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This case centered on Seattle Ordinance 124833 (Ordinance), which imposed a "Firearms and Ammunition Tax" on each firearm and round of ammunition sold within the city limits. Its stated purpose was to raise revenue for public health research relating to gun violence and to fund related social programs. Two individual gun purchasers, Phillip Watson and Ray Carter (collectively, “Watson”) filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the Ordinance, arguing the Ordinance was actually a regulation, not a tax, and was preempted by RCW 9.41.290 in any case. Watson also argued that even if the Ordinance was a tax, it exceeded Seattle's delegated taxing authority. The Superior Court ruled in favor of Seattle, holding that the Ordinance imposed an authorized tax and that it was not preempted. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed: a charge intended to raise revenue for the public benefit is a tax. “While courts should be dubious of regulations masquerading as taxes (and vice versa), in this case Watson offers no convincing evidence that the Ordinance has a regulatory purpose or intent. It is a tax.” RCW 9.41.290 preempted only municipal gun “regulation,” not taxation. View "Watson v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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Weyerhaeuser Company challenged an award of industrial insurance benefits to its former employee, Roger Street, for his low back condition, a claimed occupational disease. Weyerhaeuser argued that a worker must present expert medical testimony that the disease "arises naturally" out of employment. The Court of Appeals rejected Weyerhaeuser's argument, holding that the controlling case law required Street to present expert medical testimony to show that his back condition "arose naturally" from employment. Because there was medical testimony supporting the "arises proximately" requirement and lay testimony supporting the "arises naturally" requirement, the appeals court held that Street proved his low back condition was an occupational disease and affirmed the jury award of benefits. Finding no reversible error in the Court of Appeals’ decision, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Street v. Weyerhaeuser Co." on Justia Law

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Brandon Bigsby failed to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation after he was released from jail on community custody as ordered by the trial court. Both the Department of Corrections and the trial court sanctioned him for failing to comply with the court's order. At issue was whether the trial court was authorized under RCW 9.94B.040 to sanction Bigsby for sentence violations committed while he was on community custody under the Department's supervision for a 2014 crime. The Washington Supreme Court held it did not and reversed. View "Washington v. Bigsby" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a court could require a probationer convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) to submit to random urinalysis testing (UAs) for controlled substances. In 2014, Brittanie Olsen pleaded guilty to one count of DUI, a gross misdemeanor offense. The court imposed a sentence of 364 days of confinement with 334 days suspended. As a condition of her suspended sentence, the court ordered that Olsen not consume alcohol, marijuana, or nonprescribed drugs. Over defense objection, the court also required Olsen to submit to "random urine analysis screens ... to ensure compliance with conditions regarding the consumption of alcohol and controlled substances." Olsen appealed, arguing that the random UAs requirement violated her privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution. She contended a warrantless search of a misdemeanant probationer may not be random but instead "must be supported by a well-founded suspicion that the probationer has violated a condition of her sentence." The court agreed, vacated Olsen's sentence, and remanded to the district court for resentencing without the requirement that Olsen submit to random urine tests. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, finding the testing did not violate article I, section 7 where urinalysis was authorized to monitor compliance with a valid probation condition requiring Olsen to refrain from drug and alcohol consumption. View "Washington v. Olsen" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Cecily McFarland of first degree burglary, ten counts of theft of a firearm, and three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. The trial court imposed standard range sentences on each count and, relying on RCW 9.41.040(6) and 9.94A.589(l)(c), ordered the firearm-related sentences be served concurrently as to the burglary sentence but consecutively as to each other. This resulted in a total sentence of 237 months. McFarland appealed, arguing for the first time that the sentencing court erred by failing to recognize its discretion to impose an exceptional mitigated sentence by running the firearm-related sentences concurrently based on the rationale of In re Pers. Restraint of Mulholland,166 P.3d 677 (2007). The Court of Appeals refused to consider this issue, noting that the sentencing judge "cannot have erred for failing to do something he was never asked to do." After its review, the Washington Supreme Court concluded the statutory analysis supporting the Supreme Court’s decision in Mulholland, which involved sentencing for multiple serious violent felonies under subsection (l)(b) of RCW 9.94A.589, applied equally to sentencing for multiple firearm-related offenses under subsection (1)(c). The Court therefore remanded this case for resentencing to allow the trial court the opportunity to consider whether to impose a mitigated sentence by running McFarland's thirteen firearm-related sentences concurrently. View "Washington v. McFarland" on Justia Law

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This case involved the transfer of property that once belonged to Vanessa Ward, now in possession of Selene RMOF II REO Acquisitions II LLC (“Selene”), which acquired the property in 2012 from a purchaser at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. It also concerned Ward's claim that she was the victim of mortgage fraud regarding the property in 2004 and that all subsequent property transfers were therefore void. Selene challenged an unpublished Court of Appeals decision reversing an order granting Selene a writ of restitution evicting Ward from the property. At issue was: (1) whether Selene was authorized to bring an unlawful detainer action as a purchaser from someone who had bought the property at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale; and (2) whether the summary procedures of unlawful detainer were available where Ward asserted ownership of the property she occupied via an unrecorded quitclaim deed. The Washington Supreme Court held unlawful detainer was available to Selene under the circumstances of this case and reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Selene RMOF II Reo Acquisitions II, LLC v. Ward" on Justia Law

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Former clients sued their attorneys for legal malpractice based, in part, on the attorneys' withdrawal from a prior ease. But the attorneys obtained that withdrawal by court order. In the original case, the former clients appealed the court's order approving withdrawal, and that appeal was rejected. The attorneys thus argued collateral estoppel applied to bar a malpractice action based on their withdrawal. The Washington Supreme Court agreed: withdrawal by court order in an earlier proceeding was dispositive in a later malpractice suit against the attorney. Although other malpractice complaints unrelated to the withdrawal would not be precluded, a client cannot relitigate whether the attorney's withdrawal was proper. “If we are to have rules permitting attorney withdrawal, we must allow attorneys to have confidence in those rules.” View "Schibel v. Eymann" on Justia Law

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John Marcum was civilly committed as an SVP for more than 15 years. He had been convicted of one count of indecent liberties against a child under the age of 14 and two counts of first degree child molestation. While he was on community placement for those offenses, Marcum committed second degree child molestation. He was convicted of that offense and sentenced to 89 months of incarceration. Just before his scheduled release in January 2000, the State petitioned to have Marcum civilly committed as an SVP. Marcum stipulated to commitment as an SVP in January 2001. He resided at the Special Commitment Center (SCC), where he participated in sexual deviancy treatment. In January 2009, he was transferred to a less restrictive alternative (LRA) where he remained for approximately two years. At the transition facility, Marcum battled depression and his behavior deteriorated, although not in a way directly related to sexual offending. Because of these behaviors, Marcum's treating psychologist, determined that he could no longer provide Marcum with sex offender treatment therapy. Accordingly, the Department of Corrections submitted a recommendation to the superior court that Marcum's LRA release be revoked. The reasons given all pertained to Marcum's refusal to work and generally negative attitude, and not to any sexual misconduct. In August 2013, Marcum filed a "Petition For An Unconditional Release Trial Pursuant To RCW 71.09.090 Annual Review Hearing." Because of the gains Marcum made in treatment over his many years in civil commitment, an evaluator in the report concluded that Marcum was no longer diagnosable as having pedophilia and no longer met the definition of an SVP. The trial court ultimately agreed with the State and denied Marcum's petition for a trial, noting in part that Marcum could not show changed mental condition "through positive response to continuing participation in treatment" because he had not engaged in treatment for two years. Marcum appealed, arguing that the superior court's denial of a release trial violated both statutory and constitutional protections. The Washington Supreme Court resolved this case on the threshold issue concerning the burden placed on the State by chapter 71.09 RCW at the ensuing show cause hearing. Because the State here failed to meet its threshold burden at the show cause hearing as set forth in RCW 71.09.090(2)(b), the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and held that Marcum was entitled to a full evidentiary hearing. View "In re Det. of Marcum" on Justia Law

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The parties have waged protracted litigation, yet only recently did defendant WaferTech LLC assert that the named plaintiff lacked capacity to sue. Specifically, WaferTech argued that there was no such corporate entity as Business Services "of" America II Inc., as plaintiff had identified itself. The "true" plaintiff, Business Service America II Inc. (BSA), asked the trial court to amend the caption to correct the misnomer, but the trial court held that as named in the caption the plaintiff lacked the capacity to sue. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and BSA petitioned for this court's review. Because WaferTech waived any right to protest the misnomer by participating in years of litigation under the erroneous caption, the Washington Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Bus. Servs. of Am. II, Inc. v. Wafertech, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The University of Washington (UW) owned property in City of Seattle but contended the City’s “Landmark Preservation Ordinance” (LPO) could not apply to any of the University’s property. UW wanted to demolish a building on its Seattle campus that was nominatd for potential landmark designation pursuant to the LPO. The City disagreed that the ordinance did not apply. UW filed a declaratory judgment action asking for a judicial determination that the LPO did not apply to any of UW’s property as a matter of law. The Washington Supreme Court determined all of UW' s arguments either failed as a matter of law or could not be decided in the first instance by a state court of general jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of the City. View "Univ. of Wash. v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law