Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

More self-dealing alleged at Seattle Indian Services Commission

by November 9th, 2011

The troubled Seattle Indian Services Commission, already in the process of being stripped of ownership of its adjoining properties on 12th Ave. S. by the city in King County Superior Court, is now under fire in a newly-released state audit because former staffers reportedly diverted $73,943 for questionable purposes. This comes after previous state and city audits criticized the commission for awarding contracts to immediate family members of top staff, and for allowing a board member’s husband and son-in-law to also be appointed to the board.

Seattle parks gun ban shot down again

by October 31st, 2011

A gun ban approved by Seattle for city parks and other city recreation facilities has been rejected again in court, this time by a three-judge state appeals court panel. The court was hearing an appeal of a earlier decision, reported by The Seattle Times in February 2010 when a King County Superior Court judge first disallowed the city’s ban. Today’s ruling authored by Judge Ann Schindler says only the state legislature has the power to authorize whether or not cities can enact a gun ban in parks, and the lawmakers haven’t permitted that yet.

In sum, we hold that RCW 9.41.290 preempts the Firearms Rule. Except as expressly authorized by the legislature, municipalities are prohibited from regulating the possession of firearms at city-owned park facilities open to the public. Whether to amend RCW 9.41.300 to prohibit possession of firearms at city-owned parks and park facilities frequented by children and youth is a question for the legislature to decide.

The city parks gun prohibition, instituted in late 2009 at the urging of outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels after a shooting at the 2008 Folklife festival and other shootings at parks properties, was challenged by gun rights groups including the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, on behalf of gun rights proponents including co-plaintiffs Winnie Chan, a Washington Department of Corrections employee, and West Seattle resident Ray Carter, founder of the Seattle chapter of the gay and lesbian gun rights group Pink Pistols.

In a phone interview this afternoon Carter said he was pleased by the ruling and hoped the City of Seattle would put pragmatism over pursuit of a “philosophical holy grail” by avoiding what he says would be a fruitless appeal to the state Supreme Court. He said he feels strongly about his right to legally bear arms in city parks because “there is no magic barrier” making them a crime-free zone. A private citizen could be threatened with violence and potentially loss of life “in Victor Steinbrueck Park, Pioneer Square, Lincoln Park or walking out of the Rainier Community Center at high noon,” Carter said. Carter, who formerly worked at an electric car dealership, now is employed as a fundraiser for the Second Amendment Foundation.

Kimberly Mills, communications director for Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes, said Holmes’ office is analyzing the ruling and will be briefing Mayor Mike McGinn and the Parks and Recreation Department before any decision is made on appealing to the state’s high court.

Public Data Ferret’s Public Safety+Courts archive


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KIng County youth court guardians seek to unionize

by October 26th, 2011

A prominent public employee labor union filed a request Monday with the State of Washington’s Public Employment Relations Commision (PERC) to establish itself as the collective bargaining agent for 15 non-supervisory and non-clerical workers of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program in King County Superior Court, which helps represent allegedly abused children age 11 and under in so-called “dependency” custody cases.

State Auditor: Douglas County PUD worker stole $12K in fuel

by October 11th, 2011

Chelan County Deputy Prosecutor Doug Shae said today a pre-trial settlement involving full restitution is likely in the case of a Douglas County Public Utility District employee whoaccording to a fraud investigation report released last week by the Washington State Auditor’s Office defrauded the PUD of at least $12,384.68 by using its fuel credit cards to repeatedly buy gas for his private vehicle over a stretch of more than four years.

Appeals court clears Puyallup Tribe cops in suspect’s death

by October 10th, 2011

Puyallup Tribe police officers acted properly and under the protection of tribal sovereign immunity when in May, 2007 they subdued with a stun gun an erratically-behaving intruder named Jeffry Young at a tribal drug treatment center who then in their custody died of “excited delirium syndrome.” The news comes in a a ruling released today by the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division One. The ruling holds the three officers are not liable for claims against them by Young’s brother Chris including excessive force, wrongful death and civil rights violations.

Seattle eyes transfer of troubled Indian services properties to non-profit

by September 26th, 2011

SUMMARY: A public development authority formed by the City of Seattle in 1972 called the Seattle Indian Services Commission, which has been the subject of several critical city and state audits in recent years, now appears unable to continue to service the $6 million bond debt for its two adjacent properties on 12th Ave. S. in the International District, or to repair an estimated $2.5 million in water damages to one of the buildings, built in 1995. The commission’s primary tenant and sole source of debt service revenue is the non-profit Seattle Indian Health Board, and it says it intends to move out unless the Commission conveys title for the properties to the board, which has pledged to assume the debt and fix the water damage. The Commission has refused to approve this offer, so the city council has prepared an ordinance, to be discussed and possibly voted on in committee September 28, authorizing the City Attorney to seek permission in King County Superior Court to impose a trusteeship on the Indian Services Commission which would trigger a title transfer of the properties to the non-profit Indian Health Board. The resolution states this will allow for current services and programs to continue to be provided to Seattle’s Native American community. Sponsor of the resolution is City Council Member Nick Licata.

State Supreme Court: Bothell violated defendant’s civil right to fair trial

by August 2nd, 2011


SUMMARY: The Washington Supreme Court late last week confirmed a man convicted of stalking in Bothell will get a new trial because he didn’t get a fair hearing of his peers. The justices ruled that under the state constitution, the city court erred in permitting King County residents on the jury, when the alleged crime was committed in the Snohomish County part of Bothell. Bothell is one of six Washington cities which are in more than one county. The case will now go back to Bothell Municipal Court for a new trial.

KEY LINK: “City of Bothell v. Barnhart,” Supreme Court of the State of Washington, July 28, 2011.

KEY FACTS:

  • The Washington State Supreme Court last week upheld an earlier State Court of Appeals ruling that the City of Bothell violated James K. Barnhart’s civil right to a fair trial on April 2007 stalking charges because two members of the jury which convicted him lived outside Snohomish County, where the alleged crime occurred.
  • Barnhart in 2010 appealed his stalking conviction to the King County Superior Court, claiming the jury’s composition in the Bothell Municipal Court case violated his civil rights to a fair trial under Article I, Section 22 of the state constitution, which states in part that criminal defendants are entitled “to have a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county in which the offense is charged to have been committed.” King County Superior Court sided with the original court’s judgment but the decision was later reversed by the Washington Court of Appeals.
  • Bothell appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that Barnhart waived any claim of error by failing to exercise his peremptory challenges – a legal right to reject during selection a certain number of potential jurors whom appear to have an unfavorable bias – and that any error that did occur was harmless.
  • However, the State Supreme Court ruled the selection of the jurors indeed violated Barnhart’s rights under article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution, the Declaration of Rights.
  • The high court sent the case back to Bothell Municipal Court, for a new trial, with a jury composed exclusively of Snohomish County residents.
  • Public Data Ferret’s Washington state and courts archive


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    U.S. Ninth Circuit: Kent teacher not responsible for student’s sexual misconduct

    by July 13th, 2011

    SUMMARY: The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has found a Kent School District teacher to be not responsible for one developmentally disabled student’s sexual misconduct during the school day. Madhuri Patel, the mother of a developmentally disabled high school student, identified as A.H., alleged that Francine Wilhelm, a Kentridge High School special education teacher, failed to adequately supervise A.H. during trips to the bathroom, where she had multiple sexual encounters. Patel alleged that Wilhelm deprived A.H. of her right to bodily integrity, a federally protected due process right under the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the Court ruled against Patel, stating, “The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause generally does not require government actors to protect individuals from third parties.” The case could still proceed based on negligence claims, in the state’s court system.

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    BACKGROUND:

    • According to the Court’s ruling, A.H. is a former Kentridge High School student who is classified as “mildly mentally retarded” and has difficulty determining how to behave in social situations. After a 2006 investigation revealed A.H. was being coerced by three of her peers, the school placed A.H. on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which included enrollment in a self-contained classroom led by Francine Wilhelm. The IEP included a “no contact” order between A.H. and other students, as well as complete adult supervision of A.H. throughout the school day, especially during passing periods, lunch, and bathroom times. In 2007, Wilhelm began to allow A.H. to go to the bathroom unsupervised.
    • According to the court document, Wilhelm said she believed she was allowing A.H. to grow toward independence. Patel filed suit against Wilhelm and the school district in 2007 when Wilhelm interfered with a potential sexual encounter between A.H. and Matt, and both students admitted to having sex in the bathroom at least five times. Patel pressed not only state and tort law claims, but also a federal civil rights claim. A district court dismissed Patel’s federal claim, finding that Wilhelm had not deprived A.H. of her federal rights. Patel appealed the ruling, and her federal claim forms the basis of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision.

    KEY LINK: Madhuri Patel v. Kent School District, United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, July 11, 2011

    KEY FINDINGS:

    • The United States Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit ruled that Francine Wilhelm, a special education teacher at Kentridge High School, did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment due process rights of A.H., a minor and “mildly mentally retarded” student enrolled in Wilhelm’s classes during 2006 and 2007.
    • In the federal case, Madhuri Patel, A.H.’s mother, alleged that Wilhelm failed to uphold A.H.’s Constitutional due process rights to bodily integrity. According to the ruling, the sole issue at hand for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was to determine whether Wilhelm had deprived the student of these federally protected Fourteenth Amendment rights.
    • The Court of Appeals affirmed the district judge’s ruling, stating that Patel’s federal claim “fails as a matter of law,” because it failed to “show that (1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a federal constitutional or statutory right.”
    • As legal precedent for its decision, the Court of Appeals cited Cf. DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep’t of Social Services. However, Patel argued that her case could be distinguished from DeShaney on the basis of the school’s “custody” of A.H. during the day. The Court found no such evidence for custody and declined to distinguish the two cases.
    • The DeShaney ruling found that the state is not responsible to protect individuals from third-party actors. Two exceptions to this rule, the “special relationship” exception or the “state-created danger” exception, do not apply to the facts of Patel’s case, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled.
    • The Court found that Wilhelm did not knowingly place A.H. in immediate danger. As a result, Patel’s claim against the teacher failed to bear the burden of proof against her. “At worst, Wilhelm committed a lapse in judgment by allowing A.H. to quickly use the next-door bathroom on her own. Whether these circumstances rose to the level of negligence is a question that will be resolved by a jury in Washington state court,” the Court stated.
    • Although her federal civil rights case has failed, some of Madhuri Patel’s claims against KSD and Wilhelm may still be viable under state law.

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