Temple of Justice

The Unsettled Policy Landscape of Drug Possession Laws in Washington

On Feb. 25, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state’s main drug possession crime in a case called State v. Blake. The ruling meant there was no state law making simple possession of drugs a crime unless the Legislature recriminalized it, which it has now done via passage of Engrossed Senate Bill (ESB) 5476. In the debate over ESB 5476, some stakeholders argued that the Blake decision was an opportunity for Washington to adopt a new approach to substance use disorders based on solutions that heal rather than continue to inflict harm on people and communities. Others advocated for recriminalization. ESB 5476 ended up taking elements of both of these approaches. It provides new statewide planning and resources for substance use services, but also recriminalizes possession.

Read More…
An empty courtroom

Court of Appeals Voids Fee-Sharing Agreement

Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals recently refused to enforce a fee-sharing agreement between two plaintiffs’ lawyers because the arrangement had not been confirmed in writing with the client as required by RPC 1.5(e)(1)(ii). Kayshel v. Chae, __ Wn. App.2d __, 483 P.3d 1285 (2021), involved an individual employment discrimination claim and a separate wage class action. The attorney who was retained initially by the client—the claimant in the individual case and the then-potential class representative in the class action—later associated another lawyer in the class action. The two lawyers eventually agreed on a fee split in percentage terms. They wrote the agreement by hand over breakfast and later confirmed the terms between themselves by email. Although the second lawyer related that he had received the client’s oral consent in a telephone call, the client was never presented with the written agreement.

Read More…
Official legal eviction order or notice to renter or tenant of home with face mask

What Renters Should Know About Tenant Right to Counsel and Eviction Law in Washington

For more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington renters who have been unable to pay their rent have at least been safe from being evicted. As of this writing, bills for that unpaid rent will come due July 1 for tens of thousands of Washingtonians. However, changes to Washington’s landlord-tenant law have created new protections to help people avoid evictions, mediate disputes with landlords, and guarantee that certain renters have free legal representation. On April 22, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law Senate Bill 5160. Originally sponsored by state Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, the legislation adds a number of tenant protections such as “providing for legal representation in eviction cases, establishing an eviction resolution pilot program for nonpayment of rent cases, and authorizing landlord access to certain rental assistance programs,” according to the final bill report.

Read More…
Deputy testifies in court

The History and Mechanics of Qualified Immunity and Police Accountability

Among the many issues at the center of debates over police-involved killings, particularly killings of people of color, few are as impactful as qualified immunity. But for as often as qualified immunity is pulled into wider debates, the concept itself is idiosyncratic and opaque, perhaps even among legal professionals. It is not a law but a precedent, not an act of government but a judicially created doctrine. King County Superior Court Judge David Whedbee is one of the organizers behind a planned full-day event aimed at examining qualified immunity. On May 7, Whedbee and Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary I. Yu will cohost “Qualified Immunity 360,” sponsored by the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission and featuring panelist presentations and discussion “to educate practitioners, judges, law students, and the public on the mechanics, history, and public policy behind the doctrine.”

Read More…
Derek Chauvin trial with Judge Tollefson commenting on KING 5

The Derek Chauvin Trial: Early Insights from WSBA President-Elect’s Judicial Perspective

Very little about the trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is standard. The mere fact that there is a trial is somewhat unusual. Police-involved deaths rarely result in prosecutions, let alone convictions of the officers involved. (Despite about 1,000 police-involved deaths per year, since 2015 only 121 officers have been arrested on charges of murder or manslaughter resulting in 44 convictions, according to the New York Times.) Few police-involved deaths are as widely well-known as the summer day in 2020 and the now-infamous video showing Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, ending in Floyd’s death. And certainly, never before has such an intensely high-profile criminal case taken place amid the unprecedented courtroom restrictions to amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Read More…
Law books and a phrenology head

Court of Appeals Issues Rare Decision on Revoking Consent to Conflict Waiver

Earlier this year, Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals issued a decision touching on an area of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) that is rarely litigated: revoking consent to conflict waivers. The decision was “unpublished” under General Rule 14.1, but is instructive nonetheless—both for its illumination of this comparatively “unplumbed” area of conflicts law and as an illustration of the result.

Read More…
An empty courtroom

A View from the Respondents Regarding Subject Matter Jurisdiction

We were counsel for Olympic View Water and Sewer District in Ronald Wastewater District v. Olympic View Water & Sewer District. Benjamin Gould’s article in NWSidebar suggesting the Supreme Court’s reasoning in that case departed from past decisions of the court on subject-matter jurisdiction, fails to acknowledge supportive Supreme Court precedent.

Read More…
US Supreme Court building

8 Cases to Watch at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020-2021

The U.S. Supreme Court began its 2020-2021 term in October. There are a number of high-profile cases on the docket, including disputes over voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and the Affordable Care Act. The Court hears oral arguments from October through April. The justices continue to add new cases to the docket, so it’s highly probable more hot-topic cases will be granted as the term goes on. Opinions are usually handed down by the last day of the Court’s term. With the exception of this deadline, there are no rules concerning when decisions must be released. With all that in mind, here are eight cases to watch at the Supreme Court:

Read More…
Law books

Supreme Court Applies Corporate Attorney-Client Privilege to ‘Functional Employees’

The Washington Supreme Court recently applied the corporate attorney-client privilege to “functional employees” in Hermanson v. Multicare Health Systems, Inc. In the privilege context, “functional employees” are not directly employed by a corporation but are sufficiently integrated into a company’s operations that some federal courts—including the 9th Circuit and Washington’s federal district courts—had concluded that they fall within the corporation’s attorney-client privilege.

Read More…
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I Dissent: The Legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Perhaps the most impactful of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous dissents came in a case about gender pay inequity in the workplace: Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). Plaintiff Lilly Ledbetter began working as a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsen, Alabama, in 1979. She worked there for 19 years and for most of that time was the only woman manager.

Read More…