Last week, the United States Supreme Court filed its opinion in Missouri v. McNeely, No. 11-1425, 2013 WL 1628934 (U.S. Apr. 17, 2013). This decision was widely publicized with headlines proclaiming that the Court now requires warrants for blood draws. Despite these headlines, that is not exactly how the Court ruled or the full significance of the Court’s ruling.
SCOTUS: Case-by-case determination for warrantless blood draws
The McNeely decision is largely a clarification of the Court’s opinion in Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966). In Schmerber, police arrested Schmerber for DUI and took his blood for testing, over Schmerber’s objection and without a warrant. The Court noted that warrants are generally required for searches of dwellings absent an emergency, and “no less could be required where intrusions into the human body are concerned.” The Court then went on to state that the officer in Schmerber’s case may have believed that an emergency existed because a delay to seek a warrant would result in destruction of evidence, given that the body eliminates alcohol from the system with every passing moment. Read more
Can you really stay on top of new Washington cases every day? Yes, and you might need to + GIVEAWAY!
Technology, for better and worse, has changed the legal profession. When I began practicing in 2000, the partner I worked for slyly told me he didn’t envy me starting my legal career in the technology era, noting that in his day, there wasn’t even FedEx! He would draft a contract, head out for a 2 martini lunch, and simply wait for the revisions to come back via U.S. mail. Even back in 2000 it was clear to all that those days were over.
More than a decade later, the rapid proliferation of email and online technologies continues to change our profession. It seems that every year the expectations of clients, judges, and lawyers (even of ourselves) demand increasing immediacy. Read more
In the cult comedy Super Troopers, a policeman orders a hamburger at a fast-food restaurant. The teenager taking his order calls back to the grill, “Double bacon cheeseburger. It’s for a cop.” The policeman asks why he said that, to which the teenager defensively replies, “I just said that so they’d make it good.” A beat passes, and the teenager yells back, “Don’t spit in that cop’s burger.”
The Juicy Facts
Life imitated art for police deputy Edward Bylsma, who ordered a Whopper at a Burger King drive-thru in Vancouver, WA. For whatever reason, Bylsma became suspicious when he received his food. He pulled over, lifted the top bun, and saw a glob of spit. Read more
Temple of Justice Update: When Do Confidential Discovery Documents Become Publicly Available in Civil Cases?
The Washington Supreme Court’s current term has seen a considerable focus on the requirement in Article I, Section 10 of the state Constitution, that “[j]ustice in all cases shall be administered openly.” The most recent decision discussing that provision is Bennett v. Smith Bundy Berman Britton, PS (No. 84903-0). The case settles one question about sensitive information produced in civil cases, but leaves several unanswered.
Under a long line of cases, the Washington State Supreme Court has set forth two standards for protecting information produced during civil litigation. When information is produced during discovery but not filed with the court, it may be protected from public disclosure “for good cause shown.” That relatively low standard recognizes that civil discovery is broad and it often involves confidential information only tangentially related to a case. But when documents become part of the “administration of justice,” a higher standard applies. In those situations, only a “compelling need” can justify sealing documents.
Bennett prompted the Court to answer when, exactly, a document becomes “part of the administration of justice.” Read more
The Washington State Supreme Court recently handed down four cases reiterating that criminal trials must be open to the public and that closing them at any time during trial-related proceedings requires specific procedures. Counsel and trial court judges should make sure to follow the proper procedures before closing any part of a trial or other proceeding, because the remedy will nearly always be an entirely new trial.
Washington’s Constitution grants criminal defendants the right to “a speedy public trial” and requires that “[j]ustice in all cases shall be administered openly.” Justice Owens, writing for the Court in State v. Wise, (No. 82802-4), explained why open trials are so important:
A public trial is a core safeguard in our system of justice. Be it through members of the media, victims, the family or friends of a party, or passersby, the public can keep watch over the administration of justice when the courtroom is open. The open and public judicial process helps assure fair trials. It deters perjury and other misconduct by participants in a trial. It tempers biases and undue partiality. The public nature of trials is a check on the judicial system, which the public entrusts to adjudicate and render decisions of the highest import. It provides for accountability and transparency, assuring that whatever transpires in court will not be secret or unscrutinized. And openness allows the public to see, firsthand, justice done in its communities.