Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether de facto parent status "stands in legal parity with an otherwise legal parent" biological, adoptive or otherwise. The Court concluded that in most cases foster parents will not be able to meet the criteria set forth in "In re Parentage of L.B." (122 P.3d 161 (2005)), but that status as a foster parent is not itself an absolute bar to establishing de facto parentage, and that the trial court can consider facts that arise during a foster care placement. View "In re Custody of A.F.J." on Justia Law

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Appellant Roy Jorgenson was released on bond after a trial court judge found probable cause to believe he had shot someone. He was arrested with a handgun and an AR-15 rifle. Appellant was not at home at the time, nor was there any evidence that he was defending himself. He was convicted of violating RCW 9.41.040(2)(a)(iv). On appeal of his conviction, appellant argued that RCW 9.41.040(2)(a)(iv) violated his rights to bear arms under the federal and state constitutions. The Supreme Court deferred to the legislature's conclusion that when a trial judge finds probable cause to believe a defendant committed a serious offense, public safety justifies temporarily limiting that person's right to possess arms. The Court held that the statute was constitutional as applied to appellant and therefore affirmed his conviction. View "Washington v. Jorgenson" on Justia Law

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Steve and Karen Donatelli hired D.R. Strong Consulting Engineers Inc. to help the Donatellis develop their real property. Before development could be completed, the Donatellis suffered substantial financial losses and lost the property in foreclosure. The Donatellis sued D.R. Strong for breach of contract, violation of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. D.R. Strong moved for partial summary judgment on the CPA and negligence claims. D.R. Strong argued that the negligence claims should have been dismissed under the economic loss rule because the relationship between the parties was governed by contract and the damages claimed by the Donatellis were purely economic. The trial court and Court of Appeals held that as a matter of law, the Donatellis' negligence claims were not barred. Finding no error in that analysis, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Donatelli v. D.R. Strong Consulting Eng'rs, Inc." on Justia Law

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Christopher Monfort was charged with one count of aggravated first degree murder for the death of a law enforcement officer. He filed a notice of special sentencing proceeding ("death penalty notice"). Monfort's defense moved to strike the notice on the basis that the county prosecutor considered the facts of the crime and lacked a factual basis for making a determination under the statute. The trial court denied the defense's motion on the first basis but granted it on the second. It stated that the county prosecutor had failed to exercise discretion as required by constitutional and statutory law. The State and defense moved for discretionary review. After considering the parties' arguments, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court, holding that a county prosecutor may consider the facts of the crime when deciding whether to file a death penalty notice, and the judiciary may review only whether a prosecutor has a "reason to believe that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances" under RCW 10.95.040(1). View "Washington v. Monfort" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Jerry Lain was sentenced to life under Washington's former indeterminate sentencing scheme. In 2010, the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board found petitioner parolable, approved a release plan, and ordered parole with supervision. The governor revoked petitioner's parole. As a result, the Review Board tacked on 36 months to petitioner's minimum term of confinement. Petitioner challenged the revocation and additional term as-applied and facially, arguing that RCW 9.95.160 violated due process because it did not outline procedures for the governor to provide petitioner notice and an opportunity to be heard before the governor acted. The Supreme Court concluded the statute was constitutional on both its face and as applied to petitioner. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Lain" on Justia Law

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In November 2006, Petitioner Bao Dinh Dang walked up to a gas pump in Seattle, lit newspaper on fire, and attempted to pump gas in order to ignite the gas. A station employee successfully knocked the flaming newspaper out of petitioner's hand with a window-washing squeegee while a customer phoned police. Petitioner was arrested, and the State charged him with attempted arson in the first degree. Petitioner moved for acquittal on the grounds of insanity. The court granted the motion, finding that petitioner was suffering from a mental disease but that he was "not a substantial danger to other persons and [did] not [. . .] present a substantial likelihood of committing felonious acts jeopardizing public safety or security, but . . . is in need of further control by the court or other persons or institutions." The court ordered petitioner conditionally released subject to various conditions. The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether trial courts are required to enter a finding of dangerousness before revoking the conditional release of a person acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity. Furthermore, the Court decided whether trial courts must also decide the appropriate standard of proof governing the revocation determination. The Court's conclusion was that Washington law requires trial courts to find conditionally released insanity acquittees dangerous before committing them to mental institutions against their will. The Court also concluded that a preponderance of the evidence sufficiently protects an insanity acquittee's rights in the context of revoking conditional release. Because the trial court in this case specifically determined that Bao Dinh Dang was dangerous, the trial court held that it properly revoked his conditional release. However, the trial court erred in admitting hearsay statements at Dang's revocation hearing without finding good cause for doing so but that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Washington v. Dang" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Brandon Ollivier was convicted for possession of child pornography. On appeal, he contended his rights to a speedy trial under the United States and Washington State Constitution were violated by delay in bringing him to trial. He also contended that evidence obtained in a search of his apartment should have been suppressed because of misrepresentations and other defects in the affidavit in support of probable cause to issue the warrant, and he was not presented with a copy of the search warrant prior to commencement of the search. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the delay in bringing petitioner to trial did not violate speedy trial rights when defendant's own counsel requested the continuances causing the delay and no claim of ineffective counsel was made related to those continuances, that probable cause for the search warrant was sufficiently established by qualifying information in the affidavit, and no violation of CrR 2.3(d) occurred because a copy of the search warrant was posted upon seizure of property pursuant to the warrant. View "Washington v. Ollivier" on Justia Law

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Petitioner David Wooten was convicted of first degree malicious mischief for damaging a home he was purchasing on a real estate contract. Petitioner claimed he did not damage "property of another" because he had exclusive possessory and proprietary interests in the property. He also argued the trial court abused its discretion by excluding closing argument about financing issues relating to the home. The Supreme Court concluded after review of the trial court record that Petitioner was not the exclusive owner of the property for the purposes of malicious mischief, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by limiting Petitioner's attorney's closing argument. View "Washington v. Wooten" on Justia Law

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After years of negotiation and lawsuits, Snohomish County agreed to let King County build a sewage treatment plant in south Snohomish County. As part of the settlement, King County agreed to provide a substantial mitigation package for the local Snohomish County community near the plant. The cost of the mitigation was included in the capital cost of the plant. Two local utility districts that contract with King County for sewage treatment filed suit, arguing that the mitigation package was excessive, among many other claims. The trial judge largely rejected the districts' claims. After careful consideration of the record, the Supreme Court largely affirmed. View "Cedar River Water & Sewer Dist. v. King County" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether Washington's constitutional separation of powers creates a qualified gubernatorial communications privilege that functions as an exemption to the Public Records Act (PRA). Freedom Foundation sued the governor to compel production of documents under the PRA after the governor asserted executive privilege and refused to release them. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The trial court ruled that separation of powers principles produced a qualified gubernatorial communications privilege. Because the Foundation made no attempt to overcome this qualified privilege, the trial court granted the governor summary judgment. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Freedom Foundation v. Gregoire" on Justia Law