Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal sued to have the Thurston County Superior Court order the removal of one allegedly defamatory line in the voters’ guide pamphlet from challenger Maia Espinoza’s candidate statement. The superior court agreed that there was a substantial likelihood Reykdal could succeed in a defamation suit based on Espinoza’s statement. Using a supervisory power conferred by RCW 29A.32.090(3)(b), the superior court ordered the secretary of state to edit out the offending line. Espinoza sought accelerated direct review, which the Washington Supreme Court granted. Because Reykdal was a public figure, he had to show “actual malice” to succeed in a defamation suit. The Supreme Court found the superior court made no findings regarding actual malice, and thus granted Reykdal’s request in error. Because there was no likelihood that Reykdal could succeed in a defamation suit, the Supreme Court concluded the superior court erred in its application of the statute. View "Reykdal v. Espinoza" on Justia Law

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In 2018, a dependency petition was filed alleging that A.M.-S' father had physically abused the child. Although the father denied the allegations against him, he stipulated to a finding of dependency “given the nature of the allegations and the possibility of criminal charges.” The court ordered the father to engage in a “[p]sychological evaluation with a parenting component” and reserved ruling on other possible evaluations. The father asked the trial court to go beyond the RCW 26.44.053(2)'s requirements and prohibit not only the “use” of his statements during his court-ordered evaluation but also any “derivative use” of those statements in connection with a dependency hearing. The county prosecutor objected, and the trial court denied the father’s motion. The Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed in a published opinion. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals: under these circumstances, the trial court was not required to grant derivative use immunity over the prosecutor’s objection. View "In re Dependency of A.M.-S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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This case involved a dispute over control of sewerage service to Point Wells, located just north of the King County, Washington border, within the boundaries of Snohomish County and Olympic View Water and Sewer District (Olympic). The issue presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was a determination of the effect of a 1985 superior court order which purported to annex the Point Wells service area from King County to Ronald Wastewater District (Ronald). Resolution of this issue required interpretation of former Title 56 RCW (1985) and former RCW 36.94.410-.440 (1985) to determine whether the 1985 court had authority to approve the transfer and annexation. The trial court held that the 1985 Order annexed Point Wells to Ronald. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that King County could not transfer annexation rights that it did not have. Finding no reversible error in the appellate court's conclusion, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ronald Wastewater Dist. v. Olympic View Water& Sewer Dist." on Justia Law

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Initiative Measure 976 (I-976) was the latest in a series of initiatives about reducing or eliminating local motor vehicle excise taxes, including taxes that have been pledged to support major transportation projects in Washington state. Authorized regional transit authorities were empowered to ask their voters to approve transportation system proposals and financing secured by local taxes and fees, including local motor vehicle excise taxes. The legislature also empowered local transportation benefit districts and other local governments to impose taxes, including motor vehicle excise taxes, and fees to fund local transportation projects and to seek voter approval for additional funding. I-976 passed statewide with about 53 percent of the vote, though it was rejected by about 53 percent of the voters in the Sound Transit region, about 60 percent of King County voters, and about 70 percent of San Juan voters, who depended heavily on ferries funded by motor vehicle excise taxes. Several counties, cities, associations and private citizens (collectively challengers) challenged I-976’s constitutionality, arguing that I-976 contained multiple subjects in violation of article II, section 19’s single subject requirement. They also argued I-976 violated section 19’s subject-in-title requirement because the ballot title falsely suggested voter-approved motor vehicle taxes would not be repealed. The challengers successfully sought a preliminary injunction in King County Superior Court to block its implementation. The trial judge initially concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the grounds that the ballot title was misleading. The Washington Supreme Court concurred I-976 contained more than one subject, and its subject was not accurately expressed in its title. Accordingly, I-976 was declared unconstitutional. View "Garfield Cty. Transp. Auth. v. Washington" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Amanda Knight and accomplices ransacked James and Charlene Sanders’ home, zip-tied them, placed them face down on the floor, stole their wedding rings off their fingers at gunpoint, pistol-whipped Charlene and her son, and shot and killed James Sanders. A jury convicted Knight of multiple crimes, including felony murder in the first degree, two counts of robbery in the first degree, two counts of assault in the second degree, and burglary in the first degree. By way of personal restraint petition, Knight challenged these convictions on double jeopardy grounds, arguing that her robbery and felony murder conviction against James, as well as her robbery and assault conviction against Charlene, should have merged. The Court of Appeals held that the two convictions against James merged, but declined to review Knight’s convictions against Charlene because the Court of Appeals had previously reviewed and dismissed that double jeopardy claim on direct appeal. The Washington Supreme Court held that Knight’s convictions against James Sanders did not merge, and that review of her convictions against Charlene Sanders was barred. "Knight’s robbery and felony murder convictions against James served independent effects, falling under an exception to the double jeopardy merger doctrine. However, the Court of Appeals correctly held that Knight’s claim against her convictions in regards to Charlene is barred as it was already raised and dismissed on direct appeal. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the Court of Appeals’ ruling, affirm Knight’s original conviction and sentence, and dismiss her personal restraint petition." View "In re Pers. Restraint of Knight" on Justia Law

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Duane Young bought a new 2014 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck with a limited package of additional features from a dealership in Burlington, Washington. Young paid about $36,000 for the truck. At the time Young was researching his purchase, the Toyota website, Toyota’s advertising and the "Monroney label" incorrectly asserted that the vehicle had an outside temperature display on the rearview mirror along with some other displays. Some of the displays had been moved to the dashboard, but the outside temperature display was no longer available. A Toyota Tacoma truck with the colors and features Young wanted was not available in Eugene, Oregon, where he lived. Young called dealerships in Washington and Oregon until he found what he wanted in Burlington. He negotiated the purchase over the phone, paid a deposit, and, on October 30, 2013, flew to Burlington to pick up his truck. Shortly before Young flew to Burlington, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. (Toyota) realized that its advertising was incorrect and that some 2014 Toyota Tacoma trucks had been shipped with an incorrect Monroney label. Before the error was corrected, 147 vehicles, including three in Washington State, were sold with the representation that they had the enhanced rearview mirror with the temperature display when they did not. After realizing its mistake, Toyota offered $100 compensation to each consumer who had purchased a truck without the advertised feature. Young declined that offer and several others, including an offer to replace the display with aftermarket equipment. After the parties were unable to negotiate a satisfactory resolution, Young brought a CPA suit against Toyota, and after a two day bench trial, judgment was rendered in Toyota's favor. The judge concluded Young had failed to prove the first element of his CPA claim because he had not shown Toyota’s false statements of fact about the vehicle had the capacity to deceive a substantial portion of the public. The judge also found, among other things, that Young had failed to prove public interest; causation; injury; or that Toyota had violated the automobile dealers practices act. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Young v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A." on Justia Law

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A jury found Ira Cranshaw guilty of several crimes committed against two victims. The convictions included attempted first degree murder of B.B. (count I), three counts of first degree rape of B.B. (counts II, III, and IV), first degree kidnapping of B.B. (count V), harassment of B.B. (count VI), two counts of first degree rape of S.H. (counts VII and VIII), first degree kidnapping of S.H. (count IX), and harassment of S.H. (count X). On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed Cranshaw’s convictions as to B.B. and remanded for a new trial on all of the counts involving her (I through VI), but it affirmed his convictions on the counts involving S.H. (counts VII through X) and remanded for resentencing on only those counts. This matter involved the proper calculation of an offender score in an unusual circumstance, which the State conceded resulted in Cranshaw receiving a longer sentence than he would have received if he had been sentenced in the normal manner. In May 2019, Cranshaw filed a personal restraint petition, raising a double jeopardy claim and a claim regarding the calculation of his offender scores. The acting chief judge dismissed the petition, and Cranshaw filed a motion for discretionary review. Cranshaw then moved to amend his motion for discretionary review, which the Washington Supreme Court allowed. After the State answered the amended motion for discretionary review, the deputy commissioner issued a ruling rejecting the double jeopardy claim. The Supreme Court determined the double jeopardy claim lacked merit, but the Court concluded Cranshaw demonstrated his judgment and sentence was facially invalid based on the offender score calculation, and he was entitled to be resentenced. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Cranshaw" on Justia Law

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When a lessee does not timely exercise an option contained in a lease agreement, special circumstances may warrant granting them extra time to exercise the option. In this case, petitioner Burbank Properties LLC mailed its notice shortly after the deadline had passed, and the trial court awarded Burbank an equitable grace period to exercise the option on summary judgment where it was undisputed that no valuable permanent improvements were made. The Washington Supreme Court granted review to decide valuable permanent improvements to the property were a necessary prerequisite to granting the equitable grace period. The Court held that granting an equitable grace period was proper only when a lessee made valuable improvements to property that would result in an inequitable forfeiture if the lessee was not given a grace period. View "Borton & Sons, Inc. v. Burbank Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The "[Indian Child Welfare Act] ICWA and [Washington State Indian Child Welfare Act] WICWA were enacted to remedy the historical and persistent state-sponsored destruction of Native families and communities. . . . The acts provide specific protections for Native children in child welfare proceedings and are aimed at preserving the children’s relationships with their families, Native communities, and identities. The acts also require states to send notice to tribes so that tribes may exercise their independent rights and interests to protect their children and, in turn, the continuing existence of tribes as thriving communities for generations to come." At issue in this case was whether the trial court had “reason to know” that M.G and Z.G. were Indian children at a 72-hour shelter care hearing. The Washington Supreme Court held that a trial court had “reason to know” that a child was an Indian child when a participant in the proceeding indicates that the child has tribal heritage. "We respect that tribes determine membership exclusively, and state courts cannot establish who is or is not eligible for tribal membership on their own." The Court held that an indication of tribal heritage was sufficient to satisfy the “reason to know” standard. Here, participants in a shelter care hearing indicated that M.G. and Z.G. had tribal heritage. The trial court had “reason to know” that M.G. and Z.G. were Indian children, and it erred by failing to apply ICWA and WICWA standards to the proceeding. View "In re Dependency of Z.J.G." on Justia Law

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Evette Burgess and Lithia Motors, Inc. entered into arbitration to resolve an employment dispute. During arbitration proceedings, Burgess filed a motion with the court to terminate arbitration, alleging that Lithia and the arbitrator breached the arbitration agreement. The superior court denied Burgess’s motion, citing a lack of jurisdiction, and certified the matter for direct review, which the Washington Supreme Court granted. Under the FAA, the Supreme Court determined judicial review was limited to deciding gateway disputes, which concern enforceability of the arbitration clause, and addressing the award after arbitration. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Burgess v. Lithia Motors, Inc." on Justia Law