 6 years old when he went missing in 1979. The verdict follows a mistrial nearly two years ago, after a jury became deadlocked.

Patz was never again seen by his family after he left home to walk to the school bus stop nearby. His body has never been found.

One of the sons of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces child sexual abuse charges in Centre County, Pa.

NPR's Jeff Brady reported that the charges against 41-year-old Jeffrey Sandusky come more than four years after his father was convicted of child sexual abuse.

"Jeffrey Sandusky was charged with 14 counts that include child sexual abuse and child pornography. His adoptive father, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, was convicted in 2012 of abusing 10 boys," Jeff reported.

Is Thunderpussy too offensive to trademark?

Feb 13, 2017

Bill Radke talks to Molly Sides and Leah Julius of the Seattle band Thunderpussy and their struggle to trademark a name that the federal government has deemed too offensive. A case currently in the Supreme Court will determine if their name, among others, will be given trademark status. The members discuss why a trademark is so important, the misconceptions about their name and why they struggle with other names, such as the Washington Redskins, that would also benefit from this ruling.  

Dan Satterberg (left), Andre Tayor (brother of Che Taylor who was fatally shot by police), and former SPD Chief Norm Stamper at a community meeting.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Friday marked the end of the inquest into the fatal police shooting of Che Taylor in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood last year. In the fact-finding hearings, the eight-person jury found that Taylor posed a threat to the officers involved in the shooting.


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Valeria Fernández/PRI

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos’ deportation to Mexico from Arizona this week was the last chapter of a long nightmare for her family. It began in 2008 with a knock on the door by sheriff’s officers.

The day of that raid was still fresh in the memory of her 16-year-old son, who spoke Wednesday minutes before his mother went inside the Phoenix Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office for an annual check-in with federal authorities.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson
KUOW photo/Amy Radil

A federal judge in Seattle who was criticized by President Donald Trump after slapping a hold on the refugee travel ban got some backup Thursday: a unanimous appeals court ruling against Trump's executive order.

And a constitutional law professor singled out some key language in the ruling as particularly telling.


Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling that upheld a lower federal court's decision to temporarily block a Jan. 27 executive order on immigration.

The order suspends new-refugee admissions for 120 days, bans Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocks travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — for 90 days.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson prepares to talk to the media about a federal judge's ruling on the Trump refugee order Friday, Feb. 3, 2017.
KUOW photo/Amy Radil

President Trump’s immigration ban will remain on hold.

A three-judge panel unanimously denied the federal government’s appeal to reinstate parts of the executive order barring immigrants and refugees of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the country.

Photo courtesy of Greg Olsen

If you’ve been looking for a new Schoolhouse Rock episode on modern presidential power, without the musical and cartoon characteristics, look no further. The early days of the Trump administration are ripe with questions of the reach and limitations of the powers granted to the President of the United States.

This panel discussion among professors at the University of Washington School of Law clarifies many of those questions. 

KUOW Photo/Andy Hurst

Kim Malcolm talks with Seattle attorney Takao Yamada about airportlawyer.org, a website he co-founded to provide legal assistance to refugees and immigrants affected by President Trump's travel ban.

Two lawyers, three judges, thousands of ordinary Americans: On Tuesday night, oral arguments in Washington v. Trump attracted an unusually large audience for audio-only legal proceedings.

The case centers on President Trump's controversial executive order that would temporarily bar all new refugees from entering the U.S., as well as visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president in November, questions have been raised about the lease he signed to operate a luxury hotel in the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The lease specifically says the lease holder cannot be a federal elected official. So critics repeatedly have called upon the federal General Services Administration to enforce its agreement, and make President Trump walk away from his deal to run the Trump International Hotel.

Outside the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle last Friday afternoon, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson suddenly found himself in the national spotlight after federal Judge James L. Robart had just imposed an immediate, nationwide halt to President Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees. As camera shutters clicked, Ferguson played David to Trump's Goliath.

"The law is a powerful thing," Ferguson said. "It has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it and that includes the president of the United States."

Bill Radke talks with Emily Bazelon about the ongoing court battle over President Trump's immigration and refugee travel ban. Bazelon is a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine and a senior research scholar at Yale Law School.

First it was companies like Amazon and Expedia. Now Washington state’s lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration has the support of former top U.S. officials.

The Department of Justice has filed a brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, responding to a legal challenge to President Trump's executive order on immigration.

The court is set to hear oral arguments by phone on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, in the next critical legal test of whether the president's decision to ban travel by people from seven Muslim-majority countries and halt refugee resettlement in the U.S. will be upheld.

The federal conspiracy trials against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his followers is beginning on Monday, with jury selection for the trial of six of Bundy's supporters.

The cases, stemming from a 2014 armed standoff against federal agents in Nevada, are unfolding in several stages. Bundy and his four sons are among the 17 total defendants but won't be immediately entering the courtroom.

When the country elects a Republican president, and there's an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court, that president will nominate a conservative to fill the seat. The question is: What kind of a conservative?

There are different kinds of conservative judges, from the pragmatist to the originalist. Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee, is a self-proclaimed originalist.

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