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Steven Yelovich and Faith De Armond dated for more than five years. Relevant to this appeal, Yelovich had an active restraining order against him, prohibiting him from coming near De Armond or having any contact with her. One day Yelovich saw someone through the fence of his son's house as he was moving boxes in the garage; he went to his car and discovered a window had been broken and some contents (including his cell phone) were missing. Yelovich saw De Armond walking down the street and had a hunch she broke the window and took his possessions. Yelovich was aware of the restraining order, but did not believe police would arrive in enough time to recover his phone. He chased her, and a struggle ensued. De Armond was treated for minor injuries; the responding police officer noted De Armond seemed intoxicated at the time of the incident. Yelovich was charged with one count felony violation of the no-contact order predicated on his assault of De Armond, and one count of bail jumping. At trial, he argued he was entitled to a jury instruction on defense of property because he was protecting his cell phone, which he believed De Armond had stolen. Yelovich appealed when the trial court denied his request. The Washington Supreme Court determined an instruction on defense-of-property is not available when there is a valid order prohibiting defendant from contacting the protected party. View "Washington v. Yelovich" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted David Ramirez of third degree assault and possession of a controlled substance, and found by special verdict that he committed the assault with sexual motivation and displayed an egregious lack of remorse. After sentencing, Ramirez presented a notice of appeal and a motion for an order of indigency, which the the trial court granted. Prior to imposing his legal financial obligations, the trial court asked only two questions relating to Ramirez' then-current and future ability to pay, both of which were directed to the State. The trial court did not ask Ramirez directly about his ability to pay at any point during sentencing. The Washington Supreme Court found that a trial court has an obligation to conduct an individualized inquiry into a defendant's current and future ability to pay before imposing legal financial obligations at sentencing. An adequate inquiry must include consideration of certain mandatory factors, including the defendant's incarceration and other debts, and the court rule GR34 criteria for indigency. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded this case for the trial court to strike the improperly imposed LFSs from Ramirez's judgment and sentence. View "Washington v. Ramirez" on Justia Law

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The dispute in this case concerned the correct characterization of Xerox's payment play under Washington law. Xerox had compensation formula fo call center employees based on "production minutes" - a unit of time during which an employee services incoming calls. If the production minute formed the basis for a bona fide piecework system, then one set of minimum wage rules and regulations applied. If the minute formed the basis for an hourly payment system, then a different set of hourly minimum wage protections applied. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question regarding Washington's labor law with respect to Xerox's compensation under "production minutes," and whether they qualified as piecework under the Washington Administrative Code. The Washington Supreme Court responded with a "no," "an employer's payment plan that includes as a metric an employee's 'production minutes' does not qualify as piecework under WAC 296-126-021. View "Hill v. Xerox Bus. Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

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Adrian Sassen Van Elsloo appealed the dismissal of an impaneled juror excused midtrial because she had a minor connection to an important defense witness. The Washington Supreme Court concluded the trial judge erred by dismissing the juror because there was no evidence the juror was biased. The Court decided as remedy for the erroneous dismissal was to grant defendant a new trial if the dismissal stemmed from the juror's views on the merits of the case. No new trial should be granted if the State could establish the error was harmless. The Court surmised there was a reasonable possibility the juror was dismissed because of her views on the merits of the case, so it granted a new trial. View "Washington v. Sassen Van Elsloo" on Justia Law

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Defendants Hai Nguyen and Dominique Norris' cases were consolidated for the Washington Supreme Court's review; the issue they shared was whether the community custody conditions imposed by their respective sentencing courts were sufficiently crime related or unconstitutionally vague. Each case involved a defendant convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. For Nguyen, the sentencing court imposed a condition prohibiting defendant from possessing or viewing sexually explicit material. The Supreme Court determined that condition was not unconstitutionally vague and crime related. For Norris, the sentencing court imposed conditions requiring defendant to inform community corrections officers of any "dating relationship" and prohibited defendant from entering any "sex-related business." The Supreme Court determined the dating condition was unconstitutionally vague but that the sex-related business condition was crime related. View "Washington v. Nguyen" on Justia Law

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A cemetery operator challenged a fine imposed when it relocated cremains without giving prior notification of its actions to next of kin. The operator claimed it was acting under its own rules in disinterring 37 sets of cremains without notice, and therefore acting under authority of law. The Washington Supreme Court concluded the operator's rules did not supersede state statutes, and therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals which upheld the fine. View "Southwick, Inc. v. Washington" on Justia Law

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David Martin's employment with Gonzaga University was terminated. He sued, alleging he was wrongfully discharged because of whistle-blowing, and asserted a private cause of action under RCW 49.12.250 for an alleged violation of the statute's requirement he be provided with his complete personnel file. Gonzaga successfully moved for summary judgment, dismissing the case, and the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the wrongful discharge, but remanded the personnel file claim for further findings of fact. The issue this appeal presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Court of Appeals applied the proper test to Martin's whistle-blower claim. The Supreme Court determined the appellate court applied the incorrect standard, and that the personnel file claim was not yet justiciable. So the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the whistle-blower claim, and reversed the personnel file claim, finding Gonzaga was entitled to summary judgment on both claims. View "Martin v. Gonzaga Univ." on Justia Law

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The Washington civil forfeiture statute allows law enforcement agencies to seize and take ownership of property that had a sufficient factual nexus to certain controlled substance violations; if law enforcement cannot prove the forfeiture is authorized, the claimant would be entitled to have the property returned and receive reasonable attorneys' fees incurred to get the property back. This case presented two issues of first impression for the Washington Supreme Court regarding the attorney fee provision of the statute: (1) who qualifies as a claimant when the property at issue is owned by a corporation; and (2) is a substantially prevailing claimant's fee award strictly limited to fees incurred in the forfeiture proceeding itself? The Court held: (1) a corporate shareholder who did not file a claim in the forfeiture case is not a claimant and cannot recover fees pursuant to the statute's plain language; and (2) the award is not strictly limited to fees incurred in the forfeiture proceeding itself - the statute gives courts discretion to award fees from the related criminal case if reasonably incurred for the primary purpose of resisting the forfeiture. View "Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enf't Team v. Junction City Lots 1 through 12 Inclusive" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the state Department of Ecology's then-current wast discharge permitting process complied with RCW 90.48.520 and its requirement for permit conditions to "require all known, available and reasonable methods" to control toxicants in the applicant's wastewater. Specifically, the issue was whether the statute required the Department to use a more sensitive testing method not recognized by the Department or the U.S. EPA as reliable for permit compliance purposes. The Supreme Court determined that it did not require such testing, and affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Puget Soundkeeper All. v. Dep't of Ecology" on Justia Law

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Washington voters referred Initiative 940 ("I-940") to the Legislature; I-940 was an initiative concerning police reform. The legislature also passed a conditional bill, ESHB 3003, purporting to prospectively amend 1-940 if it passed later-in this case, just a few minutes later. But that conditional, prospective bill violated the explicit language and allocation of legislative power contained in article II, section 1 of the Washington Constitution. A divided Washington Supreme Court majority affirmed a superior court's decision to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Washington Secretary of State to place I-940 on the ballot. View "Eyman v. Wyman" on Justia Law